Having passed on my slot to the folks at Dachis Group, I will not be speaking this year at SXSW (interactive) but I will be attending. It will be my second time, and I'm happy to share that there will indeed be a sequel to the sleeper hit event last year known as "Allhat". This year we are going with "Allhat II: Return of the Cattle", and it's sure to be even better complete with local live music thanks to the support from Edelman Digital. That said, there were several things I learned from surviving SXSW, and you might want to take some of them into consideration.
Go With The Flow
SXSW can be chaotic at times and with so much going on, you will be tempted to think you can schedule everything and cram it all in. You won't. There's simply too much going on so the best thing you can do is commit to a few "must attend" and be flexible for the rest. It's the serendipity of who you meet and how you spend your time that makes the event special. Also, scanning Twitter will tell you what's hot and what's not in real time.
Extend Your Battery Life
Last year the deluge of iPhone users nearly rendered the network unusable—still there is wifi and certain hours where you can get a strong signal, IF you have battery juice. If you have not invested in an extra battery or iPhone battery life extender, buy one before you go.
Drink Plenty of Water and Pack Some Tylenol
I shouldn't have to explain this one to you. If I do, then you're going to the wrong conference.
Don't Be "That Person"
There is serious internet star power of all levels at SXSW in addition to it presenting all kinds of networking opportunities. This can cause the temptation for people to exhibit what I call "wandering eye syndrome" where you are constantly scanning the crowds for better networking candidates than the one you may currently be engaged it. It's not easy to avoid the temptation to do this, but try to if you can.
Pack A First Aid Kit
This one's kind of random, but I fell into an unmarked hole in a sidewalk and it put a nice gash in my knee. I wish I had one. You can never be too prepared. :-)
Find Small Groups
Packs of people will often gather to get away from some of the crowds and larger gatherings. If you get invited to go along with a smaller group—go for it. Quality is always better than quantity and this applies to SXSW as well.
Mix It Up
SXSW is sort of like Highschool 2.0. People will flock to their own cliques, from the social media crew to the user experience crew, to developers, marketers etc. But they'll all be there. Try to mix it up a bit and spend some time with some folks outside of your immediate comfort zone. It's all about meeting new people and cross pollinating.
Stay Awake and Drink Coffee
Plan for several days and nights of activity with moderate to small amounts of sleep (you can catch up when you get home). It's the best way to make the most of your time and it's only once a year. Plus it's a great excuse to meet people for coffee in smaller settings.
These are a few informal tips—hope they help. See you at SXSW and don't forget to register for Allhat II.