After a full day of listening to inspiring speakers atSXSW, I started walking back home. With every step I took, the strap of my bag cut deeper into my shoulder.
It was painful. But it was a good pain, because it reminded me that I left SXSW with more than I came in with.
Like a greedy squirrel preparing for a long and arduous hibernation, I readily accepted anything handed my way wandering around SXSW. A poncho for the rain. Sunblock for the sun. Numerous t-shirts, none of them my size. A scarf, even though I live in Austin (a city known for its numerous 100 plus degree days).
Now you may ask, how did I get so much swag? Here’s a guide so that you can efficiently gather the most swag in the least amount of time possible.
Know what you’re looking for.
Givers-of-swag come in two forms: good-looking people, and costumed character mascots. If that very attractive person is giving you a smile, odds are they’re not looking for a romantic evening at Uchi…they’re looking to give you something, and it’s swag. On the flip side, if you have a fear of mascots, learn to overcome it. Take a picture with them. Offer them a drink of water. There’s a human underneath that soft and cuddly exterior. You’ll be walking away with pallets of swag in no time.
Be in peak physical condition.
Yes, that’s what all those months in the gym are for. When a man dressed as an owl is tossing scarves off the top of a moving bus, and you have to out-jump a mom with a stroller for a scarf, you’ll find out what you’re made of. (in my defense, she already had a scarf). I highly recommend box jumps and light cardio. You’ll also want to do some deadlifts, so that you’ll have the strength to carry your prizes home. Always think positive.
Bring an iPhone with plenty of space.
I learned this the hard way. There’s a price on free swag, and these companies aren’t content with just simple flattery. You’ll have to be willing to tweet, check-in, or download their newest and greatest app. Learn from my mistakes; I brought a Blackberry Bold with limited space. I would literally get laughed at by the givers-of-swag as they waited for my prehistoric phone to download their software. At times, a few of them would even feel sorry for me and just hand me the swag so that I’d go away. Minutes later with swag in hand, I would delete their app, clearing room for more apps. Next year, it’s all iPhone for me.
Look to get the free stuff later in the week.
The final days of SXSW? That’s when the givers-of-swag are looking to get rid of their stuff. They don’t want to ship back multiple boxes of swag on their company’s dime. The 500 scarves they’ve been squirreling away for important clients? At the end of day 5, those scarves are yours, because today’s baggage fees are absolutely ridiculous.
Follow these key points and you should walk away with enough to furnish a small studio apartment. Good luck out there!