How to Prepare for SXSW Interactive 2015

SXSW Interactive provides lots of opportunities. I have been to SXSW for the music. And I can quickly list out the rules for that week: THERE ARE NONE. Now, take this concept and try to place it over top SXSW Interactive and you have a massive headache of time constraints, conflicting wants/needs and getting lost in a hotel. Which has happened to me before. Stop laughing.

So, here are 4 simple things you should do to make your SXSW.

1. Plan.

This sounds super simple.

And of course, it sounds like a straight-forward idea. But, this event has lots of speakers. LOTS. Download the SXSW 2015 app.

Plan out each day with speakers to see, people to meet and events to attend. The app will deliver push notifications and location mapping to help you get wherever you need to go-on time! Log into social.sxsw.com and search for the kind of people you may want to meet while you’re in Austin (Like me!).

It’s way better to get basic intros out of the way and plan a rough time to meet before you get to Austin. Once you’re there, everyone is too “busy” to plan.

2. Go Together.

Going with a group allows you to see the most and learn the most from the overall event. You can divide and conquer. The best sessions and speakers aren’t always right by each other. And, a lot of amazing speakers are giving their talks at the same time. Also, it’s far less awkward and threatening for two people to nudge into a group and introduce themselves than one.

3. Connect with People.

It seems like everyone at SXSW, literally everyone, is willing to talk with you. So, don’t go to SXSW and shell up and simply write notes about the speakers or record the presentation. Further, if you are having a great conversation that runs into the time you were planning on attending a session, seriously consider skipping the session.

The relationship you are forming is likely more valuable. The connections you make with people in “meat-space” at the convention can help generate multiple additional connections online, either with their brand, their fellow employees or other members of their organization, or their plain old “friends”.

4. Post on Social Media.

If your account goes radio silent at SXSW, then you are managing your social media poorly. If you think it is because, “I am too busy,” you aren’t. Many of the sessions have their own hashtags and everyone (including the presenter) expects you to be tweeting during the presentation. Sometimes the underground conversations are at least, if not more, informative than the listed speaker’s PowerPoint.

It’s also a smart way to see who in your sessions might be mart, interesting and worth introducing yourself to afterward.

Also, I forgot three last points.

EXTRA POINT 1: Wear comfortable shoes. Seriously. You look fine. Just wear something you can walk in easily for longer than 1 mile.

EXTRA POINT 2: And if you are coming from the Northern Lands (aka Chicago and above) wear sunscreen. The sun in Austin feels like it sits on your neck.

EXTRA POINT 3: Bring a reusable water bottle. Fill it at the drinking fountains around the convention center. Trust me, between the dry Austin air and the free alcohol some corporate sponsor supplied the night before, you will be dehydrated if you’re not careful.

So, take the time now to plan your itinerary, along with who is going with you and how everyone will talk about being at SXSW. And don’t forget comfortable shoes and sunscreen.

See you there.