First Timer's Guide

SXSW can be overwhelming to first-timers. We've created this guide to help you prepare for the adventure ahead. By now you should be registered and have your housing arrangements sorted.

Below we’ll cover some items to get ready for SXSW and a few tips on how to do SXSW. The SXSW Registrar has emailed registrants a “Before You Leave Home” email that contains a Registration QuickCode. The Registration QuickCode helps get you in and out of the registration hall so you can start doing South By.

Stay tuned for the SXSW 2016 Insider's Guide - full of tips, information and Conference overviews (view 2015 guide here). Check back as this page is updated throughout the 2016 season.

Pack for Every Occasion

SXSW is more than just a conference. You'll be attending sessions, meeting potential clients, attending screenings, networking at clubs, and hopping from one showcase to the next. And if you've ever been to Austin, you know that the weather can be unpredictable so be sure and check weather listings before you leave. That being said, Austin is a really casual city. If you want to attend panels in your pajamas, we won't judge. It's all about the shoes. You're going to be doing a lot walking. If you can manage it, you may want to have a change of shoes available. Your feet will thank you.

You should also pack a reusable water bottle. The air in the convention center can be quite dry, but you'll find water stations throughout the building to keep you hydrated.

Check Your Flight

The skies over Austin get very full during SXSW. Delays happen.

Know Your Hotel

Be sure you know the complete name of your hotel. We have a lot of hotels, some with very similar names.


If you were planning to drive in the Austin area during SXSW, you should consider alternative forms of transportation. Parking downtown will be limited, and street closures may make it difficult to get around. If you will be driving an automobile and plan on parking near the Austin Convention Center or anywhere downtown, here is a parking availability tool.

Transportation Options

  • Consider the MetroAirport bus service for transportation from and to the airport.
  • SXSW Festival Shuttles are provided as a service to registrants.
  • Austin B-Cycle is the pay-as-you-go bicycle commitment.
  • Pedicabs operate downtown for a pre-negotiated tip.
  • Bus and Rail public Transportation is provided by Capital Metro.
  • Taxi and many other services are covered here.

One Tool Does It All - Get the SXSW GO app

We cannot emphasize enough the importance of downloading and using the SXSW GO app. You can browse the all of the events and speakers and create your personal schedule, then login to sync it with your other devices. Find your friends and connections and see what they are up to, and network with thousands of other attendees. You can also find your way around Austin, navigate the trade show, stay connected to the social world and more!

Make a Schedule

You don't have to stick with it, but having some place to start will make all the difference. Plus, in the process of making your schedule, you may discover things you would not have come across otherwise.

Find a SXSW Friend

See if you know anyone attending in SXsocial. Seek out fellow attendees/speakers who have some experience with the event to give you advice, guide you, and even show you around.

Pace Yourself

You will have the urge to hit the ground running and try to cram as much into your first day as possible. Resist it! You will only be overwhelmed and disappointed with yourself that you don't have the energy to go to that great evening event you had your heart set on. As they say, SXSW is a marathon not a sprint.

Lost & Found

Lost and Found is now located in the Registration Hall (Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 5). You can drop off found items at the Registration Help Desks. A description of an item and the location it was lost/found in can be emailed to

Connection Centers

While inside the Convention Center, if you do happen to get lost, need access to a computer with internet connectivity and headphones, want to preview a film trailer or brush up on a buzz band or have a question to ask, then stop by one of the four volunteer staffed Connection Centers. Connection Center locations are identified on the maps found in the Program Guides and Pocket and are identified by a “?” in a circle on the Convention Center maps found in the “Locations” tab of SXSW GO app.

Read the Printed Materials

When you pick up your materials in the registration hall take a moment to look through them. Pay particular attention to the Pocket Guide. It will have a list of all the programming times and locations along with a detailed map of the Austin Convention Center.

We hope you've found this page helpful. We'll keep adding to this list as we get closer to the event. Think we're missing something? Email us.