Chuparkoff’s Definitive Guide to Hacking SXSW

The first few times I attended SXSW, I struggled to make the most of this amazing[ly overwhelming] conference. I searched everywhere for a definitive SXSW guide and came up with nothing. There’s growth-hacking, decision-hacking, and justplain-hacking. But there was no SXSW-hacking. Now there is.

Every March at SXSW, I meet great people. I learn more than I learned in a semester of college. I eat great food and hear great music. I see great films. Most of all, I leave each year exponentially more-inspired than I was on my previous trip. I’m Dan Chuparkoff and spring is my favorite time of the year.

Navigating this guide

Whether it’s your 1st SouthBy or your 20th… whether you’re here for Interactive, Music, or Film… you will love @Chuparkoff’s definitive guide to hacking SXSW. I’ve broken this guide into seven parts:

  1. Getting ready
  2. SXSW sessions
  3. SXSW parties
  4. Getting around SXSW
  5. SXSW food
  6. SXSW marketing
  7. Planning for next year

The definitive guide to getting ready for SXSW

Start watching Twitter

In December, SXSW excitement starts brewing. As we near 90-days-to-go, people who will be attending start counting down. Meanwhile, people who aren’t attending start trying to live vicariously through the rest of us. This is your cue to start watching twitter for updates on the big things going on this year.

Watch Twitter and we’ll all keep you pointed in the right direction. We start tweeting each year at the 90-days-to-go mark. Watch the #sxswtips hashtag. These are the best Twitter accounts to follow for #SXSW updates:

  1. @chuparkoff
  2. @MartyrAtSXSW
  3. @MissKrisSxSW
  4. @MadBettyATX
  5. @SXSWMF
  6. @SXSWhoa
  7. @SXSWISLIFE
  8. @snow2go
  9. @RSVPster

Finalize your SXSW travel logistics

Now, we’re nearing the 60-days-to-go point and things are getting exciting! Make sure you have your plane ticket by January. Don’t rent a car. The car rental prices in Austin for SXSW blow up larger than Felix Baumgartner’s Redbull space-jump balloon. Check out the Getting Around SXSW section below for the best ways to get yourself from pointA to pointB during the #SXSW action.

SXSW hotels & housing

If you ignored my August tip and are just getting around to finding accommodations now, you’re a little-bit screwed. You have three remaining options at this point:

  1. Find a friend who already has a room and talk them into letting you crash on their floor/chair/couch/kitchen-counter.
  2. Create an website/app that helps people who have existing hotel rooms sublet out the extra queen bed in their room (call it extrabnb.com!). Then come back here and speak next year!
  3. Get a place in Leander or Cedar Park and take the CapMetro train into Austin each day.

After lots and lots of tries I’ve found that nothing beats planning and the Aug1-hotel-booking-calendar-reminder (see the August section for more details).

Organize your SXSW schedule

It’s February and that means the SXSW schedule will be roughly final. Don’t try to do this conference without mapping out a schedule in advance. I’m serious, don’t try to do this conference without mapping out a schedule in advance. One more time, don’t try to do this conference without mapping out a schedule in advance. There are some really amazing sessions. Everything that’s even remotely interesting will have a 25 to 45 minute line outside and most of the lines will exceed the room’s capacity. There are only 30 minutes between sessions and since there’s often a significant walk from place to place, getting in the good sessions will take some planning. Don’t bounce from full-room to full-room at the very last minute disappointed because all the good sessions are full before he got there. Trust me. Getting your schedule right takes a little extra planning. Check out the “Guide to SXSW sessions” section below for my detailed SXSW schedule hacking instructions.

Pack your bags & get ready!

It’s time. You’re all booked and ready to show up. But before you head down to #GeekSpringBreak let’s make sure you’ve got a backpack stocked with the key SXSW essentials.

  • A refillable water bottle & snacks: 11:00 & 12:30 sessions are some of the best of SouthBy. You might not be able to squeeze lunch in without missing something awesome. Bring some food. There’s a pretty good chance, you’ll also be dehydrated from the night before, so bring some H2O.
  • An external phone battery: You will run out of juice. You’ll be downloading apps all day, tweeting, taking video, and struggling to get a wifi/cell signal all day. Nothing kills nighttime fun worse than a dead phone. If you forgot this part, head to the SXSW expo on Saturday, Mophie will have a booth and they’ll sell JuicePacks.
  • An umbrella & poncho: Don’t bother checking the weather. I promise it rains every March in Austin.
  • Other essentials: Aspirin, Vitamin-C, business cards, extra room for free t-shirts & swag.

