It’s that time of year – when tech people make their pilgrimage to the self-proclaimed weirdest city in America – Austin, Tx.

For all the first time South by Southwest attendees, Tighe, our blog editor, asked me to share some tips.

I was torn on the advice to give – I could easily take this in two separate directions. I could tell you the best tips for optimizing your time at the conference so that you grow as a professional, or I could talk about the notorious parties, concerts, and open bars.

At SXSW, you can have your cake and eat it too by learning a lot while having the time of your life. Today, I’ll give some simple advice on the getting the most out of the conference and tomorrow I’ll share some tips to make sure you never pay for a drink.

Prepare your schedule. SXSW is chaos. Take some time to figure out where you want to go and what you want to see. If you don’t have an agenda, you’re likely to end the experience feel as though you missed out on some of the big stuff.

Bonus Tip: Remember to sync your schedule with Eventbrite’s integration with! A few people are already talking about how helpful it is for planning their days.

Bring your chargers everywhere you go. Phone, iPad, laptop, and anything else that your rely on – you never know when you’ll want to change your plans last minute, and a dead device could be a day-ender.

Bonus Tip: SXSW usually has charging stations where you can easily plug in your computer or cell.

Start conversations with strangers, You’re going to be in the middle of the highest density of other tech folks, (besides the Creamery in SF, of course), so get out there! Give away business cards. Share your contact info. Connect on Twitter. (Follow @Colleran and @BriteSXSW, for example.) These connections will only enrich the experience and help you to keep the conversation going throughout the conference!

Find your quiet place. Going back to my original point, SXSW is chaos. (Plus, we lose an hour of sleep because of the time change on Sunday!) Make sure that you find a place – whether a café, hotel lobby, or friend’s place – to take an hour to decompress, go through your emails, and gear up for the next event.

Bonus Tip: Wear your walking shoes. You’ll be taking the heel-and-toe express everywhere throughout Austin, and you want to make sure you’re comfortable.

Enjoy the food! There’s so many places where people are giving out free food and drinks. Take in the local culinary experience and see all that Austin has to offer. If you’re good about it, you could get through an entire day without spending a dime on great grub.

Those are my tips for now. Check back tomorrow when we chat about the party scene. See you in Austin!

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