I'm here at SxSW, a bit early by all accounts. The vast throngs are apparently still deboarding at the airport or trying to figure out why Austin streets are almost exactly like parking lots. The good news? I've already learned a ton about how to make this all work. Here are my best tips to get you started when you arrive (or even if you are already here).
1. Get a bike
No, seriously. You will need one if you want to have any remote chance of getting anywhere in town without spending most of your trip here staring at the bumper of another car. Walking is an option, but it's not really fast enough if you want to hit a startup even on Sixth Street and then somehow make it over to East Chavez in time for the free lattes. Cannondale was kind enough to borrow a Quick, which is a nicely balanced urban bike. You can rent your own at Austin Tri-Cyclist at 923 Barton Springs Road just a few blocks from the convention.
2. Use the SxSW app
I usually don't use the CES app too much when I go to that Las Vegas show. SxSW is a different beast. There are too many panels and events to keep track of or even pick ahead of time, so the app is a godsend. Just now, I used one to find a panel with Al Gore (I got there a bit late) and now plan to attend another one with Daniel Pink, one of my favorite authors. You can see a quick schedule of upcoming events, view speaker profiles, get an overview, and (most importantly) see a nice render of the building location. The app has a nice discovery engine where you can flick through photos of upcoming events.
3. Find a second back-up battery
The sun it out, it's hot, and you need to run data on your phone constantly (and whatever other signals you are into). I used it just recently at the PayPal lounge where they are "selling" free coffee using the PayPal app. (Bonus tip: If you go, they actually give you a code for $1.) This convention is particularly hard on phone batteries. I've already burned through my iPhone 6 battery and half of the new Mophie 6 case that recharges one more time. Grab one extra battery charger or a case that charges your phone.
4. Plan your escape route
Did I mention my biggest finding so far is that the streets are lined with wall-to-wall traffic? It's a small town that became a big city and then birthed a trade show. It's nuts. You have to plan your route out of town. I recommend parking near the Palmer Events Center. You can pick up your badge there. When I did, there was no line. There's even a few exhibits and it's less than a mile from the convention center. Oh, and it is across the street from the bike shop.