I won’t be in Austin this year. I’ve decided, along with the rest of the Airbag crew, to take the year off from the growing insanity of ever increasing event population and infiltration of corporate-culture. But don’t let that stop you from going, I know all of you’re all going to have a blast.

As a member of this years advisory board I was asked to provide some advice for new attendees (the information gathered will be published in this years event guide) on how to make the most of SXSW. Unfortunately I didn’t make the deadline but I want to help so I’ll share that wisdom here.

  • Get the badge but leave the book bag behind, it’s full of crap you’re not going to want to take home anyway. And it’s likely that you are already carrying a bag on your person.
  • Don’t spend all day sitting in panels.
  • Don’t launch anything on the web from now till April. Everybody and their third cousin posts a redesign, new application, etc. right before Austin and it all gets lost in the mix. Hold your water and wait a few weeks when all the hype, launches, and announcements have died down and people are looking for something new to talk about.
  • Use your laptop sparingly. You’d be amazed at how much better your experience will be if you’re eyes aren’t glued to a screen. I’m not saying you shouldn’t bring technology with you, just keep it in the bag more often than not.
  • Be polite. No, you’re no more cool than the other dork standing next to you. They may call it an “Interactive” conference but really it’s a large gathering of computer nerds.
  • Learn to say hello. You’re going to be around people who share similar interest. Rather than send an instant message or email someone you already know, turn to the person at your side and great them.
  • Want to meet that OMG OMG OMG blog A-lister?! Fine, just go do it. Nobody, and I mean nobody in this industry is so huge that they can’t be bothered to say hello and shake your hand. And that’s it, done. Note: If more conversation takes place great, but don’t consider that an opportunity to give your life’s story—save that for church.
  • Go to all the parties. And go early because SXSW is getting more and more crowded and lines will form. More importantly the parties are a great place to network. That said: Not all parties work out so be prepared to bail and hit the next location, even if it means showing up a tad early.
  • Don’t be a Scoble. Absolutely, positively (with an up-AND-down no vote) do not bring your computer to evening activities. You’re not going to need it.
  • Texas law prohibits bringing your own wine to restaurants—they’re savage like that. Flemings Steak House, right across from the convention center, has a pleasant grape-based inventory and their filet mignon is excellent.
  • If you hit Jason Santa Maria over the head with the branch of a mesquite tree he turns into a smoked BBQ meal for forty people. Take aim and fire.

Lastly, have fun.