For even more great tips on making sure you’re roaming the streets of Austin with the ideal SXSW gear, watch #SXSWTIPs on Twitter.

PRO HACK: Add a 6-outlet power strip to your backpack. Empty outlets are like the prison-cigarettes of SXSW. Plug a power strip into a wall and while you charge your phone & laptop, you're guaranteed to meet 4 new friends with the extra empty outlets.

The definitive guide to SXSW sessions

If you tackle SXSW right, you’ll learn an amazing amount and you’ll have fun at the same time. But in order to do both of those things, in a single week, it takes some planning. It’s important to understand how to hack the SXSW schedule. The South by Southwest schedule will have an overwhelming number of sessions on it. The SXSW organizers have done a great job in the last few years at pruning the Interactive schedule back a little. But you’re still most likely looking at 1500 sessions in the 35 time slots over the 5 days of Interactive. The SXSW Film schedule and the SXSW Music schedule are just as overwhelming.

PRO HACK: I have navigating the SXSW schedule down to a science. Here's the definitive SXSW schedule-hacking strategy. Run through the schedule in 3 targeted phases. Each time, get a little closer to the final session list. Here's how:

Before you can start, you’ll need to create an account at SXSocial. Your SXSocial account will also get you a Quickcode which will make it a snap to get your SXSW badge. Next, get the SXSW GO app for you phone. This caches a copy of the SXSW schedule to your phone so you can access it even when both your wifi and cell signal aren’t accessible (and that will happen). Once you have your SXSocial account, go to the Schedule tab in the menu. Here you’ll be able to peruse the schedule day-by-day.

STEP 1: Star all potentially interesting sessions

Don’t spend a lot of time here. There are too many sessions to read every single description. Just start with this realistic objective: on your first pass just aim to narrow the list to about 300 or 350. Based mostly on title and speaker, click the star () icon to add things to your schedule. Do this generously. You’ll have a chance to come back in a second pass and prune it back considerably. Select all of the keynotes, all of the featured sessions, and everything else that looks vaguely interesting.

Use the dropdown boxes at the top to select: “sessions / keynotes” and “sessions / featured sessions”. Most of the keynotes and featured sessions will be pretty good, so star each of those to make sure you don’t miss anything huge. After you have those covered, go through “sessions / all categories” and star everything that looks even mildly interesting. Don’t worry too much about the parties in this phase of scheduling. Most [good] SXSW parties are independently organized so you won’t find them in the official SXSW schedule. We’ll come pack to party hacking further down in this SXSW guide.

STEP 2: Narrow to 3 sessions per time slot

After step 1, you should have about 10 to 15 sessions per time slot. That’s still too many! Now it’s time to start reading descriptions. Make sure to check out the speaker. Some random-robot-powerpoint-guy’s session about his Lego Mindstorms set might be mildly interesting. But that same exact presentation from the the CEO of Autodesk might be OFF. THE. HOOK. @CarlBass brought R2D2 in 2015… R2!! The speaker (and the resources at their disposal) can be a big factor in making a session great. Take the time to look them up if you can.

STEP 3: Choose the final sessions on the day of the event

After Step 2, you should have a schedule with 3 things per time slot. Some of them overlap and you haven’t considered location at all. Sometimes getting from the Hyatt to the Sheraton… in the rain… on your 4th day of being hungover… in a half hour… isn’t worth it. So here’s the plan: leave your schedule just like it is — with three things in each time slot. Then on the day of each event… (at least 90 minutes prior)… try to decide which one you’ll head to. On the day of, you can factor things into the equation like how tired and hungry you are or how much it’s raining.

N00b HACK: Don't have time for all this schedule planning sh*t? Just here to see JJ Abrams? Just camp out in Ballroom D. Don't leave between sessions (you won't get back in). In these rooms you'll catch all the high-profile speakers.

