sxsw-2015-logo-headerIf you’ve never attended SXSW, the annual festival/conference held every March in Austin TX, you’ve likely heard of it. If you somehow haven’t, it’s THE place to be for creators and fans of music, film, and technology to see what’s new, hear from the brightest minds in a host of industries, and network like they never have before.

But even for seasoned veterans it can be overwhelming. If you want to get the most out of it (and if you don’t, why go?), planning ahead is key.

The SXSW first timers’ guide advises attendees to “Find a SXSW Friend” – someone who’s been through it all before and can give you guidance on what to expect.

Since I’ve been there twice now, consider me your SXSW Friend. Here are my tips to help you navigate preparing for the heady adventure that is SXSW:

None of this will matter if you can’t get there

SXSW is very competitive, and attendance grows year over year, so it’s important to register early and book EVERYTHING well in advance (now is not too soon) – some venues actually book years in advance. (So if you do book a venue and like it, snap it up immediately when you’re wrapping up, or you could lose it.)

Whether you’re attending or hosting an event, flights, hotels, restaurants, houses – wherever you plan to stay and/or present – should be booked immediately if they haven’t been already.

Be prepared to walk

There are blocks of activities spread throughout downtown. Even if you drive (or take a taxi/bike/pedicab) to any given venue, you’ll still spend a lot of time walking from event to event.

Vendors need to keep this in mind as well, keeping as close to downtown as possible – even two miles away is too far given that most attendees will be on foot. You don’t want anyone missing your event because it’s too far off the grid.

In short: Comfortable shoes are a must. Also, though it’s March, it’s fairly warm. Pack layering options, and use them as needed.

Don’t sacrifice function for fun

There’s a lot of energy and excitement around SXSW – but it can be frustrating when the noise levels preclude hearing the person standing directly across from you. Even when hosting parties, remember why you’re there, turn the music down a bit, and make sure the setting is conducive to people making connections.

Speaking of… 

ABC – always be connecting

Sure you want to network and interact, but you also might want to round out your experience with presentations, films, etc. In situations where it’s hard to network, use time spent standing in line (for example) to talk to people – you never know who you might be standing next to.

And have a plan for sharing contact info, since most people don’t like carrying around business cards. The SXSW GO App can be your best friend (after me) – but have a plan B in case you meet someone who isn’t using it.

As you’re attending panels/events pay attention to potential partners – those whose messages align with yours. Think not only product partners, but also folks in your industry. We were very different from most vendors, but our partnerships last year with Brand Innovators and Fashion’s Collective were a smashing success.

So what’s in store for NetBase at SXSW this year?

This year we hope to be part of the SXSW lineup, but we need your vote to get there! Our “Brands Bringing the Noise” panel will put attendees in front of major players in the Music and Entertainment industries, where fans are extra-socially vocal – giving us lots of data to pull from.

NetBase CMO Pernille Bruun-Jensen will moderate a panel headlined by Taylor Hanson (CEO and Founder, Hanson /3CG Records), Alex White (Head of Next Big Sound at Pandora), and William Gruger (Music Editor, Vine), who will share their insights on topics like the importance of user-generated content, how Millennials impact brands’ success, and much more.

If that sounds like info your brand could use, please take a moment to vote for us to be officially added to the SXSW roster. We can’t wait to see you in Austin!

Have to been to SXSW before? Tell us what you loved most, and reach out for info on how NetBase helps brands go deeper with their social insights.

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