10 Ways to Make the Most of SXSWMarch 2, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Posted in Events, Uncategorized | 14 Comments
One of the year’s biggest social media, emerging technology, and networking events, South by Southwest (SXSW) is a little over a week away. It’s also affectionately referred to as Spring Break for Geeks, but the SXSW acronym can also be short for Social by Social Week due to the endless opportunities to meet fun and interesting people across a variety of professional backgrounds.
The official SXSW site has a great FAQ, but we thought we’d share some of our key take-aways from attending last year’s event as well as preparing for this year’s. Here are our 10 tips (in no particular order) for making the most of SXSW:
1. It’s OK to skip a few panels. The number of options for panels, book signings, speaker sessions, and meet-ups can be overwhelming, especially for first-timers. The session list is filled with tons of great content, but don’t feel obligated to attend every panel. There will be a few that are on your “must attend” list, but also take time to enjoy the spontaneous hallway conversations that often take place when roaming the convention center.
2. Create your own meet-ups. While SXSW offers a number of official meet-ups, these events can sometimes have long lines or get very busy once inside. For as many official meet-ups there are to attend, there are many other unofficial meet-ups with many SXSW attendees and no lines. This doesn’t mean you should avoid any of the official parties, but just know that you have plenty of options available!
3. Something for everyone. The late night scene may not be your thing or may not be your thing night after night. That’s OK! You’ll find plenty of opportunities for events such as networking breakfasts, morning yoga, bike rides or other activities. Last year, a group of us engaged in “sweatworking,” where we met up for a morning run along one of Austin’s trails.
4. Stay healthy. With as many activities that take place, it can be easy to get worn down, so if you’re going to cut back on sleep, then drink plenty of water. The convention center is 881,400 gross square feet and covers six city blocks, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes!
5. Ditch the lap top, but carry a charger. This tip certainly isn’t for everyone and your job may require that you carry your lap top with you everywhere. If your lap top is optional, then you may want to consider leaving it in your hotel room and instead carry pen/paper or use your phone. You’ll be doing tons of walking to/from/around the convention center and may not have a break to drop off your bag at your hotel before going out.
Between geo-location check-ins on Foursquare or Gowalla, live tweeting during panels, taking notes, and text messages/calls/DMs to meet up with people, you don’t want to run out of juice early in the day.
6. Attend a panel or event outside your primary area of interest. Not surprisingly, I’ll be attending many sessions around news and social media, but attending other types of events can lead to both idea generation and new types of contacts. For example, I’m interested in how other industries are using social media, so I plan to attend “Dinosaur to Digital: A Museum Convergence Success Story“. Here’s a link to my currently planned panel schedule.
Last year I was invited to attend a networking breakfast hosted by Network Solutions, which is not the type of company that USA TODAY would likely partner with for a B-to-C opportunity, but this led to meeting Shashi Bellamkonda, Social Media Swami (yes, his true title!), who has since introduced USA TODAY to speaking opportunities at social media events. At the same breakfast, I also met Jeff Pulver, who shared with a small group of us his concept for his now global and highly successful “Exploring the State of Now” events.
7. Keep your eyes open for new opportunities. In advance of last year’s event, I arranged to meet up with Drew Curtis, Founder of Fark, to see how we might identify a way for traditional media and new media to work together. It was due to this meet up at SXSW that led several months later to the launch of our partnership. During this in-person get together, we were able to knock out several key details and develop a solid foundation for building a strong working relationship.
8. Say hello to people! People are very friendly and approachable — even the rockstars of social media and emerging technology. Introduce yourself to people sitting next to you in panels or while walking from one session to another. At SXSW, everyone enjoys learning things such as where other people are from, what they hope to get out of SXSW, and what they think of the Texas BBQ!
9. Arrive early to popular panels. Due to the size of the convention center and number of people trying to get from point A to point B, it can take 10 – 15 minutes to walk from one session to another. Many of the sessions fill up to maximum seating capacity quickly, so if there is a session on your “must attend” list, then not a bad idea to aim to arrive 10 minutes early to that session.
10. Have fun! This is your event! SXSW can be overwhelming for the senses, especially the first day, but relax, have fun, and try some BBQ!
Are these tips helpful for you? What tips would you recommend? We hope you found this helpful and look forward to meeting you at SXSW as well as seeing you at our panel on Tuesday, “How to Save Journalism,” where we’ll be joined by Fark, The Huffington Post, and The Poynter Institute.
This post was published by Brian Dresher, @bdresher.