After attending the Interactive portion of SXSW in Austin for many years, I’ve developed a bit of a strategy for navigating through the chaos. Some of you may have followed the event virtually, experienced FOMO and plan to go next year and some of you might be exhausted from the past week. Here are a few things that I wish I knew then that I know now:
- Hold memorable meetings – Reminder, there are hundreds of thousands of people in a small place at one time. Lots of opportunities to meet up with people. In previous years I found myself going from a breakfast meeting to a coffee meeting, lunch meeting, etc. Now I’ve found a secret place to have meetings. There are hammocks, trees for shade, grassy knolls and it overlooks the Colorado River. You can make this your office for an afternoon, bring a blanket, snacks and rotate (schedule) people to meet you there. Works like a charm. I met someone for the first time and we had our meeting sitting on a hammock. Quick way to know if you have a business bond. (Or not.)
- Running/Walking meetings – This year, I held a running meeting each morning. (Mid-morning, that is.) They hold you accountable for going to bed and getting up at a decent time, you get your workout in and studies show that you think better while exercising. Also, there’s nothing like bonding over a gorgeous jog. (Check the schedule first to make sure you’re not scheduling the jog during a great panel.) There’s a great running route along the water near downtown along Barton Springs, Town Lake Park and Zilker Metropolitan Park.
- Remember the folks back home – For most companies, it costs anywhere from $5-10K to send one employee to SxSW. Your employer needs to see your ROI and if you can bring back enough relevant knowledge to share with the rest of your team, you’ll be more likely to get the ticket to Austin again next year. While you’re out learning (and partying) share some short real-time notes with the folks back at the office who are suffering from FOMO and following you virtually. If you choose to only share Instagram photos and tweets about parties and nightly outings it will appear you’re only partying to the people back at camp.
- Prepare prior (not while you’re on the flight there.) What sessions do you REALLY want to go to? Do your research. Do you even need a badge? Can you get the same content later online? Book your hotel room now. (Yes, a year in advance.) Make it downtown or within walking distance from downtown. Worst part about SxSW is trying to get a taxi. You will likely have a cocktail at some point so keep that in mind so driving isn’t an option either. Who do you want to meet? Set up meetings prior to arriving in Austin but know some (or most) will change. It’s important to have the intent and attempt in place prior in order to make meetings stick. Once that’s done, rely on serendipity.
- A few other anecdotal notes: It manages to rain (downpour) at some point nearly every year. Prepare accordingly. All of the restrooms seem to have Spanish signs, Know the difference between damas and hombre. If you just want to go to party and hear the good music, it’s better, easier and less stressful to take time off and go to the music portion of the festival.