Newcomer’s Guide: Tips from SXSW Veterans

Get the most out of Austin with our top SXSW tips. Our team members have lived, learned and eaten our way through South by Southwest interactive.

We’ve shared strategies below to help you navigate the hallowed halls of the Austin Convention Center, network to your heart’s content and maintain sanity in the mad rush to secure your Uber ride to the free drinks. Here are a few of our tips:

  1. Pick up your badge early. If you’re local to Austin or coming in a day early, take advantage of Thursday’s pick up times so you can head straight to sessions on Friday.

  2. Map out your day: Panels can be hosted in the Austin Convention Center or in a dozen hotels around the city. Make sure that you aren’t setting yourself up for failure by scheduling back to back sessions that are 15 minutes away. Instead, look for opportunities to find multiple useful sessions in close-proximity to maximize efficiency. Keep the SXSW app on standby and plan you day based on content AND location.

  3. Just say no to bad sessions: Once you’ve made it to that session, what happens when the speaker is a total dud? As hard as SXSW works to curate great presenters, there is always someone there who turns what sounded like a creative session into a painful infomercial. During these moments, remember that if you leave within the first 10 minutes, you can still catch the rest of a nearby session and potentially learn something that gets you out of your comfort zone.

  4. RSVP for everything. Use Eventbrite and Do512 and look for lists everywhere. RSVP for anything that seems interesting to give yourself plenty of options.

  5. Always have a back-up. Popular panels and parties fill up and sometimes don’t live up to the hype. The key to SXSW is to have a few options to keep you moving (if you stop, you will fall asleep). When we need a break from brand-sponsored parties, we typically move to the Four Seasons for a real meal and conversations with attendees from all over the country.

  6. Eat. Hydrate. Repeat. In between sessions you will get hungry or tired or cranky and while brands will be on every corner with free food, you might want to take a client or yourself out to lunch somewhere without the chaos. Here are our recommended spots:

  • Coffee/Breakfast
  • Houndstooth Coffee – Convenient and tasty and serve much-needed Taco Deli breakfast tacos along with your coffee.
  • Caffé Medici – A few blocks away from the convention center, but worth the walk and the (hopefully) shorter lines. 
  • Lunch/Dinner
  • 2nd Bar & Kitchen – An affordable and delicious way to try Executive Chef David Bull’s amazing food.
  • Swift’s Attic – Takes reservations and is tucked away from the chaos. 
  • La Condesa – Elotes (Mexican Street Corn), carnitas and a margarita. Welcome to Austin.
  • Happy Hour
  • Max’s Wine Dive – Comfort food close to the convention center.
  • Easy Tiger – A large beer selection with an outdoor patio that will help you relax away from the crowds on 6th St.
  • Contigo – A 10-minute drive from downtown with unique-to-Austin food. 

Look out for our upcoming posts with other SXSW tips about what to pack in your bag each day and which events we recommend. If you want to grab a coffee, a beer or maybe even a real meal – tweet us at @PierpontCom. Follow us during the conference for live updates and reactions to the emerging trends to see how they impact your business.