• Loading stock data...
Monday, February 26, 2024
Rates for the 2024 Best Venues Award increase this Sunday at 11:59 p.m. ET

How to Make the Most of Your SXSW Experience

By Michael Ehrlich, @MichaelEhrlich

Whether it’s your first or fifth visit to South by Southwest in Austin, a few helpful tips can go a long way to making the most out of your conference experience. As SXSW officially kicks off today, here are a couple of topics to keep in mind:

Prior Planning

New York Giants Football GIF by NFL - Find & Share on GIPHY

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” is one of my favorite John Wooden-isms and it’s certainly relevant for your own SXSW experience.

Take the time before your travel to Austin to map out your goals for the conference, both from personal and professional perspectives. What are the most important panels to attend? Remember, you can’t hit them all. Who are the people you must meet during the conference?

Reach out in advance to schedule chats ahead of time. Social is, of course, a great way to connect pre-event if you don’t have emails or phone numbers. Search #SXSW on Twitter a few days before to get a good sense of who in your network might be on the ground. Once the conference kicks off, meeting coordination is going to be a challenge.

Want more great content like this? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter!

Crafting a daily schedule using both the SXSW mobile app and your own calendar should keep you organized, but don’t be afraid to skip panels or events for additional networking opportunities.

At the end of each day, try to review what you accomplished and set goals for the rest of your trip. New opportunities and events will no doubt pop up as the conference kicks off so your schedule will certainly evolve.

It’s Gotta be the Shoes

Shoes Cleaning GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Yes, that’s a slogan from my former company’s biggest competitor but it’s 100% true, especially for SXSW.

You are going to be on your feet for most of your trip — standing in lines, walking to events and enjoying many of the live shows during the conference. So take care of your feet by wearing comfortable shoes.

If you need to dress up your shoe game for an event or panel, bring an extra pair of kicks to walk around in before and after. Your feet will thank you later.

Additionally, Austin now does not offer Uber or Lyft services so you’ll be walking a bit more than usual.

If you do need a ride, the Austin American-Statesman has an extensive list and reviews of great alternatives.

Hydrate or Die


You’re going to be on your feet all day, it’s going to be muggy, there will be plenty of great food and alcohol served, so it’s imperative you hydrate throughout your SXSW experience.

Hydrating your phone with power though might be as important as drinking water. All SXSW communication, networking, scheduling, party RSVPing and social media sharing will, of course, be done via your mobile so make sure you have an extra power source.

In year’s past, SXSW has used unique tactics to provide charging stations for attendees — everything from homeless people to St. Bernard dogs — but don’t rely on the conference to charge your way.

An external power source will be essential for your experience as you’ll be away from your hotel room most days and the wall plugs around the city are always occupied.

A great way to save battery life and remain present during panels is to turn your phone on airplane mode, so you can remain focused on what’s being discussed while also still being able to take notes.

Take Notes

Notebook GIF by University of California - Find & Share on GIPHY

Too often I’ve found myself sitting in a panel, scrolling Twitter versus actually listening to the panelists and absorbing the information.

Personally, I’m a tactile learner so the more I write information down, the more it sinks in. I highly recommend bringing a field notes book with you during SXSW to fill with key quotes and topics from expert speakers. Your phone’s note app certainly does the trick as well.

Of course, it’s common practice for attendees to Tweet out updates in real-time, but I urge you to remain as present as possible during a panel, to fully absorb the discussion.

It is certainly helpful to review social media throughout an event to connect with other attendees and collate the best quotes, but don’t sit with your head down the whole time.

During the larger keynotes or conversations on the main stages at the Austin Convention Center, there is usually an artist drawing a collage which incapacitates the topics discussed. It is interesting to see this come to life in real-time, so definitely keep your eyes on the stage versus your phone.

Network over Panel Hop

Season 1 Netflix GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The single most valuable aspect of SXSW is the networking opportunities. You have the chance to meet your next boss, business partner or mentor in Austin.

Yes, the actual conference pass is quite an investment financially and you’re going to want to get the most out of the event, but if you need to choose between another panel about VR or social media versus a one-on-one meeting with a new contact, I’d recommend choosing the later.

