There are several good guides for rookies and old-boys attending South by Southwest, which will bring back tens of thousands of participants to Austin, Texas, in a few weeks. These guides (this and this are pretty good) talk about general tips and while I’m getting ready for my third edition, I decided to compile a few tips for staying healthy during SXSW.
I can’t emphasize this more. You’ll be walking up and down Austin for a week or so (and there’ll be quite some dancing at the parties too), so you really want to take care of your feet. We’re talking about 15 or more hours non-stop per day that you’ll be out of the hotel walking/standing/dancing/moving.
Carry Less Weight
You’ll need a small backpack so you can carry LESS stuff. For the same reason as above, you’ll be all day out and while you think you might need to take your big dSLR camera with a few lenses, a good video camera, an iPad, laptop and those fancy gadgets to show off to your fellow geeks… please refrain from doing so. Your back and shoulders will thank you sooner than later.
The best way to limit what you take is to reduce the amount of carrying space you have. A backpack is better than a messenger bag or a tote because you can carry the weight on both shoulders. Also, DO keep at least half of it empty when you leave the hotel in the morning because you’ll probably be filling it with plenty of swag during the day. Also, you need space to carry a light jacket (see below).
SXSW usually provides to program booklets: a big and heavy one with details for every session, speaker and attendees and a smaller pocket version with the agenda of events. Leave the big one at the hotel and study it at night, noting down those sessions you want to miss in the pocket version or on the SXSW mobile app, that allows you to keep a personalized schedule and has maps and other useful info.
Play Well With The Weather
Weather during SXSW is usually gentle and during most part of the day it’s ok to move around in a Tshirt but evenings can be a bit chilly and there’s the occasional drizzle. Also air-conditioning can be an issue in some venues, plus our bodies tend to become colder when we’re tired (and you’ll be tired towards the end of the week!). Always carry a light jacket in your backpack or other kind of long sleeved garment that you can wear during the evening.
Drink Plenty of Water
Granted, you’ll be drinking a lot of beer/booze (it’s free at most parties) and coffee during the morning. But both can rapidly dehydrate you and in the mid-term reduce your stamina. Stay well hydrated during the day by drinking plenty of water. Carry your own water bottle to reduce the need of spending money in H2O.
I usually carry around a Bobble water bottle, with a carbon filter that makes tap water taste better (and reduces the amount of chlorine and other substances in it).
It’s no news that business at SXSW is done while eating. BBQ and Tacos are two of the local favorites but even diehard carnivores need a break if they don’t want to end in a food coma.
Try to limit the amount of heavy foods you eat during the day. A humus wrap or a salad (available at one of the shops in the Austin Convention Center) from time to time won’t hurt and will actually allow you to take all that BBQ better. There are a few Japanese joints (Piranha Killer Sushi and Maiko Sushi) that are pretty good too.
There’ll be a lot of sitting (during the panels) and nerding (behind a screen) but your body needs also healthy movement. Stretch often your neck, shoulders, legs and arms. Join one of the morning Yoga sessions or even join us in a morning geek run! (I’m organizing two geek runs on March 10th and 12th).
Take A Break
Give your brain a break! All than content and meetings can be exhausting for mind and body. Southby offers tons of interesting content so take some time off from your main interests to discover what else is happening in Austin. Live music, fils, stand-up comedy or just a walk by the river will be refreshing and you might discover cool stuff too!
- Bring plenty of business cards (Moo.com prints great ones and can deliver them directly at SXSW)
- The ABC: Always Be Charging (your gadgets). Your battery will drain pretty fast, so lookout for electric sockets and keep your batteries full
- Simplify the number of gadgets you’ll carry around
- Connect before the event with the people you want to meet. Approach on Twitter/Linkedin, through Lanyrd’s dedicated SXSW guide (it shows which of your Twitter friends are attending or speaking at SXSW) and use SXSocial, the official tool to meet your fellow attendees. SXSW is huge and if you want to keep your time productive, it’s good to arrange your meetings well ahead.
- Serendipity Will Show You The Way: Serendipity is the driving force at SXSW. Plan your day but be ready to break those plans often. You’ll meet new people, discover interesting speakers you never heard of and end up in unannounced meet ups and parties that will be way better than many of the official events.