After a month to recover and really look back on SXSW, I’ve decided to write a synopsis of my experience from the perspective of a first timer and give some of my tips/tricks/warnings about the whole thing for any future brave souls deciding to join the mayhem that is the Interactive portion of SXSW.
First and foremost, the whole thing can be summed up with one word: OVERWHELMING. Nobody can possibly have the time and energy to partake in all the panels, keynotes, and most importantly, as many of the parties as possible… well at least those which provide free alcohol.
But, with that said, you have to start somewhere. So now that I have had time to reflect, here are a few simple tips and tricks I learned along the way from my own wandering, and speaking to people who have been there before.
1. Panels: how do you pick good ones?
I guess there is no REAL bulletproof answer here but in general, what I learned is you can’t depend on the panel description. Take an extra 2 minutes to see WHO your presenters are. That makes all the difference in the world. Single presenters better have some clout because otherwise, you could be stuck in a product case study or self-promotion. Discussions or round tables are hit or miss, just make sure you want to hear about the subject, and have a bit of background. I will definitely be looking for names i recognize when I go next year.
2. Getting around from panel to panel: Where are these other hotels and do I have time to get there?
Wow, this was so frustrating. I wasn’t able to attend at least 3 panels because they were at a hotel “over the river and through the woods”. Ridiculous. To no fault of the attendees, there is just no way you can possibly hop over to the further hotels without missing a panel and wasting half of the day. So my simple tip is to plan all those talks at hotels not adjacent to the convention center in one chunk. Take half a day and head over to a different venue and relax. Don’t stress yourself by attempting to do it in the 30 minutes in between because even if you do make it in time, there is that chance the panels will be full.
3. Keynotes. Are they worth it? And can/should I watch remotely?
I must confess, I didn’t watch a single keynote because that is when i was able eat lunch. There just wasn’t any other time to do so. But, everyone I have asked says they were the best speeches of the conference and I was an idiot for missing them. So, if you can, do both. Eat and watch. Most of the keynotes were being broadcast throughout the city at sponsored locations where you could have lunch and still watch. Brilliant.
4. How do I pick my parties?
RSVP to AS MANY AS YOU CAN POSSIBLY FIND! This was so helpful. I signed up for any and every party I found through sites like do512.com during SXSW and boy did it come in handy! You have to remember that in addition to the Ten thousand conference attendees, there are also a HUGE amount of locals who want to just show up to the parties. So unless you were on a list, you couldn’t get in. Oh and contrary to popular belief, you don’t NEED a badge for most of the parties. It’s just highly recommended.
4a. Are the lounges worth going to?
YES! Go! It’s a great place to meet people and have some refreshing beverages! That’s all.
So, for anyone that will be in Austin next year as a SXSW rookie, hopefully this guide makes life a little simpler than mine was.
#SXSW #welivehere #GSDM