March 02, 2005
What to know about SXSW Interactive

The SXSW conference starts next week. This will be my third trip, so I thought I would share a bit of my experience with others that have not been before.

Introduce Yourself - People are at SXSW because they want to meet people and see new things. Strangely, many of the blogger types that go are introverted types that are a bit shy. Do yourself a favor and say "Hello, I'm So-and-so" to that person you are sitting next to. (Don't say So-and-so, use your name...) I guarantee that they will be happy to talk to you.

ABC - Always Be Charging - If you bring a laptop, you need to be charging it every single chance you get. No battery lasts long enough. Try to sit near an oulet in the session rooms. Share power outlets with others.

Personal cards - Make up business cards with your name, email, and website info on them to hand out. Bring your regular business cards if you want, but what people really want is a card that ties you to your online persona so they can find you after SXSW.

Shiner Bock - Shiner Bock is a local Texas beer that you find everywhere. Often referred to as simply ‘Shiner’.

Sharpeners - There are no pencil sharpeners at SXSW. People think writing on a pad of paper with a wooden pencil is a bit strange.

The Backchannel - Be aware that there is a backchannel of real-time IRC discussion going on. Probably on, probably on #sxsw. The trick is to not make the backchannel into the front channel for you. It can distract you from listening to the speaker/session that you paid to see...

Comment Cards - At the end of sessions, people walk though and hand out comment cards you are supposed to fill out regarding the session you just sat through. It's strange the first time you see it. It's not mandatory, so don't weird out if you don't fill them out.

Secure connections - Wifi traffic is in the clear and people are sniffing packets all the time. Arrange for secure email, FTP, and if possible, secure browsing while at SXSW. It’s unlikely that a malicious hacker is gunna do bad things, but it’s best to be prepared.

Street Signs - For some reason, downtown Austin has few street signs. Get a map and study it before venturing out.

Hotels - Stay at a hotel in easy walking distance of the convention center. You don ‘t want to drive anywhere after a long night of partying. The word was that the Hampton was the best place to stay due to proximity and internet access. But since the Hampton lacks a bar, there is debate if ‘The Hampton‘ is ‘the new Omni ‘.

Night Events - The best night events are the Fray Cafe, 20x2, and Bruce Sterling ‘s party. Make time for these events. Update: Matt says there is no Fray Cafe this year. Dang that sucks.

Fray Cafe - If you are going to perform, practice beforehand.

Food - Eat food. Austin has a great bar scene. You will be drinking. Don‘t drink on an empty stomach.

Texas BBQ - IMHO, Texas BBQ pales in comparison to BBQ in other areas like Kansas City and Carolina. That chopped beef sandwich stuff just doesn't cut it, but people will want to eat it for lunch.

Sound People - The people who run sound for the sessions won ‘t leave the sound alone. They love to walk up while people are speaking, twiddle with knobs, and make the room go silent.

Clothing - Bring casual stuff, especially your witty t-shirts, but remember it can get cold and rainy in Austin this time of year. Make sure warm clothes and a good jacket are in your luggage, ready to wear. Last year we got hit with a massive thunderstorm and many SXSWians were soaked to the bone in their wet witty t-shirts.

Update: I forgot to mention that the Annual Kickball Game is on for Saturday morning at 10:30 AM. It's a lot of fun and you will me lots of good people.

Posted by michael at March 02, 2005 06:43 AM