February 17, 2015

Top Tips for an Amazing 15NTC

With 15NTC just mere weeks away, there’s a lot of planning to do! With 100+ sessions to choose from, a packed social event calendar, and long attendee list, how do you make the most of your conference experience? Luckily, the NTEN Community is full of advice on places to go, things to do, dishes to eat, and how to navigate NTC like a pro.

10. Meet Up! NTC champs, Farra Trompeter and Chris Tuttle, suggest making a list of at least three new people to connect with before the conference. NTEN Education Director, Ash Shepherd recommends connecting with folks you may have heard of or interacted with online, but never met in person. Make a “must meet” list by searching the attendee list and making those coffee dates in advance because schedules fill up. You can follow the #15NTC hashtag to find folks who are already engaging online. Farra and Chris also advise using Twitter during the conference to tweet where you are for meals to find new people. And don’t miss the after parties!

9. Meat Up! Or go veg. If you’re willing to brave several hours of wait time, Franklin Barbecue is a tasty legend, and Russell Feldman is determined to make it this time! Or, you can take David Neff‘s local advice: skip the lines at Franklin’s and instead check out the amazing BBQ, bar, and history behind Freedman’s. Suzanne Ito, Katie Grills, and Shannon Eisentrager can vouch for the tastiness that is the Salt Lick, just a short drive away. But Austin has a lot to offer non-meat eaters too! Daniela Nunez offers several ideas and resources for delicious Austin vegan eats, as well as this comprehensive guide for vegans in Austin. You can connect with your fellow herbivores using the #15ntcveg hashtag, and by attending the #15NTCveg eat up.

8. Get cultured. Sarah Janczak suggests a visit to Landmarks’ public art series at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) – a current highlight is Skyspace from James Turrell. For a historic outing, Carolyn Appleton proposes a self-guided tour of the Texas State Capital. For a unique sight, view La Belle, a famous 17th century shipwreck, preserved and being restored in its entirety in situ at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Austin also has a terrific street art scene. Check out Austin’s Art in Public Places program or adventure to the many free murals around the city. For some of the city’s best street art, Sarah Janczak points west to Hope Outdoor Gallery at Castle Hill.

7. Support sustainable businesses. Vera Vinson, Rodney Gibbs, and Karly McIlwain from the 15NTC Sustainability Committee have loads of suggestions on bars and restaurants that have sustainability as a core value of their business. Try the 24 Diner, Swift’s Attic, Max’s Wine Dive, or Eastside Showroom, all of which use locally sourced ingredients.

6. Catch up over coffee. Connect with old friends or new 15NTC acquaintences and venture out to a local coffee house. Rodney Gibbs likes Royal Blue or Dolce Vita, which are both near the convention center. Head to Seventh Flag Coffee Cenote for coffee and snacks made from locally-sourced ingredients. Or, if you can venture farther and head to Vera Vinson‘s favorite: Radio Coffee.

5. Experience uniquely Austin sights. Alamo Drafthouse is hailed a must by many community members. Rick Morgan shares places that are the real deal (or at least used to be) from his experience as a former Austinite, including the greatest omelette ever: Popeye’s Favorite from The Omelettry. Take the advice of Marianne Billotti and cross into East Austin on 6th for a number of delicious food truck options.  Ehren Foss points to the Ransom Center at UT, as their author archives and other exhibits are just the thing for biblioheads. “Be sure to enjoy Lucy in Disguise Costume Shop and Uncommon Objects antique store on South Congress to understand why we ‘Keep it Weird’ here in Austin,”recommends David Neff.

4. Consult a guide. Rodney Gibbs points to Eater Austin as a terrific resource for good eats, including 25 Iconic Dishes that Define Austin. Austin Monthly did a recent Best of the City 2014 Guide, and for more ideas, Carolyn Appleton suggests The Austin Chronicle’s free app – Things To Do in Austin – Best Events & Deals and 10 Best Museums and Galleries in Austin from The Guardian.

3. Take home a unique souvenir. Pick up some folk art or books from Yard Dog on South Congress or a Daniel Johnston t-shirt from Waterloo Records. Or, as Rodney Gibbs points out, find toys and books from Whole Earth Provisions Company and handmade wooden toys from Rootin’ Ridge. Karly advocates for Allen’s boots or the University book store for UT Austin gear, and recommends the South Congress district for stores with a particular Austin focus. Vera Vinson concurs, “South Congress is a terrific place to find souvenirs, as it is full of cute vintage stores and art galleries, including Tesoros Trading Company (Fair Trade goods), and is generally a great place to look for souvenirs,” says Vera Vinson.

2. Get outside. If you’re in town for a few extra days, Karly recommends heading over to Zilker Park, a great green space for pick-up sport games. As Sarah Janczak shares, the Kite Festival, Austin’s favorite local festival takes over Zilker Park on the first Saturday of March every year. Music, food carts, and thousands of kites descend on the green lawn overlooking the Austin skyline. March is also the offical beginning of the swim season, so the brave adventurers can take a dip in Barton Springs. If that’s a bit cold, try kayaking or head to the Barton Creek Greenbelt, offering 7.25 miles of hiking and biking trails in the middle of town. Or get out of the city completely, and head to Fredericksburg, Boerne, Blanco, or one of the many other small towns around Austin for live music, gorgeous scenery, and Texas wineries. Also, don’t forget to take advantage of the special discounted Austin B-Cycle 7-day pass, where you get unlimited bike rides for just $15. Check out the NTC Travel page for more information.

1. Find your flock! NTC is designed to offer you an incredible array of opportunites for networking. One of the most popular, the Birds of a Feather lunch sessions on Day 1 & 2. Join in one of the informal Birds of a Feather lunch tables to connect with fellow attendees with similar backgrounds or interests. Also, don’t forget to visit the NTENner Center in the Science Fair to pick up some swag and meet NTEN staff and Members. Plus, be sure to check out the latest conference buzz in the community discussions and attend community-organized social events, from the #15NTCFunRun to the People of Color meetup to #ntcbeer!

We can’t wait to welcome you in Austin!

Tips to add? Add them in the comments or in the conference discussions.

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Megan Keane
Megan is a long-time San Francisco bay area resident with an extensive nonprofit background in community management, social media, and volunteer management. She's a problem solver and network builder passionate about connecting with people both on and offline. As NTEN's Membership Director, Megan supports the NTEN community, helping others connect, learn, and make the most of technology, and has spoken internationally on nonprofit technology. While she's not online, Megan can be found teaching or practicing yoga, hiking, or curling up with a good book. She's also a self-professed penguin nutcase, er, enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter: @penguinasana
Tags: 15NTC, Community, NTC, tips