Lines, lines, and more lines

Now that you’ve got the schedule hacked, the easy part is done. Next, you’ve got to get into some of those sessions. Bad news: there are 40,000 people who all want the same thing. Ballroom D holds somewhere something like 4000 people. They will hit capacity and eventually you won’t get in. Don’t worry — you read this SXSW Guide and they didn’t.

  1. Keynotes — 60 minutes: Give yourself an hour of line-waiting to get into a keynote or highly-anticipated featured session like JJ Abrams. Since there are only 30 minutes between sessions, that means you will have to skip the preceding timeslot just to make sure you’re in the right place near the front of the line.
  2. Other sessions — 25 minutes: For non-featured sessions, give yourself about 25 minutes of line-waiting. That’s a lot less than 60 which is good news. But that also means that you only have about 5 minutes to get from one session to the next. My trick is to leave the previous session at question-asking time. You get an extra 10-minutes of transit-time and this also gets you out of the room quickly in spite of the high people-to-exitdoors ratio.
  3. If you can't get into one of the big sessions, here's a fallback plan. There is often a video simulcast of the popular sessions at the Hilton and also at the Hyatt just on the other side of the river. Avoid the lines and watch it on video from a block away.
PRO HACK: SXSW actually doesn't kick you out of the rooms as one speaker leaves and the next one starts. If you really want to make sure you see a great speaker, go to the room 90 minutes early. Watch the preceeding speaker and then stay put! You'll be right where you want to be!

The definitive guide to SXSW parties

They don’t call it #GeekSpringBreak for nothing. The nighttime fun at SouthBy is half of the reason we’re here (ok, maybe three-quarters). So here’s @Chuparkoff’s definitive SXSW guide to parties. If you think there are a lot of sessions on the SXSW schedule, wait until you see how many sanctioned and unsanctioned parties there are. This page won’t be a comprehensive list of parties, but I will try to alert you to the big events. And like with everything else, I’ll make sure to point you in the direction of all the resources that you need to make the most of your SXSW experience.

RSVP FTW!

The number one rule of SXSW nighttime is this: make sure you RSVP. Just like with SXSW sessions, the line outside will always exceed the capacity of the space inside. So RSVP for everything. The last thing you want is to wait in a line for 90 minutes and get to the front only to find out that they won’t let you in because you’re not on the list.

The best way to cover your RSVPing like a SouthBy-pro is to signup for RSVPSter. Also follow @rsvpster on Twitter — they’ve got some great information and will keep you posted as new details on after-hours events become posted. Whether you sign up for RSVPster or decide to hunt-and-sign-up on your own, make sure to sign up for everything in advance.

PRO HACK: Set up a new Gmail address just for the purpose of SXSW events. This ensures that 2 months of RSVPs aren't mixed together with all the other mail in your inbox. You'll need to find your confirmation email quickly in order to show it at the door.

ATX Startup Crawl

The best way to get SXSW kicked off right is with Capital Factory’s annual ATX Startup Crawl. Most years it’s sponsored by Atlassian and trust me — those Aussies know how to have a good time. And there are at least 10 other great new Austin startups every year that are willing to trade you a couple of free drinks for your eyeballs on their brand. Annually, it runs on Friday night before the Interactive conference begins. Check out the ATX Startup Crawl page to RSVP and get a map of each of the stops on the crawl.

You do not need a SXSW badge for this. However, you will need to sign-up here in advance in order to be on the list and get the Startup Crawl map. This is a great way to see the best that the Austin startup scene has to offer in one quick pass while they feed you free drinks. If you’re a recruiter, make sure you come to this. It’s a great event for meeting great candidates. If you’re a candidate, I just told all the recruiters to come to this, so don’t let me down.

The SXSW Interactive Opening Party

Saturday night, SXSW officially kicks off and it does so with a bang at The Interactive Opening Party. For any South by Southwest veterans, this was once the Frog Design Party and then the Join.me Party, and then a party that was too far away and sucked a little. This year, it’s at Handsome on 6th street just on the other side of the highway. Free drinks and an always amazing array of gratuitously-included technology like boxing robots and the digitally-intrusive standupsitdown projecta-potty. This year, it’s in the center of town which is a huge improvement from when it was at the Palmer Events Center on the other side of the river and that’ll mean it will be full of action. You do not need to RSVP to the Interactive Opening Party, but you will need an Interactive Badge to get into the party.

