South by Southwest returns to Austin March 9-18, and it’s bound to be as surprising as ever. Secret John Legend concerts? A pop-up “Mr. Robot” carnival—Ferris wheel and all? A panel featuring both Michelle Obama and Missy Elliott? Who can keep track? The festival has seemingly seen it all in its 31-year history, but every year it returns with bigger and better surprises. Here are some tips on how to take it all in.
Rely on the App
You can bet on one thing when it comes to SXSW: Even after the official schedule is released, something is going to change. Stay up-to-date by downloading the smartphone app and signing up for notifications about events you’re interested in—then bring a portable phone charger so you’re always in-the-know and don’t have to fight over the few available outlets in the convention center.
Dress the Part
You don’t have to dress fashionably (unless you plan on attending South By Style events, in which case, being dressed fashionably is the only important factor). However, it should go without saying that dressing practically is the only way to reasonably make it through a 10-day festival. Pack a backpack with an extra pair of shoes and a water bottle (skip the snacks—sponsored swag abounds), and wear layers that will seamlessly take you from a screening at the over-air-conditioned Paramount Theater to a rainy outdoor concert at the Mohawk.
Repondez s’il vous plait
The wonderful thing about a festival of this size is that for every badge-only event, there are 10 more free events happening at the same time. So for the badgeless, RSVP to these with abandon. These are non-binding, non-legal documents, so it’s better to be on the list than not.