You are going to gain a lot of new contacts, business cards, emails and Twitter follows during your SXSW experience and it’s imperative to stay in touch. South by attendees certainly need some time for their body and inbox to recover, so I’d suggest waiting a few days before reaching out post-event.

Remember, you have one shot a year to make the most out of your SXSW experience so prepare, adjust your priorities during the conference, network as much as you can and of course have fun.

Michael Ehrlich is the VP of Marketing Communications at Independent Sports & Entertainment (ISE), where he supports more than 300 MLB, NBA and NFL clients through editorial and social media storytelling, and content creation opportunities. Ehrlich has attended South by Southwest for the last five years and is an Interactive Mentor for the conference’s Sport Track.

More information on his yearly session can be found here: https://schedule.sxsw.com/2017/events/PP68746

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Kanye West’s Donda Sports Signs Aaron Donald, Jaylen Brown

The pair are the first two athletes to sign with the sports marketing agency, deals that won’t affect either player’s representation.

Report: Viral Nation Lands $198M in Funding

Marketing firm Viral Nation Inc, which focuses on influencer marketing and includes a robust sports portfolio, just got a major infusion of capital.
Ghost Gamer

Nutrition Extends Past Traditional Sports With Ghost’s Esports Deal

Nutritional supplement company Ghost has eschewed traditional sports partnerships to better reach everyday consumers through esports.

Senate Debate on College Athlete Name, Image and Likeness Continues

Senators and witnesses debated whether Congress should write its own laws for NIL, give the power to the NCAA through an antitrust exemption, or let states determine how they want to handle athlete compensation.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

The Shady Business of Fake Sports News


Featured Today

Sham Gods: The Rapidly Growing World of Sports Impersonators on X

Fake Schefters and Wojs, fabricated trade demands, and borrowed profile pictures.
Sep 24, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; A general view of the Oakland Athletics dugout after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
February 24, 2024

Murky Future: Everything You Need to Know About the A’s Move to Las Vegas

Breaking down one of the most drawn-out, multifaceted sagas in sports.
February 18, 2024

Sabrina-Steph Wasn’t the ‘Battle of the Sexes’—But It Was Part of the Bigger War

The competition could play a factor in increasing the WNBA’s media value.
NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace (23), in a Star Wars rebel alliance X-wing fighter pilot-inspired race suit, motions to the crowd to get louder during the driver introductions for the Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale on Nov. 5, 2023.
February 17, 2024

Celebrity Owners, International Ambitions, and $7B Media Deals: Welcome to the New NASCAR

NASCAR boldly keeps pace with the increasingly competitive sports and entertainment world.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Finance Manager
New York, NY
Senior Technical Artist - Sports Technology
EA Sports
Orlando, FL
Assistant Manager, Affiliate Operations
Portland, OR
The Adidas ball has changed over the years.

The Most Advanced Tech at the Women’s World Cup Might Surprise You

This year’s OCEAUNZ introduces connected ball technology to the women’s game.

Creating Fan-Centric Content With AI

WSC’s highlight automation improved the speed of ESPN’s content creation.

Rewriting the Sports Media Playbook

WSC’s highlight automation improved Clemson’s content strategy and overall growth.

Live Sports Are Now High-Tech Experiences

Oracle is leading the technology revolution happening in stadiums across the world.

Re-Imagining Storytelling With AI

Amy Anderson, Head of Content Strategy at NASCAR Studios, discusses the role of AI technology in developing and growing new content.
Arial view of Audi testing track
December 4, 2022

Audi Gears Up for F1 with Major New Facility

Audi is building a 10,000 square-foot building to support its F1 efforts.
Woman wears Meta Quest headset while working out to have virtual reality exercise session
November 22, 2022

Meta’s Plans for VR Fitness Could Hit Snag

A government agency is looking to block an acquisition by Meta.
Nike phone advertisement
November 15, 2022

Nike Jumps Further into Metaverse With Virtual Sneaker Platform

The world’s largest sportswear company is taking its talents to the metaverse.