We’re just a few days away from one of our favorite annual events, the South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Festival. Every year thousands of creative musicians, filmmakers and tech geeks descend on Austin, Texas, for conferences, presentations, networking events and showcases. If you’re making your first trip to SXSW, it can be a bit overwhelming because there’s so much to see and do. Here are a few tips and tricks, along with some gadgets, apps and websites to help you navigate the Convention Center labyrinth, equip yourself for each day’s journey and let your friends know that you’ve found the hottest spot:
Build your itinerary:
Before you head down to Austin, make a list of your must-see bands and events. As much as it may hurt, you have to accept that you can’t see everything. Luckily, you can make picking your events (and actually finding them) easier with the SXSW GO Official Mobile App for iPhone, iPad and Android. Head to schedule.sxsw.com to create a calendar of events you want to attend, then sync it with the app. That way you’ll always know what’s coming up next and you can manage your timeline on the fly. The maps within the app show what’s happening in real time AND show you how to get there. Navigating the Austin Convention Center can be a bit daunting without a floor-plan reference and, rest assured, that’s built into the app too (iOS only for now, Android coming soon).
You can also use SXSW GO to make connections with thousands of SXsocial registered attendees. When you register to attend, you can create a profile to share your badge picture, your schedule and more, making networking a cinch. We have our profiles on there, so search for Paige Guyton and Ricky Cadden, and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. Just try not to trip us up if we’re filming something for YouTube.
Once you have your itinerary for the day, get your gear in order before you leave your hotel room.
First off, wear comfortable shoes. SXSW has more walking than a Lord of the Rings film and you will seriously regret those high heels or no-arch-support Converse All Stars. There is an upside to that much walking though—how many calories you’ll burn. Why not enjoy the fact that the fun you’re having is actually getting you in shape? Grab a Fitbit at RadioShack and clip it to your belt or purse. It tracks your daily steps, distance and calories burned, using an advanced motion sensor and uploads that information to fitbit.com. Trust us, you’ll be eating from so many awesome food trucks and pizza windows that you’ll be happy to know how much exercise you’re actually getting to offset those yummy munchables.
Next, you’ll need something to carry all your tech toys. This HP Laptop Messenger Case is perfect for lugging around your laptop, iPad, phone, keys, whatever. You’ll definitely want to keep a laptop or tablet handy during the day, and the padding inside will keep your stuff safe in the midst of a concert crowd if you don’t have time to drop it off at your hotel room before you head to the parties.
We all know that SXSW isn’t just about keynote speeches and trade shows. You’re going to be hopping around to concerts and parties too, all of which require ID due to the alcohol and waiting lists. Instead of digging through your wallet or purse, holding up the line EVERY… SINGLE… TIME you’re asked for it, do yourself and the rest of us a favor and equip your phone with the Incipio Stowaway Credit Card Case. It has an easy-access compartment for your driver’s license and credit/debit card so you can flash your mug and birthday quickly and easily.
Your final piece of gear should be something to keep your phone charged up. You’re going to be texting, taking pics, checking schedules and stalking Ricky and me on the SXSW GO app so much that your battery isn’t likely to last all day. We’ve mentioned the Enercell Power Pack portable charger on the blog before and it’s because you really can’t go wrong when it comes to charging on the go. However, since SXSW involves so much walking around outside, you could go with the Scosche sunVOLT Solar Charger. It’s compatible with almost any USB-powered device and you can plug it into your computer or USB charger after the sun goes down or if you want to speed up the charge.
Stay in touch:
Finally, if you’re going to SXSW in a group, managing the herd quickly gets out of hand when you split up to go to other events. Once that happens, coordinating with simple text messages won’t cut it anymore because you no longer know who’s with whom. Get the group together on the GroupMe app instead. Every text is visible to the whole group and the location function shows where group members are and where their last message was sent from. You can even share photos inline to show everyone that you’re where the action is and they better get there ASAP.
So there you have it, a few tips, tricks and equips to help you make the most of SXSW. Ricky and I will be there Friday March 9th through Monday the 12th, and all of our coverage will be here on The Shack Blog, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Follow us there and be sure to check back for all the action! We’ll see you in Austin.
What are YOUR must-have gadgets and gear for an event like SXSW? Leave a comment below and we’ll send one lucky commenter a full SXSW Survival Kit!
One comment/entry per person. Contest begins at 2:00 pm CST on March 5, 2012 and ends at 1:59 pm CST on March 7, 2012. Winner will be chosen randomly by RadioShack and announced after 2:00 pm CST on March 7, 2012.
No payment or purchase necessary to win. Neither a purchase nor payment will improve your chances of winning. While you’re pretty cool in our book, you are not a winner of this contest yet. Void where prohibited. Must be a resident of the 50 United States to win.
Updated 3/7/12: Thanks to everyone for commenting! Congrats to April J. on winning the SXSW Survival Kit!