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What NOT to Do at SXSW 2016

With SXSW right around the corner, we thought it’d be helpful to interview some of our seasoned SXSW junkies on our team and get their advice on what to watch out for at the festival.

Below is a list of tips, inspired by common mistakes that we’ve made and/or observed while attending, on how to best enjoy SXSW to the fullest. We believe that these tips can help make your life easier, whether you be attending as a digital marketer (as we are) or a pure SXSW lover.


1. Come without a strategy. Come with a game plan of the places you want to go and the panels you want to attend. Be forewarned that if you don’t come with a strategy, you’ll waste a lot of precious time trying to get from Point A to Point B, and sprinting to make it to all the panels that you’re interested in. (FYI, the most popular panels fill up as early as 40 minutes prior to panel time.)

Prepare both an event itinerary and transportation game plan. Keep in mind that getting around via Uber, cab, or even pedicab isn’t cheap. In fact, fare prices will surge, and someone will always be willing to fork over more money than you are to book a ride. Consider renting a car and walking wherever you can (meaning, you should consider swapping out your heels or boat shoes with sneakers).

2. Mope over a missed panel. If you do happen to get shut out of a panel unexpectedly, remember that there are over 1,000 events at SXSW. Explore other talks nearby you and be open to venturing outside your normal interests.

3. Show up empty handed. At the very least, come with your phone in hand, along with an extra battery pack and/or a portable charger. Limit your load to just a couple small gadgets to lessen the weight on your back and to avoid breaking or losing prized items.

A tip from our CSO, Amir Zonozi: “Be prepared for swag. This is the Super Bowl of marketing events and every brand is there to ‘wow’ you.”

Some gadgets we’d suggest bringing:

  • A lightweight and/or wearable camera (to savor key moments with high quality, well-lit photos – rain or shine)
  • An Olloclip (to easily attach to your phone and get fun, interesting shots)
  • A selfie stick (because who doesn’t love a good selfie stick?)
  • Walkie talkies (they might be old school, but they’ll come to your rescue if your phone dies or your network’s jammed with other users)
  • Your “Hello” Zoomph shirt (not a gadget, but a must-have for getting your name out)

4. Come without your favorite apps. Load up your phone with your most important apps. Have SXSW GO handy to help you manage your experience. Also, make sure to have these essential apps:

  • Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook (the Big Three social networks)
  • Facebook Mentions (a way to broadcast live video to your Facebook audience)
  • Snapchat
  • Periscope
  • GroupMe (to stay in touch with your travel buddies)

5. Stand alone in a corner. SBSW is not the place to be shy! SBSW is your opportunity to meet folks you normally wouldn’t, and to grow your personal + professional network. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the most bumping parties – which are also great places to network.

6. Overlook 6th Street (a.k.a. “the TOTAL Austin entertainment experience”). Speaking of great places to meet new faces in your industry…6th Street, the main artery of downtown Austin, is always hopping with great food, entertainment, and social hangouts. Schedule a meeting here; you can easily enjoy good conversations with a new connection without being too pressed about work.

7. Come without doing your homework. Take advantage of social media listening tools to hone in on influencers to look out for at SXSW, and to learn more about the people in your industry before meeting up with them. Through Zoomph affinities and author cards, you can learn more about your acquaintances’ interests and have something (besides work) to discuss when you meet them face to face.

amir author card

Using hashtag analytics, you can also stay on top of popular (and maybe not-so-obvious) hashtags that people intend to use at the festive to ensure greater exposure for your handle at the event.

8. Post to social media blindly. Remember that many eyes will be on your social handles during SXSW. While SXSW is a great opportunity to gain new followers on #SoMe, it’s especially important for you to be mindful of what goes out on your account – don’t post anything that will reflect poorly on your character or professionalism!

9. Stay married to Twitter. It might be tempting to simply live tweet throughout the whole festival. But consider expanding your horizon and experimenting with various platforms – like the ones that your acquaintances suggest you try! By remaining attached to one platform, you risk barraging your followers with an unwanted stream of content, or missing golden opportunities to be at the heart of activity on other platforms.

10. Forget about Snapchat geo filters (or stickers). Geo filters are a great way to market your holistic SXSW experience on Snapchat, while stickers are…well, a wonderful way to get your QR code out into the world via guerilla marketing. 🙂

Guerrilla marketing

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