Matt Bonin Chief Production Officer, Ogilvy & Mather NY

SXSW Interactive Guide is a series of industry interviews designed to help you navigate the crowds, restaurants, bars, and sessions at the event.

What’s your favorite place to breakaway from the SXSW madness and grab some good food and a drink?

If you can make a road trip while in Austin, head 30 mins away to Saltlick BBQ. A lot of folks will argue that Black’s BBQ or Kruez BBQ in Lockhart is the best, but I just love the atmosphere, friendliness and food at Saltlick.

Mexican food is my favorite and if you’re looking for something closer in Austin, I’m a fan of Chuy’s just south of the river. Also Z Tejas on 6th street. Cheesy name but good margaritas.

What is the one thing you shouldn’t miss out on when coming to SXSW?

Attend a session way outside of your comfort zone. Go listen to the passion of someone speaking about responsive design, even if you have no idea what that is. Stretch your mind.

What’s your secret strategy for hitting as many of the most valuable sessions as possible?

Planning, planning, planning. Use the SXSW attendee app to organize yourself. Don’t wait to start thinking about what to go see until you get to Austin. Start now. There are 2,000 panels. Generally speaking the bigger the ballroom, the better the speaker. But that isn’t always true, and you risk missing out on hidden gems. Spend time combing the schedule.

What is the most innovative or inspiring thing that you’ve seen or learned at SXSW?

I still consider the opportunity to get together in a great city like Austin and spend 4-5 days focused specifically on digital thinking – in all its meanings – to be the most inspiring thing. The fact that I can concentrate on just that aspect for so many days is fantastic.

What person is your reliable go-to guide for all the great things at SXSW?

I have a few people that are go-tos because they bring a different viewpoint. I’ve got digital producer go-tos, technologist go-tos, and this year a music go-to. Their lists are all completely different about what to see and do.

What is the biggest waste of time at the festival?

Any session that turns into a pitch presentation for a firm’s capabilities. You can sense it in the first 10 mins. If you smell that, find a new session ASAP.