PRO HACK: I know you're excited to be in Austin, but don't tear things up too ferociously on your first night. Saturday morning comes early and you have a long four days ahead of you. Pace yourself. And there are shuttles everywhere, so don't drink & drive.

There’s more to come…

And that’s just the beginning. Keep checking back here. Details for other events and parties are still being finalized. They vary from year to year, but there are recurring favorites, keep you ears open for some of these. We’ll keep you posted here with details as they become available.

  1. the Mashable party
  2. Spotify house
  3. the GSD&M party
  4. Tech Karaoke seems to have dropped off the SXSWfaceoftheearth. If anyone knows if they’re coming back, let me know in the comments!
  5. Sonos Studio
  6. The Pepsi Max lot

The definitive guide to getting around SXSW

As I said above, you probably don’t need a car in Austin during SXSW. There are a bunch of ways to get around in Austin. Here are a few of them:

Getting around Austin

Start with Ridescout — an app that shows you real-time transportation options. There’s an awesome SXSW shuttle which runs until 1:30am from hotels to downtown Austin and back. The shuttle is also a great way to meet people!! If you ride the shuttle, pay attention to your shuttle’s route. The shuttle will drive outward on a straight-line vector from the city. Then it will come back along the same route stopping at hotels across the street. You may want to cross the street in the morning to board the SXSW shuttle at the beginning of it’s route because by the time it loops back to you it will often be full.

There are multiple ways to rent a bike (from @bikeTexas or from @AustinBcycle). You can probably count on Uber, although I have yet to discover whether or not Uber’s Surge Pricing will make this an unrealistic option. There’s even a GameOfThrones pedicab! Last but not least, you’ll most likely be able to jump on a free-ride promotion from Mazda since they just announced a 3-year official SXSW sponsorship.

But heck, if you’ve roadtripped your way down here, then you have car, like-it-or-not. If that’s the case, then this is how you hack SXSW parking.

JustPark — the Airbnb for Parking

Did you know this existed?!!?!? JustPark is essentially Airbnb for parking spaces! Check this out. You can rent space in someone’s driveway for as little as $6.30. This is a great idea in any city. But in Austin, in March, this is genius! Live in Austin? Want to make some cash? You can sign up here.

SXSW Parking from Parkopedia.com

If traditional parking spots are more your speed, then Parkopedia has you covered. Their map is the best way to find the cheapest spots in Austin for parking. Parkopedia assures us that they will be updating this map as parking prices change during the SXSW event. They have a dedicated data team that focuses on the SXSW event and liaises on a daily basis with the city/parking lot operators to verify rates. Any price changes or updated open/close times will get fed back into this map.

The definitive guide to SXSW Food

Alright, so now you have the timeline hacked and also the schedule. But let’s be honest, we’re not all heading down to Austin to listen to Tim Ferris and Ann Wojcicki talk about four-hour genomics. Austin has great food and drink and no trip to Austin is complete without hitting at least five of the Austin top ten. Picking just ten in a city as great as Austin is tough, but I feel pretty good about the list we’ve assembled. Here it is! @Chuparkoff’s definitive SXSW guide to the 10 best Austin food spots.

Güero’s Taco Bar

South by Southwest pros know to head down to South Congress to Güero’s Taco Bar — an Austin landmark, an Austin tradition. You’ve got to do texmex while you’re in Austin and Güero’s is is the place to do it. There will be a bit of a wait. But you’ll find Güero’s Oak Garden right next door with live music, plenty of tables, and drinks. The wait is so awesome that you might just decide to give your table up to the next party. Every single year while atGüero’s for dinner, I’ve run into someone famous who was in town for their film launch.

Franklin BBQ

Jon Favreau’s movie Chef features a segment in Austin and while in town they stop by the world-famous Franklin BBQ to pick up some smoked brisket. This is undisputedly the best smoked brisket in the world. But you’ll have to get up early to get some. They’ll be sold out before most of us SXSW’rs are up and about. Hit Franklin on Friday morning just before the Interactive conference begins. If you don’t make it then, try again on Tuesday or Wednesday between Interactive and Music. Make it happen — it’s amazing.

