SXSW is like Spring Break for nerds. I love it.
With 400K+ attendees just for the interactive portion, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. FOMO is a thing here.
So the 5 things you need to know about SXSW are:
1. You can't do it all. There's just too much. Find a track (subject area) and dig deep into. Avoid the stuff you can get online - like interviews with celebrities. Focus on the hard-to-reach geeks who are working on cool stuff.
2. Arrive early. The lines are long and the seats are limited. The pic above shows badge pickup lines on Friday. It took about an hour. Can't we do the badge thing at the airport? Or from home? There's gotta be a simpler way. Until then, budget time for fighting lines. Keep in mind many presentations hit capacity 30 minutes prior. That means you may need to leave the one you're in before it ends in order to queue up for the next.
3. It's all about people. Yes, we come for the tech. But be sure to strike up conversations with your neighbors. Everyone here has an interesting story. You will learn a lot from just talking with them. Take the initiative with 'So what brings you to SX?"
4. Harness those ideas. It's impossible to attend SXSW and NOT be inspired. You will become an idea making machine! Get those ideas documented. Use the spare 5 minutes here and there to dive deeper. What matters is not what you get of SXSW, but what you DO with what you get. Get going!
5. Keep it positive. SXSW is a morsel of goodness. It's upbeat, can-do, change-the-world-for-the-better type thing. Too bad 'formal' education can't be like this: engaging, insightful and relevant. Until then, let's do everything we can to keep it gritty and organic. Each of us plays a role in that. Keep it fun and empowering.
Btw, if you're here, send me a message on Twitter: @supergeeks. Let's get a beer!