8 Tips to Help You Ace SXSW 2017 (From Someone Who’s Never Been)

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Advice. People are usually more than happy to dish out generous portions of the stuff – often to those who haven’t asked for it. And here we are.

This time we’re talking South by Southwest (SXSW 2017); the Texas tech and culture juggernaut. Now in its 31st year, SXSW celebrates the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries among others.

While I may not have the benefit of actual SXSW experience behind me, I am armed with Google, more fraying, greying festival wristbands than you can shake an artisan burger at and some basic knowledge of human behaviour. And that will have to do!

So for those of you lucky enough to be hitting the Lone Star state this March, here are our eight top tips for making the most of your SXSW 2017 experience. If you ignore them, we’ll completely understand.

 

Put. The Smartphone. Down.

The logistics of navigating an event of this size without your phone makes this one difficult. While you may be itching to share your photos, check-ins and hashtags, be aware that experiencing any event entirely through the lens of your smartphone limits what you’ll get out of it – in this case fun, thought leadership and the free exchange of ideas. Plus, as noted by one great poster I saw at an event last summer, it makes you look like a boring b****rd.

 

Don’t Be Afraid

There are some big, scary, inevitable issues at the forefront of this year’s discussion. From fake news and online harassment to the diminished privacy associated with biometrics, there are a range of fascinating keynotes scheduled to give us a fresh perspective on the most frightening bogeymen of the digital age.

“Are Biometrics the New Face of Surveillance?” (10 March, 5pm, Hilton Austin)

“Life After Gawker” (12 March, 11am, Austin Convention Center)

“A Post-Truth World? No, We Can Fight Fake News” (13 March, 11am, Hyatt Regency Austin)

 

Get Political

If you don’t, you’ll be the only one there. Last year saw the Obamas take centre stage, hosting talks on digital privacy and national security and the education of young women respectively. This year, as you can imagine, there are a few new political issues to discuss …

 

Queue For Weird Stuff

If there’s one thing festivals teach us, it’s that people will stand in line for just about anything. 2016 saw people queuing up for hours in the blistering Austin sun to grab a selfie with Grumpy Cat. It’s a festival – wipe that sour puss off your face and get involved.

 

Marvel at the Brands That Get it Right …

… but don’t let them steal the show. Described by The Verge as, “a Disneyland of brand activations,” some brands really go to town at the event (2016 saw Amazon Prime’s Mr Robot host its own ferris wheel). Enjoy their work, but don’t let clever advertising distract you from the real discussion.

 

Think Inclusive

One of the best things about SXSW is its inclusiveness – in many ways, the conference can be viewed as a long-running discussion about how to make technology work for everyone. To get the most out of your time there, attend the events that address this notion explicitly.

“Vint Cerf: An Internet For and By the People” (12 March, 11am, JW Marriott)

“Virtual Life’s a Drag: Queering in VR” (13 March, 3.30pm, Hilton Austin)

 

Hit the Movies

The #OscarsMixUp has given us a strange start to what looks set to be an otherwise excellent year in film. The SXSW film festival runs an extensive program of features, shorts and documentaries and allows visitors to explore the relationships between film, creativity and technology in more detail than anywhere else on earth.

 

Unleash Your Inner Nerd

Especially if he or she isn’t hidden too far below the surface. With an extensive gaming calendar and the much-hyped Game of Thrones panel, SXSW is nerd heaven. Hit the gaming expo, the gaming awards and the mobile gaming dome to get your fix of vintage and iconic games and an exciting glimpse of things to come.

 

Dance to the Music, Listen to the Musicians

This year’s music festival features a selection of gigs, raves, day and night parties to satisfy most musical tastes, but what sets SXSW apart is the opportunity to hear celebrated influencers in music deliver keynote speeches about the issues that matter to them and the moments that have helped shape their careers.

Nile Rodgers keynote on his career and position as one of the most sampled musicians of all time (15 March, 11am , Austin Convention Center)

Mick Fleetwood’s keynote on his career (15 March, 5pm, Austin Convention Center)

Kesha’s discussion on how women can reclaim the internet (14 March, 3.30pm Austin Convention Center)

This list only really scratches the surface of what’s on offer at SXSW 2017. If you’re into food (and who isn’t?), you can explore the extensive food and culture program on offer. If you like to  laugh, you can sit in the audience of the very best established and up and coming comedians. In essence, it’s all the world’s best culture festivals rolled up into one electrifying package. If you haven’t managed to get tickets in 2017, we’ll see you next year!