2016SXSW PROMOThe South by Southwest Festival and Conference, SXSW, or “southby” as event veterans call it, remains three of the most influential events spanning technology (the interactive track), music and film. While I’ll focus on the interactive, the edu and newer conferences are getting attention for the same reason: They bring existing leaders and emerging leaders together to build and grow business today and guide the planning for tomorrow – and the next seven years or so.

Simply put, there are 40,000+ creative technologists that range from startups to CxOs – and everyone in between. Be inquisitive and be ready to jot down passing thoughts. Over the years, I’ve gone from note taking apps to mind mapping apps to keep ideas fluid and at the ready for years to come.

Six years ago we were talking about social media’s role in customer communications and what it means for everyone to have an audience – and where location intelligence and big data come into play. Over the las20140310_SXSW_Mon_1688t few years, we were talking about 3D printing, wearables, social media blending into new technologies such as AR, or augmented reality that uses a visual layer of content over real-life vision, VR or Virtual Reality, a more immersive experience that will change the way we interact, learn and do business. AI, or artificial intelligence will be in its third year of widespread discussion with big data. As always,  the implications on business, is key. Specifically, how this will change the world commerce and what do we have to do to prepare for the changes ahead.

Surviving and thriving SXSW are two different things altogether. There are over 1,200 sessions occurring over the five-day event, and seemingly countless unofficial events. Here’s how to win at SXSW:

  1. Know what you want to take away. This sounds obvious, but if you keep focused on what you need to do, the better you can make changes in your sessions, meetings and evening events. While you’re at it, taking one night very early will help you a lot.
  2. No, meals aren’t included. It’s expensive, but there are a lot of events with food. Stay hydrated: Refill the bottle of water you start with – and start with one.
  3. Eventbrite is your friend – especially the mobile app. Search on SXSW  or just click here for a list of events, and check back often. If you add it as an RSS feed, you can see 20140309_SXSW_SUN9_1612which events you have already seen. (Recently, the Unofficial SXSW Facebook page has also had some good leads on after hour events).
  4. Contact your top vendors / client companies. If they are there, this is an outstanding place to meet. I can generally meet senior members of these companies and SXSW and build a great working relationship as well as some good friendships.If you are considering additional vendors, the same is true.
  5. If you’re not living La Vida Mobile, you will disadvantaged – or just lost. A lot happens in real-time. Connecting on Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp or WeChat is important, but searching on Twitter #SXSW hashtag (or the hashtag of your session) adds a lot of value to what the cool kids are doing. Also check Swarm / FourSquare – people are still checking in on those.
  6. Download the SXSW App. The official app is a must have to plan your SXSW experience. There are numerous venues and sessions. Spend a few hours selecting your sessions. Make note, you may also find unofficial events on Eventbrite that may be as good as the official events. And some not,
  7. Pick ONE MUST SEE session each day and get there early. 1-2 hours. Check with the volunteers at the door to wait and get in line. Leave ample time for the shuttles, as they often run crowded and late. There are a number of venues, and not all are in walking distance. The app can help you 20150316SXSW15_112plan.
  8. Arrive Thursday. Even though beacons have helped the check in process, nothing is better than not spending two hours or more waiting for your badge. And yes, you need that stinkin’ badge.
  9. Empower yourself and others. Literally. By 2PM, phones are running dry on battery power and people are hugging the wall to get to the outlets. Carry a 3-6 prong extension cord with USB jacks. You can also be self sufficient and carry a portable battery charger. My favorite is the Anker products, especially with over 16,000 mAh- these afford multiple charges per day. [Amazon Link]. (Disclaimer: I have no connection to the company, financial or otherwise).
  10. Create Content. Don’t be shy, create content! When you’re at SXSW, it’s what we do. It also makes for a killer trip report when you return to work. Also yes, cameras are everywhere. Phones are streaming live on Periscope and Meerkat – and even Facebook.
  11. Meet People. What makes SXSW better than any other conference I attend is the people. This is where the idea makers, movers and shakers are. Talk. Ask. Learn. Share. Have conversations everywhere: when waiting for a session, in one of the many lounges, on the escalators (be careful here).
  12. Experience Helps. Try and connect with someone who has been to SXSW before.
  13. SHOES. It’s all about comfortable shoes.
  14. Have something? Add it in comments please!There are only two types of people at SXSW: Those influencers who make things happen and those who will be influencers who will make things happen. Enjoy!

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@GuyKawasaki and Google's Vic Gundotra at SXSW 2012 (Wayne Kurtzman photo)

All photos Wayne Kurtzman photo; CC w/attrib


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