Before I left for Austin, I spent a little time online looking for tips in order to fully reap the benefits of SXSW, gather some insider info, etc. I scoffed at most of the them (drink a lot of water, rest, blah, blah), but in hindsight…I get it:

A few days in Austin during SXSW will wear you the hell out.

A few things I will remember next year…

1. Wear. Comfortable. Shoes. I think I walked about 422 miles on the first day.

2. Take a nap. Even a short one will make a difference. (I did not take this advice)

3. Buy food (wine + beer) at a local grocery store when you arrive. There aren’t a ton of quick-eating options around the conference center (unless you’re into bacon-flavored waffle cones). I would have been thrilled to have had snacks in my bag.

4. I discovered first hand that the best panels or workshops are often flying under the masses’ radar. Give yourself permission to walk out of the talks that seem to be garnering the most attention if you’re losing interest.

5. You don’t need all the junk. Leave the promos behind. If they’re that cool (like the cardboard ipod case below), just take a photo. The end.

6. Make a point to seek out music. I’d anticipated that I would just fall into the laps of  amazing bands in every bar on 6th Street. There were a couple open mics and standard blue bands, but nothing that knocked my socks off. I realize that I should have stuck around for the music portion of festival if I really wanted to check out the stellar gigs, but I’m not sure I would have survived even one more night in Austin. One evening I did seek out music, and saw Austin-local Mandy Lauderdale‘s (above in the cute red and black dress) show. Fantastic.

7. You may be too old for parties with the promise of free drinks. I always prefer to be out late rather than up early, but I am definitely too old to wait in line for free beer or a crowded party. I would rather have a glass of wine in the hotel lobby or a shot of tequila in a semi-deserted bar and watch the ‘kids’ stand in line.

8. Get off 6th Street. Austin is huge and awesome.

9. Expand your networking horizons. I made many more valuable contacts randomly chatting with people around town than I did going to SXSW events. They’re great, but I found them to be a bit too crowded and loud to make valuable connections.

9. If you can, give yourself a buffer day off when you get back from your trip. You’ll be happy to have a day to regroup, and go through all your notes while they’re fresh.

10. Schedule a midday flight home. We were on a 1:30pm flight and the security line was only fifteen minutes. The word around the airport was that the line had been over an hour early that morning. Not so fun after a long night standing in line for free beer.