Magnolia Cafe

So let’s say, hypothetically, it’s the middle of the night and you’re starving. Magnolia Cafe is the place to go. THE place in Austin for good ol’, down-home, comfort food. In their own words, “It’s like your favorite aunt’s kitchen. Magnolia Cafe is open 24 hours. Look for the sign on their door which reads, “Sorry, we’re open!” #keepaustinweird

Torchy’s Tacos

Torchy’s Tacos started as a taco truck! Get their award-winnin’ hot sauce & tacos all around Austin. Try the Brushfire taco & little nookies! Trust me: deep-fried chocolate chip cookies dusted with powdered sugar & topped with cherries! The original taco truck itself is located at BartonSprings & 1st but the tacos are “damn good” at any of their 8 Austin locations.

Home Slice Pizza

Two years ago, I started a mild Twitter-war with a tweet: “Cure one of your #sxsw hangovers with @homeslicepizza! It’s South on Congress (Soco) just across the street from @güerostacobar. Who knows whether Home Slice or Güeros serves as better SXSW hangover food. But why choose?!! They’re right across the street from each other. Why not treat yourself to BOTH a slice of pizza AND a breakfast burrito to get your morning started.

Texas Chili Parlor

Texas Chili Parlor is an absolute must. What do Quentin Tarantino and I have in common? Two things. We have the same middle name and we never miss The Texas Chili parlor when we’re in Austin. It’s reportedly one of Tarantino’s favorite places. The Lapdance scene in Grindhouse was filmed here and Tarantino plays the bartender. Check it out (both the movie and the bar).

Mrs. Johnson’s Bakery

Everyone knows that the best donuts in the world are in Portland. But the best donuts in the world that aren’t in Portland are at Mrs. Johnson’s Bakery and you need some on your next visit to Austin. Crazy thing: even though the place has been an Austin staple since 1948, no one knows who Mrs. Johnson was. Go here. They start serving donuts at precisely 8:40pm. Yup. Nighttime donuts. That’s a thing.

Threadgill’s

From before the time of disco and microwaves, Threadgill’s definitely belongs on the Austin SXSW top 10. The original location was the creation of the iconic Kenneth Threadgill — the first person in the county to possess a beer license all the way back in 1933. Threadgill’s made Austin weird in the first place! It was saved from demolition in 1980 by the Armadillo World Headquarters’ Eddie Wilson and you’ll now find a South location just over the bridge from the ACC.

Iron Cactus

6th street is the Bourbon St of Austin. It’s the place to be. A few hours after the sessions come to a close at the ACC, you’ll find 6th street alive with everything from #Hipchat’s YUNo-guy to Austin’s famous #violinplayingwolf. And the Iron Cactus puts you right in the center of it all. The Iron Cactus has actually turned into my favorite 6th st hangout. Grab a seat upstairs on the balcony so you don’t miss a thing outside on the street. Whether it’s just for lunch or for dinner before a night out at the Mashable party you’ll have a great time.

Wait! I only have nine!

Excluding the PRO HACK below (which technically doesn’t count because it’s not actually in Austin), I could use one more for this list. Or maybe I need 11 more and we can make this a Top 20 list! Help some fellow SXSW’rs out. Tweet at me or add your favorite SXSW Foodspots below in the comments. What am I missing? #sxsw #austin #foodies

PRO HACK: Salt Lick BBQ is a short drive out of Austin but is definitely worth a visit. Uber your way out to Driftwood, TX. Then help yourself to an all-you-can-eat-pile-of-meat roasted over an open fire. Amazing one-of-a-kind Texas BBQ experience.
PRO HACK 2: Two things: No credit cards - SaltLick is a cash only establishment. Also, they don't serve alcohol, but it is BYOB. So if beer or wine is your thing, stop and pick up something to drink on the way.

The definitive guide to SXSW marketing

How to do SXSW Marketing without getting fired in April

Marketing in a sea of madness can be risky. Standing out above hundreds of other marketers is not only difficult, it’s expensive. Be careful what you do at SXSW. Here are three simple things to remember. These three things will not only save you a lot of money — they might just save your job.

  1. Go to SXSW personally to make sure you understand the chaos and the excitement first-hand.
  2. Make sure you know this market, who comes, and why.
  3. Above all, don’t treat SXSW like other conferences.

