SXSWi Survival Guide from a Local
Having attended SXSW for the past five years in many different capacities, I am now un-officially claiming authority for how to survive the mayhem that is the conference unlike any conference you’ve ever attended.
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t always known how to best maneuver around the noise and avoid the traps of networking, but I have since survived and thrived during the festival conference and hope that a few words of advice from an experienced SXSWer will save you lots of time and headache.
Commit or Risk Missing It All. First you must accept that you will not be able to attend everything – panels included.
This year alone there are at least five panels on Sunday that I want to see that are all happening at the same time. The best thing I’ve learned is to commit to one and accept your fate. If you look closely enough, many of the panel discussions are on very similar topics, so first pick the topic. Then scan for the most interesting speaker on that topic and you can check that area of focus off your list to better enjoy one of the most unique aspects of the conference – networking events.
Keynotes and Panels are Okay, but Networking is Better. Remember when it was cool to show up to the party late? That rule is so 1997. Get to the parties early. I repeat, EARLY…not on time.
If you're on time (let’s say it together!), you’re LATE. And on top of that, you’re probably not going to get in because the line will wrap around the side of that building. Trust me. When that happens, you have a couple of options – (1) keep scrambling to another handful of parties hoping your badge and lots of pleading will get you in ("but I know Pete Cashmore!?") OR (2) create your own networking event with the folks in line and suggest a place off the beaten path.
Coming from an Austinite, the local sources to check out are - Austinist, Republic of Austin, Tasty Touring and Austin Eavesdropper. Not only will you get to network, but you’ll also get to experience a little bit of what makes Austin so great!
Being Self-Aware will get you FAR. It is important to remember there is a world outside of the 72 hours you spend at SXSW and more importantly the seven block radius of downtown Austin. Peter Shankman outlined it pretty well in his latest post on how to keep your reputation intact and still survive SXSW.
Don’t be that person…you know, THAT person. If it is your first SXSW experience, it can feel a little bit like your first Vegas trip. Lots of flashy lights, thousands of people, unlimited drinks…you get the picture.
Hear my warning, don’t let it suck you in. Enjoy everything that SXSW has to offer, be spontaneous and meet-up with a new crowd or that person you’ve admired on Twitter, but keep in mind that during the conference the days are long and the nights even longer - that paired with early mornings. The rule of thumb I use when trying to keep up with the intense schedule is for every cocktail make your next drink a glass of water. Don’t get burned out on the first few days, just to hop on your flight back home wondering what third dimension of the techworld you were in. The most successful networking comes in the post-conference follow-up, and you don’t want to have to be wondering exactly what you talked about and what you did or didn’t overshare.
Trust me, I’ve done all the rookie mistakes and have learned the hard way. And for those of us who live in Austin, let’s help everyone out and lead by example! To help kick things off, below is a video of some local friends talking more about the hidden SXSW gems of Austin.
Are there any other pieces of advice for SXSW that have helped you? I’d love to hear them and meet-up in person with my colleague, Ted Weismann (@TedWeismann) as we attend and cover this year's SXSWi Conference!