The annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festival is quickly approaching, and with it, many first-timers in the D.C. region are gearing up for an exciting week of networking and learning — but with so many programming options to pick from, how does anyone go about tackling the huge load SXSW offers?

To help answer that question, DC Inno reached out to a few entrepreneurs in the local innovation scene for tips and advice for the first time SXSW attendee. Here’s what they said:

Jack Bienko, Deputy Director of Entrepreneurship Education at the U.S. Small Business Administration

Jack Bienko has attended SXSW numerous times in the past decade and plans to attend this year’s conference.

Jack Bienko, U.S. Small Business Administration

“While I really enjoy the demos and activations, small group gatherings over coffee, drinks or tacos have been the most beneficial as they’ve allowed me to meet great people from across the globe and numerous industries.”

“I start planning (for next year’s conference) on the way out of the current year by asking if I accomplished what I wanted. I give it more thought in November during the holidays and considering what the New Year has in store.”

Monica Kang, Founder and CEO of Innovators Box

Monica Kang, founder of Innovators Box

Monica Kang attended her first SXSW last year.

“Utilize your existing network! Let others know you are going. I ended up reconnecting with so many old friends and befriending many new friends.”

“Be flexible and have fun. Don’t let FOMO get in the way of enjoying the present. SXSW is about people and the experience so focus getting to know each person you met and making the most out of each experience. You never know who you’ll meet and what event you’ll end up going to.”

Jade Floyd, VP of Communications at the Case Foundation 

Jade Floyd, Case Foundation

Jade Floyd attended last year’s SXSW.

Keep your heels and your expensive shoes at home. You’ll walk tens of thousands of steps at SXSW traversing between panels, events, parties and concerts. Wear the most comfortable shoes you possibly can and ones you won’t be disappointed may be ruined by the end of the week.”

“I continue to return to SXSW every year to immerse myself in topics both known and unknown, make connections and experience atmosphere that brings SX to life. My favorites places include the WeDC House, the Capitol Factory Lounge, Comcast Social Media Lounge, Fast Company Grill, Mashable House and I’m especially excited about the Hustle House. It focuses on inclusive entrepreneurs and uniting investors and entrepreneurs of color from across the globe.”