First-timer Survival Tips.
Plan your schedule. Review the panels listed on SXSW.com and click "Add to Schedule" while logged in. This will create an easy guide to the talks you want to attend, and allow you to see your days at a glance.
RSVP for the "unofficial" parties. While there are a bunch of official parties a SXSW Interactive that don't require an RSVP, many companies also host their own events in Austin without the help of SXSW. You can find a lot of of these "unofficial" parties on GarysGuide or Eventbrite, but RSVP early because the guest lists fill up fast.
Upload your headshot. Log into your SXSocial.com account and upload a headshot to your profile before you leave for Austin. If you don't, you'll be forced to pose for a blurry, unflattering photo when you pick up your badge, which will just take up more of your time.
Skip the airport cab line. At peak times, braving the taxi line can take awhile. Consider calling a local Austin cab company and scheduling a car to pick you up at the airport when you land. Or take the MetroAirport bus downtown, which takes about 30 minutes.
Show up early. The most popular SXSW sessions (particularly the keynotes or anything involving a celebrity) fill up fast—and they’re first come, first served. If there's a speaker you really want to see, consider lining up early to ensure you get in.
Bring cash for pedicabs. Ever since Uber and Lyft were banned in Austin, pedicabs have become the best bet for getting around downtown Austin. There's also too much car traffic for actual cabs to be useful (and they're impossible to catch). Though some pedicab drivers take credit card payments via Square, most take only cash. Fares are negotiable and vary by driver, so make sure you agree on an amount before you begin your ride. And, remember that they’re physically hauling you around the city, so tip well.
Get your own power source. At many SXSW event locations, electrical outlets are few and far between and usually fiercely guarded by someone who got there first. Sponsors sometimes set up free charging stations in and around the Convention Center, but you'll probably have to fight for an outlet. It's worth purchasing an extra battery pack for your phone, like a Mophie Juice Pack for the iPhone.
Rent a bike. Beats walking, right?
Pack for comfort (and weather). It often rains (and sometimes pours) in March, so it’s worth packing a light raincoat and umbrella for your trip. Unless you’re renting a bike, expect to spend a lot of time on your feet, so bring shoes that won’t make you suffer.
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