Hacking SXSW 2010: How to Maximize Joy

March 11, 2010

10:37 pm

We just arrived in Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi). I have been to SXSWi the past two years and this year, since we will be covering the festivities on TECH cocktail, I decided to take a more proactive approach to maximize joy and productivity during a week that is often referred to as “Geek Spring Break.”

To help first-time SXSW attendees like our very own Jimmy Gardner and many others, I have compiled a list of 10 things to best hack SXSW.

  1. Comfort over style – While you may see some executives running around this year in suits, SXSW is not Wall Street. It is a festival, so dress accordingly. Comfortable shoes are key, as you never know how much you will be hoofing it in one day.
  2. Pedometer – Want to feel better about all your running around? Pick up a walking pedometer and have it count your every step. By the end of the week, you will feel better about the fact you never made it to the gym or ran outside once during SXSW (though you did pack your favorite jogging suit) – and maybe you have worked off some of the cocktails and BBQ.
  3. Be a power generator – Keeping your gadget charged is key. You can’t go a moment without the ability to take a photo or video or send a text or Tweet. Your mobile device will be drained after just a few hours searching for a mobile signal, so being able to quench your power thirst is very important. Everyone who is NOT attending SXSW needs to know everything you are doing at every moment at SXSW. 🙂
  4. Drink, drink a lot of water, of course – Drink lots of water because it’s a regular occurrence that beer or cocktails will be offered to you at breakfast, lunch, and of course, dinner. With all the running, around it’s important to keep the pipes moist with some H2O, as well as  keep your body well hydrated.
  5. Netbook or no book – While I am huge fan of my Mac, I don’t want to lug it around SXSW, so I’d advise you to snag a netbook and lighten your load. If you opt to take the Mac or other larger laptop, at least have a comfortable bag for it.
  6. Be a hotspot – With all the AT&T iPhones firing off simultaneous requests to Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Gowalla, and more, the 3G network has been known to crumble at SXSW. Don’t sweat it; get a wifi card or mifi device. Cricket offers month-to-month plans starting at $25 and Sprint is said to have 4G WiMax in Austin, so a wifi or mifi device might prove invaluable.
  7. Go with the SXSW flow – While I am sure you all looked at the SXSW schedule ahead of time and meticulously created the ultimate SXSW schedule, you might want to prepare yourself as if you are going to Vegas. There are so many things, people, places, and shiny objects looking to attract your attention, you would have to be darn impervious to distractions to attend every single thing you have planned. Don’t beat yourself up over it. New opportunities will arise, and you need to embrace them and move on – that is part of the adventure of SXSW.
  8. Slow your fast pitch to a casual toss – With Major League baseball in spring training, you might be inclined to take their cue and dial your pitch up for your product, service, or story to every single person you interact with at SXSW. The reality is that while we all want to hear about everything you are doing, SXSW is a great time to get to know new people, catch up with old friends, and exchange ideas. So slow your fast pitch to a light toss, and good things will happen naturally.
  9. Plan to see one film or band – SXSW is more than just an Interactive festival, so try to enjoy the other two parts of the festival (film and music). If you need a break from the Interactive action and are looking for more of a low-key activity, go see a film. If you think you want to dance a bit, you might want to watch a live band. You could even post that plan on Plancast and share it with your friends.
  10. Wear a black hat – Since SXSW is in Austin, and Sunday, March 14, is Blackout Sunday, a day to honor Johnny Cash (that we made up last year), we will be celebrating by hosting TECH cocktail SXSW: Blackout Sunday that evening. We will be showcasing 30+ early-stage startups to kick off the SXSW Accelerator program. So wear your black hat and join us that evening if you like, as we all “walk the line” wrapping up an eventful weekend at SXSW 2010.

Good luck and enjoy SXSW Interactive 2010.

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Frank Gruber is the cofounder, CEO and Executive Editor of Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail). He is the author of the book, Startup Mixology, Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success. He is also a startup advisor and investor to startups. Find Frank Gruber online and follow him on Twitter at @FrankGruber.

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