This is not your average trade-show. Don’t expect to set up a booth and wait for customers to come to you. Know the audience and what they respond to. Talk to people that have done it. Go to Austin yourself and talk to people who are advertising this year. This is critically important before suggesting to your company that 50 employees should go to Austin to do a flashmob in the middle of the 6th street.

Recruit new employees at SXSW

Advertising in the midst of this madness is tough. But you know what isn’t tough? Recruiting. This audience is dying to talk to you about their next opportunity! Here’s my favorite way to instantly spur non-stop conversations with great talent. Get some shirts like these from Zazzle. There’s no minimum order so you don’t have to worry about trying to order 500 of them. Make sure to get enough shirts to wear them every day. Also, don’t forget to put your company’s logo on the back. This is a sure-fire way to load yourself up with candidates for only the cost of a few t-shirts!

Get recruited at SXSW

This works in the opposite direction too. A ‘Hire Me’ shirt will start a lot of conversations for you. Employers want to find you. They’re looking for great employees and the fact that they’ve sent people to SXSW means they’re cool and progressive so you probably want to work with them too. A shirt like this will help show them that you have unique problem-solving skills. Heads-up though — if you’re currently working somewhere, don’t forget that you’re wearing this shirt when you pose for pictures. Remember: What happens at SXSW, stays… on the Internet.

PRO HACK: Are you still exchanging business cards? At the most digital conference in the world, we custom-print our Twitter handles on our t-shirts. This way, every new person that we meet can connect with us simply & easily.

Three low-cost SXSW marketing tactics

  1. Speak in a session or on a panel: The best way, hands-down, to reach your customers at SouthBy is to be on the agenda. There aren’t many places where you get standing-room only in a room that holds 5000+ people. Speaking here can put your company on the map. It will establish your team as a team on the leading-edge of innovation. If the SXSW audience is important to you, then make getting on the SXSW agenda important to you.
  2. Hang a banner somewhere: One of the best ways to reach the SouthBy audience is to keep your brand in front of them all the time. Banners in strategic locations can do amazing things. In 2014, this building’s wall was vacant for the entire conference! The marketer inside of me cried like the native american in the littering-commercial from the 70s. That corner could have looked like this. When you’re in Austin look for these opportunities. They are all around you.
  3. Rent an RV and put your brand on it. You don’t have to go nuts and create a parade float. Just get yourself an RV with some basic vinyl branding on the outside. Drive it around or find a good place to park it (make sure you have parking in advance). Give out t-shirts, stickers, (and maybe even beer). Keep your name in front of the crowd all conference long. People LOVE t-shirts, stickers, and beer (not necessarily in that order).
PRO HACK: If you decide that the vinyl-branded, swag-handing-out, SXSW bus is the right solution for you, then there's a surprise bonus to this strategy. You can drive it to Austin and also sleep in it. This drastically reduces your team's travel costs.

The most effective SXSW marketing tactic

The three marketing hacks above are great for teams that are just dipping their toes in the turbulent SXSW waters. But for teams that have a desire to amp up the volume, there’s one way that seems to be extremely effective at grabbing an audience and holding on to them for hours: the blogger lounge.

There’s one clear sign that a SXSW-engagement tactic is working. When you see a companies re-implementing the same idea bigger-and-better, year-after-year. That’s a clear sign they’ve struck gold. The blogger lounge is one of the best examples of this that you can find at SouthBy.

  1. Places to sit are surprisingly lacking at SXSW. Attendees will respond really well to soft chairs and comfy couches.
  2. Attendees will periodically need an escape from sitting in the folding chairs of cramped session after cramped session.
  3. By about 3pm people start running low on both power and caffeine. An attendee lounge gives people a plentiful oasis of free outlets and Pepsi.
  4. A lot of people come to SouthBy under the delusion that they can try to stay caught up on work while they’re here.
  5. Lounges require check in so you end up with the coveted ability to send attendees an email message later.

Samsung & Mashable are two of SXSW’s Blogger Lounge staples. Each year, both appear to be returning with a bigger and better lounge. Last year, Paypal grabbed Samsung’s cherished spot on the 4th floor of ACC after Samsung upgraded to a bigger and better one. This year Even McDonald’s is joining the party! If you’re looking for a way to invest in the SXSW audience. You can’t go wrong with an investment in comfy chairs and power outlets.

