I’ve been going to SXSW since back when it was still slightly niche (2006 was my first year). I attended all but 1 in the span stretching to this year. So let’s just say I know how the conference works, and know where the value is in it, and where there isn’t. I’m also a bit wiser now vs 7 years ago. Note, this stuff only applies to the interactive portion, I have yet to brave the music segment (which is admittedly much more intense).
So first things first, SXSW is indeed like spring break for geeks. It can be either a total shit show for you, or very productive. Its a matter of taking into consideration all the things going on and deciding how you want to attack it. SXSW is about strategy.
For a huge number of the people rolling into Austin for the interactive portion, they are coming from areas which aren’t as exciting as the weeklong party that Austin becomes. I’m from Miami, so it takes a pretty effing awesome party to impress me.
So here are the tips in bullet format, since I’m already too tired to write any more (I’ve been here 8 hours…).
- Pace yourself
- There will always be more free booze, you don’t need to drink everything you see right now.
- Chill the eff out. Everyone else is just as excited as you to be there, but just be calm about it. No one is passing out million dollar bills anywhere, so you don’t have to worry about missing anything amazing.
- Focus on the conversations. Don’t try to exchange business cards with 500 people. Focus on the 50-100 people who you can engage in meaningful conversations with.
- Pack light, and remember, if your clothes get dirty, there is always a thousand free t-shirts to be had tomorrow.
- If the line is an hour long to get in to a party, there is almost certainly another party going on without a line, which will be way more fun.
- Hydrate. Trust me this will help you avoid any hangovers or other disasters.
So try to enjoy yourself. If you find yourself trying to hit every panel, every party, every tweetup/meetup, you’re going to burn out. So pace yourselves.