This year marks PW’s first trip to SXSW, as Calvin Reid and Rachel Deahl and as many as 12,000 other tech and new media-minded attendees descend on the combined Interactive, Film and Music festivals in Austin. We’ll be attending the Interactive portion of the event, which runs from Friday through Tuesday. Being SXSW newbies, the trip prep has spurred a litany of questions. What do we cover? What do we wear? What indie bands should we know so we don’t embarrass ourselves making small talk? Should we really bring our bathing suits? (I mean Austin is warm right now, but not that warm, right?) Do we need to be on FourSquare? Or Loopt?

In between panels, parties and check-ins, there are keynotes to hear by the founder of location-based service SVNGR Seth Priebatsch and Christopher "Moot" Poole, founder of controversial visual message board 4Chan, as well as such speakers as Felicia Day, star, creator and writer of web series The Guild and digital magnate Barry Diller.

Before we leave for the Lone Star state, we’ve put together a rough schedule of events we’ll be checking out. We’ve also asked some SXSW vets—and consulted the blogs—for general tips on the best way to get the most out of the event.

There are too many panels!

The first thing we discovered about SXSW is that there are A LOT of panels. We mean A LOT. Not only that, but the titles of these panels aren’t always the most obvious. Initially we looked for panels with the word “publishing” in them, but that was a mistake—there aren’t too many, and, even the panels that are directly about publishing don’t seem to have that word in their titles. (For example, the Tuesday, March 15 panel featuring publishing vets Richard Nash, now of Cursor, and Kevin Smokler, of, is called: “Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted. Not!”) So we branched out. We’re interested in the book stuff—we’ll be attending and representing at PubCamp, which we’ll get to in a minute, and panels on contracts and self-publishing—but we’re also looking at innovations in education, gaming, and apps. With that said, here are a handful of panels we’ve picked out that intrigue us:

Marketing Budgets Have Gone Social – Is It Working? (Friday, 2 pm)

App, Shmapp, Tell Me What Works Across Platforms! (Friday, 3:30 PM)

The New Frontier of Social Gaming (a talk by Zynga chief game designer Brian Reynolds on Friday at 3:30 pm)

The Self-Publishing Novelist: Report from the Trenches (Saturday, 11 AM)

Tell & Sell Your Story (Saturday, 12:30 PM)

Care and Feeding of Blogs and Book Contracts (Satuday, 3:30 pm)

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better (a talk by Jane McGonigal on Saturday at 3:30 pm)

Measuring Social Media – Let’s Get Serious (Sunday, 9:30 AM)

Transmedia: Transmonetisation--Getting Rights and Making Money (Sunday, 3:30 pm)

Why New Authors Should Think Like Indie Bands (Sunday, 5:00 pm)

Social Media: Driving Brand Activation and Loyalty (Sunday, 5:30 PM)

Future of Mobile Gaming/Entertainment (a presentation by Peter Vesterbacka, founder Wreckamovie on Monday, 3:45 pm)

What is PubCamp?

PubCamp is a afternoon mini-conference organized by a group of long-time attendees to SXSWi; among them book blogger and new media consultant Kassia Krozser (Booksquare), who calls the event an “intersection between readers, writers, and technology.” Krozser said that “there is so much overlap between what is discussed in Austin and what is happening in the publishing industry at large.”

The event will feature Keynotes by the always lively book blogger Sarah Wendell of the Smart Bitches Trashy Books blog and Condé Nast executive director, editorial development Scott Dadich, developer of Wired magazine for iPad, as well as presentations by former Apple evangelist and author Guy Kawasaki (he's just published a new book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions) and others.

PubCamp offers two parts: an afternoon event focused on authors ("Texas is home to a huge communitiy of authors,” says Kroszer); while the evening session will emphasize technology and conversation. Originally planned as an "unconference," like BookCamp in New York, Kroszer said they instead “opted for more of a cocktail party.” Krozser says the main point is to "get people talking and to discover people who can help traditional publishers achieve their goals.” She says we can expect a lively crowd of “authors, typographers, cover designers, printers, technologists, retailers, literary agents, publishers, readers and geeks."

So look for us on Friday at the Café Medici in Austin, from 4-6 pm (with drinks/socializing going to about 8 pm). Representing Publishers Weekly, Calvin and Rachel—dubbed “publishing insiders” for this occasion—will offer their perspectives on the issues surrounding New York book publishing today. And, by the way, all the sessions will be streamed live. To learn more, you can go to the PubCamp website.

Miscellaneous cool and useful stuff

Overall, we’ve been told—and it’s clear from looking at the schedule—there’s way too much happening at SXSW to cover it all. You won’t even be able to crack the surface in a few days. You should try to chase interesting panels and events about tech topics that interest you. Decide what you really want to learn more about, and invest in those topics. If a panel you were looking forward to gets off to a bad start though, you should leave. The program is so packed, chances are you can wander into another panel that’s more interesting.

There's a constant series of signings and appearances at the SXBookstore--run in conjunction with Barnes & Noble--from Clay Shirky to Felicia Day to Jane McGonigal, and they seem to take place all day every day.

We read on the monkeeboyblog that friendliness matters. We New Yorkers forget that—it’s about keeping your head down and moving fast in NYC—but the word is that people at SXSW are friendly and want to talk. And, after all, half the point of going is to network so, ditch the NYC attitude and try to adopt some Southern hospitality.

Food at parties, supposedly, goes fast, so don’t count on ads for free munchies as your lunch or dinner.

Don’t leave Austin without having at least a little bbq. And, if you’re staying on in the city, there’s actually a wine country outside the city worth checking out.

Laptops are heavy, and you might be going straight from the day’s activities to parties, so think twice before you bring your laptop or ipad along for the day. You can take notes on your smart phone or, gulp, those pen and paper things we’ve heard about.

Bring your charger with you: there are places to juice up your devices all over the convention.

We were also told somewhere, by someone, to bring a bathing suit. This sounds too good to be true but, hey, a suit doesn’t take up too much room in the why not!