I've never gone to a PAX event before (or any gaming-related event, for that matter). It's pretty nice to see something this large happen in my city. What's the best thing you'd suggest for a first timer? I have a press / media pass and am planning on going Saturday and possibly Sunday.
Get there early and know which queue you want to line up for. I put up a blog post to help with that: Morning Queues.
Get use to lines, bring a game to play and/or share with others and make some new friends.
5-2-1 Rule: Each day at PAX get, at a minimum, 5 hours of sleep, 2 meals (protein bars don't count), and 1 shower.
On the PAX subreddit some good advice for media pass got posted.
I don't typically cover gaming, so I currently don't have a schedule, nor do I know what I want to cover. I usually look at consumer electronics, but even when I went to CES, I didn't have a schedule locked in (except for large press events, which it looks like PAX doesn't have). Surely it's possible to wing it?
Possible, but not efficient. PAX South is significantly smaller than CES, but at the same time where any booth at CES fit your coverage you'll need to look for that at PAX.
The schedule deals with panels and events, so you can skip that if you'll mostly be in the Expo Hall. I would suggest going through the Expo Hall listings, either through the PAX South app or my Enhanced Exhibitors List, so you can work out who want to visit for coverage. There are lines throughout the Expo Hall as well and exhibitors will be worn down by Sunday, so get the ones you really want for coverage on Saturday.
Since you're into consumer electronics check out my organized list and focus on the Hardware and VR sections.
Good thing my S7 has a removable battery. Oh, wait...
Event-wise though, if you're a journalist, give yourself time to walk the floor, with breaks.
Bring a USB power bank. Realize there is more to do at PAX than you can accomplish in one weekend, so pick the highlights you wanna hit, and go with the flow on the rest. Talk to people in lines.
This is my first South, but my 17th PAX. I've always brought Clif bars as a back up plan if get stuck in the building for a while.
They absolutely will. Backpacks may or may not be briefly searched, but they are only looking for dangerous stuff. I never attend without at least some good granola bars and a water bottle in my pack.