Guide to South By Southwest

South by Southwest is Austin's annual celebration of film, interactive arts, music, digital media, and technology - as well as a two-week-long continuous series of parties.

There are film screenings, tech demonstrations, musical performances, and over 1,000 presentations and panel discussions scattered across 15 locations around town.

Over 20,000 people from around the country and the world descend on Austin for this unique festival/conference/tech show.

With so many people and so many great happenings at all times of the day and night, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Here are some tips for planning and attending SXSW in order to get the most out of it.

1. Plan your visit. Before the event, take a look at the schedule on the official website. SXSW GO® is the mobile app of SXSW for iPhone/iPad, Blackberry, Android, and Windows phones that enables you to build, track, and share your schedule.

You can obtain SXSW GO® through Google Play or the App Store

SXSW GO® enables you to build your schedule on the website and sync it with your mobile device. Have your schedule on hand so you can easily refer to it throughout the event.

2. Be flexible. Have a backup plan in case the conference you wanted to go to got booked up or cancelled. It might even be a good idea to have two or three options planned out for each time slot.

For all the advance planning, SXSW is also about spontaneity. You might hear about a great party, or an impromptu discussion or meetup. You might meet new friends or run into old ones. Be prepared to change up your schedule in favor of new things that pop up.

This flexibility extends also to your attire. Of course, bring comfortable walking shoes as you'll be on your feet a lot. The weather in Austin at that time of year is unpredictable - it can be sunny and 80 degrees one day, rainy and 55 the next. Bring a jacket to use, especially at night, and an umbrella.

3. Bring your device chargers, and charging cables, and extra batteries. You might be using your laptop, phone, or mobile device for 14 hours straight, taking notes, rearranging your schedule, trying out new software, or going online.

Speaking of going online, with that many people, public Wi-Fi hotspots can become hard to come by and get saturated quickly. If you need a reliable Internet connection, you might have to bring your own hotspot.

4. Keep your belongings safe. Like in any crowded area, use common sense. Keep your expensive items close with you, or better yet, don't bring them at all. Back up your important data and pictures before you come and regularly during the event.

5. Keep the right attitude. Be patient and go with the flow. Austin has been putting on SXSW for a long time and has it down by now. But like in any large-scale event there are bound to be some inconveniences. Austinites as a whole are friendly and welcoming and want you to have a good time. But you need to keep a smile on and an understanding attitude.


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