SXSW 2015 Survival Guide

March 11, 2015

A biochemist, cosplay Sailor Moon and Malcolm Gladwell walk into a bar

That would be the opening to a pretty hilarious joke if it wasn’t bound to be realized at #SXSW2015. This year’s conference promises to be the biggest and most diverse yet and, luckily for me, I’ll have a front row seat (or slab of carpeted wall to lean on) for the festivities.

As a SXSW first-timer (thank you for sending me Ketchum), the inevitable ensued once word spread that I’d be headed to Austin. Colleagues from New York to Seoul began to stop by or call with advice and words of wisdom from past excursions. Needless to say, I took both mental and written notes. This post is the byproduct of their collective SXSW wisdom, along with a few predictive insights that I managed to come up with all on my own.

I’ve compiled the insights below in what I hope will be my first of many SXSW Survival Guides (click to tweet).

Don’t wear comfortable shoes … wear sneakers.
Not a revelation, but trade shows can be a menace on your feet. Most feel the need to dress up in networking situations but past wisdom would dictate you should trade in those Bruno Magli’s for a pair of AirMax1’s. Even in sneakers, a blister or two is bound to take root. Bring Band-Aids to ensure unimpeded trailblazing throughout the conference. I’ve already packed my daughter’s Olaf, Elsa and Anna Frozen Ban-Aids. I hope to have the opportunity to show them off in sandals if weather permits.

sxsw-phone-icon-1I’ve got 99 problems, but battery life ain’t one.
Running out of cell battery life is tied for third on my list of worst fears with coulrophobia and triskaidekaphobia. Thanks, SXSW, for kicking-off the conference on Friday the thirteenth. Enter Mophie. Their new juice packs are powerful and designed in gold, white or black—so you can coordinate your charging apparatus with your sneaker selection. Stay charged up or miss out on all those IG and twitter moments at your own peril.

sxsw-water-icon-1Bring a water and after you finish it … keep the bottle.
Archive this tip under simple yet useful. You probably won’t eat all that much, unless you’re there for Southbites, and I hear the Austin heat can turn on a dime from picturesque to sweltering. Hydration is key here. Once your first bottle kicks, look out for water fountains and fill up whenever low.

Bring enough business cards to build an Origami 3D printer.
After all, we’re here to share ideas and network. SXSW is THAT place. A wearables workshop here, a robot petting zoo there, and all of a sudden it’s day four and you’re left with only the awkward, “I’ll find you on LinkedIn.” line as a last resort to connect. The next time you need a social aggregating tool or some awesome local barbecue, that digital rolodex will come in handy. Business cards may seem a bit “analog” for this crowd, but they still work.

Bring a backpack.
How else are you going to carry all of this stuff? A double-strapped, over-the-shoulder backpack is the only surefire way to stay comfortable and make sure you’re prepared for whatever the day throws at you. Did I mention there will be schwag? Mountains of it. The now ubiquitous Herschel is a solid choice to protect your hardware.

sxsw-app-icon-1Download the SWSW app.
If you haven’t done this already, stop reading this post and go download it. I’ll wait. This app is nothing short of a lifesaver when it comes to trying to reduce a tsunami of content down to a simmering stock of organized goodness. Favorite speakers, add events to your calendar and connect with fellow attendees all from your own comfy corner of Starbucks.

Be UBER excited.
Speaking of apps. Word is hailing a cab in Austin during SXSW is futile. If you’re not lucky enough to have hotel shuttle service to-and-from the convention center, UBER will inevitably become your most reliable travel companion. Lyft, a similar service, is another viable option.

sxsw-blog-icon-1Check out Tim Weinheimer’s SXSW 2015 Primer on the Ketchum blog.
I told you I knew a few SXSW veterans. As the SVP of digital strategy for Ketchum, Tim is nothing short of a digital guru who’s set to make his fourth trip to Austin. His post provides a detailed look at the trends, subject tracks and potential breakout sessions set to take place. Plenty of clickable goodies can be found here.

*Bonus tip: Follow the SXSW action through a Ketchum lens on twitter with the hashtag #KetchumSXSW or on our website’s social hub set to launch on 3.13.

Do you have any other life-changing (or totally obvious) SXSW tips not mentioned? Please leave them in the comments section below. Hope to see you there!

Connect with Brad Simon, director of online communications within Ketchum’s New York office, by clicking here.

Brad Simon is Vice President, Online Communications within Ketchum’s Corporate Communications team. When not in the New York office he’s raising Grayson and Gabrielle, trying to improve his Elo rating and slowly caving into his wife’s persistent demand to binge watch The Wire. brad.simon@ketchum.com