The South by Southwest (or SXSW) Festival and Conference is still unlike any event you’ve attended. There are three tracks: film, music and interactive. While over 100,000 people will head to Austin for the music, the conference for all three is made up of artists, technical creatives and business movers and shakers. There are takeaways for now, and you get a good sense of the roadmap for the future. Not just a Gartner Hype Cycle future, but the detailed feature and why things are happening and you get a very good sense of what you can do to help your company and yourself win.
But first you have to survive SXSW. This is my 7th, so simply preparation is everything. Here is my list of how to prepare:
1. Have goals. Why are you going and what learnings do you need to come back with. This will help you plan your time and have a much better time.
2. No FOMO Allowed. In the interactive track alone, there are over 1,500 sessions and events. You can’t be everywhere at once, so don’t try to do it: Put the Fear of Missing Out on the shelf. Pick 2 (yes, two) sessions per day that you absolutely can’t miss. Sessions cannot be back to back. The venues are spread out and the shuttles may run late. Plan to get there an hour early, just in case your session is really popular. Two hours if the speaker is REALLY well known. Now fill in the day with other sessions nearby. Use SXSW app to help plan.
3. Lounge Around. Include a stop per day at one of the lounges. The real value of SXSW is not the sessions: It’s the amazing people. It’s the most densely intelligent conference that I have attended. (Okay, I haven’t been to Davos yet).
4. Eat and Drink. Food is not included, so what you can’t get at a party, you need to find elsewhere. Austin has some amazing food trucks and restaurants. Eat when you can; carry a water bottle and stay hydrated.
5. Use Your Powers. In other words, bring a power strip to share and you become quite popular. I’ve made some great friends over the years this way. Also make sure you charge your electronics, even when they don’t need it.
6. Use Eventbrite to search and sign up for after hour events. Even if you don’t go, you’ll have a ticket.
7. Make one night an early night. I’ve seen the tweets when some people stay out late every night. Your boss won’t believe it, but yes, you’ll likely be talking new ideas, emerging trends and business until 3 AM.
8. It’s all about the shoes. Lots of walking. Enough said.
9. Check out other resources. There are some good ones including:
Have fun and let me know what I forgot! -Wayne