WE NEED YOUR HELP: Do you have more killer SXSW marketing tactics? We’d love to hear them. Let us know in the comments. Thanks!

The definitive guide planning next year’s SXSW

In order to do SXSW (pronounced ‘South by Southwest’) right, you’ve got to plan a little. So don’t wait until January. SXSW doesn’t actually start in March — it starts in June. If you don’t plan on trying to speak, then you can skip down to August. But don’t. Give it a shot. The world should hear your story too.

Apply to speak at SXSW

If you want to speak at next year’s SXSW, June is the first month that matters. Don’t let this catch you by surprise. Even though it’s still 9 months away, the SXSW call for speakers opens each June for the following year. Keep watching Sxsw.com for details. You’ll submit your speaking topic at PanelPicker. You’ll have about four weeks to create your proposal for submitting. Start watching trends and thinking of good ideas!

Submit your speaker application

In July, if you want to speak, your PanelPicker submission will be due (usually somewhere around July 20th). All you’ll need at this point is a speaker (that’s you), a paragraph explaining your topic, and a kickass title. If you can pull together a speaker montage video or a video of you doing a related talk (like this one that I made for my session), it will help a lot.

You’ll also need to get some votes for your session if you want to get picked. So start tweeting, get some votes, and cross your fingers!

PRO HACK: In the session schedule, your potential audience members will be looking at the list of sessions alphabetically. Extra points for the speaker who figures out how to create a SXSW session about Aardvarks!

Reserve a hotel — — this is really important!!! — -

Hotels for SouthBy dates can only be booked through the SXSW Housing office. In the morning on August 1st, SXSW hotels open for booking. If August 1st is a Fri, Sat, or Sun, they will most likely move booking-day to the following Monday to alleviate weekend launch-problems. You’ll need to purchase a ticket for SXSW (about $800), but you don’t have to pay for the hotel until March.

Hotels will go fast. Starting at 10am, every hour, you’ll lose about a 1/2 mile radius from ACC (that’s Austin Convention Center). By noon you’ll be looking at S.Congress hotels or up near UT. By day 2, if you’re lucky, you’ll be booking an airport-area hotel. I can’t stress the importance of this enough.

PRO HACK: Stop what you're doing right now and create a reminder on your calendar to check for SXSW hotel availability each morning from July 28th through Aug 3 at 9am CT. You won't be sorry. Having a nearby hotel will make your SXSW exponentially better.

No SXSW tasks

Chillax. September is the only month of the year that you don’t need to think about SXSW. If you can’t go a whole month — don’t worry. I feel your pain. Read this Wikipedia article. Somebody, sometime is going to say to you, “Why do they call it ‘South by Southwest’?” Now you’ll be able to answer.

SXSW featured sessions announced

In October, speakers start finding out if their session was chosen (typically around Oct 18th). This will also be the week that about 20 of the featured speakers are announced. Not you.. but high profile speakers like Al Gore or that kid who recites Herb Brooks’ speech from the movie Miracle.

If you submitted a session and don’t get the email, don’t fret. As speakers are confirmed… or actually, as they fail to confirm… alternate speakers will be notified. You could get an accepted-speaker email as late as sometime in the month of February.

PRO HACK: If you got picked, congrats! You are the proud winner of a free SXSW registration. If you heeded my advice back in August, then you already have a registration. Just ask them to upgrade your badge so you can go to Film & Music events too!

Be thankful because SXSW comes in 120 days

Happy Thanksgiving! The SXSW committee is working hard while all of us spend the back half of the month in a tryptophan-induced coma (it’s actually not the tryptophan — it’s the stuffing. Did you know that? Your whole life has been a lie.)

By November, there should be a good list of most of the keynotes and featured sessions. Start reviewing these high-profile sessions now and making a short list of the ones you want to make sure you don’t miss. It’ll be a lot easier to figure this out now before the other 1000 sessions get added to the schedule.The definitive guide to getting ready for SXSW

That’s all I’ve got. @Chuparkoff’s definitive SXSW guide. I hope you find it useful. If I’m overlooking anything at all, let me know in the comments or on Twitter. Good luck! Happy SXSWing!!!