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Prepping for SXSW: A CakeMail Guide

We’ve got four members of the CakeMail team headed to Austin and not a single one of us has been there before. The one thing you hear from SXSW veterans is that the event is fantastic and also borderline chaos, which doesn’t seem surprising with a five day Interactive conference, hundreds of speakers and an overwhelming numbers of panels, meetups, exhibiting companies, parties and unofficial events – not to mention the bands, the films and everything else (like this Rodeo that conveniently starts this same weekend). Where do you even start?

Since it’s our first time attending, we really have no idea what we’re in for – but we know we’re not the only ones. We’ve been avidly reading a ton of ‘SXSW newbie guides’, and thought we’d share a few of the things we’ve been doing to prepare for the next seven days:

  1. It’s -20 out in Montréal and there’s at least a foot of snow on the ground. Counteract the chill-factor by daydreaming about Austin’s + 20-degree days (yes, that is in Celsius). Contemplate trading your parka for tshirts, dust off those cowboy boots, and begin unearthing your non-thermal clothes from their winter hiding places.
  2. Check out the schedule. Get completely overwhelmed by it. Try again the next day with more success. Eventually build a schedule that requires you to be in three places at once and pick your favourites as a first stop.
  3. Look at a map of Austin at least once. Pretend you won’t get lost trying to find Ballroom G in Venue X located at the corner of … where was that supposed to be? Then look at the map again. And while you’re at it, take a look at the Austin Convention Center, too. Upgrade your iPhone’s data plan to be U.S. roaming-friendly so you can check the map in real time (when you are actually lost) without having your post-conference phone bill reduce you to tears.
  4. The Directory is powerful. So is your network. Find out who of your friends, your network, or companies you want to talk to will be there. Plan meetings by introducing yourself in advance, or if you really want to get a head start, see who’s on your flight to the conference with tools like Planely.
  5. Make lists! You’ve got to eat (food carts are a good start, and so is #SXSWFood). You’ve got to get around. And you’ve got to escape the conference hub-bub and stretch your legs – so check out some of the sights and non-conference happenings, too.
  6. Buy a moleskin for your inevitable sketchnotes in that oh-so-fantastic session.
  7. And of course, we can’t forget to fill our iPads with books for the plane, sync up the scheduling app with our iPhones, and download other SXSW-useful apps, like Holler Gram.

With only one day to go before the conference, we can only hope we’re ready.

Follow our SxSW-ing team (Francois, Steve, Isabel and Robyn), tweet at us, or if you run into us, say hi! We’re armed with CakeMail stickers and beanies, and we’re more than happy to share!

PS: we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Annual Cupcake Social that’s happening this weekend in Austin. We were too late for tickets, but we’re already plotting a tour of Austin’s cupcake shops to make up for it. : )

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