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SxSW: Amateur Hour Is Over

Our favorite time of the year, SxSW Interactive, is steadily approaching. Obviously, we know how to play things extra cool, but honestly, after last year, just thinking about those insane Austin days back in 2011 gives us heart palpitations (note to selves: limit caffeine consumption). It’s probably because we hosted one of our biggest client events (not to mention a few others), left surprises all over town, met all of our client demands and attended as many panels as possible. And then we slept for 18 hours straight. It was a wonderful, glorious experience, and one that we’re never going to repeat again.

Because this year, we are going pro.

After learning some lessons and suffering through the requisite SxSW growing pains, we’re big kids now. If you’re a novice, you won’t listen, and if you’re an expert, you’ll nod your head in agreement. This blog is here to say we told you so. 

1. Don’t forget your phone charger. Your phone is going to die. It will happen. The signal in the convention center and in all of Downtown is super weak, and you’ll be texting, checking emails, looking stuff up and downloading apps. And don’t even think you’ll be able to use one of those free charging stations. That’s just silly.
2. Don’t forget your laptop charger. We don’t care if you’ve just bought Apple’s new paper-thin, 1000-hour-battery-life magic machine or whatever the latest gadget is, it will also die. And then you will spend all of your spare time running around the giant convention center looking for plugs instead of eating the free lunches served at the food trucks outside.
3. Be weary of solo sessions. The SxSW folks try their best to avoid spamming people who have paid their entire month’s rent to be there, but we all know spam can seep through the cracks (ew). If your session description has any hint of product or company placement, don’t waste your time.
4. Your plan will fail. We’re not saying, “Don’t plan out your day.” Start figuring out what you want to see most, and make those items a priority. But know that you’ll have to readjust and compromise because you just can’t be everywhere. That’s okay. The only reward for attending the most panels is mental shock.
5. Diversify. If you work in social media, for instance, you’ll be tempted to go to ALL of the social media panels. And at those, you’ll be the smartest person in the room, and that will be really fun. Or will it? We recommend picking sessions that scare you. That intimidate you. That force you to Google. Those will be the sessions that make the experience worth it.
6. Go off on your own. Odds are, you’ll have 10 of your closest friends by your side, and you’ll all want to go to the same panels. Take half a day to disappear, meet new people, go somewhere you normally wouldn’t and take it all in. No, this is not an opportunity to take a nap.
7. Party smarty. (Yes, that is the best PSA slogan you’ve ever heard.) Look, you will be excited, and there will be TONS of opportunities to go out, meet interesting people, drink a few drinks and have a fantastic time. Pace yourself. Eat. Drink water. Sleep. This isn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon, and you want to finish strong.
8. Eat tacos for breakfast. Look, everybody knows starting the day with a good breakfast is important. Tacos are delicious. Eat them.
9. Write stuff down. As you sit in exciting sessions and panels, it will be tempting to just close your eyes and listen. Take notes! You’ll be inundated with information, and the time between March 9 and March 13 will seem like at least 3 years – and like Steven Tyler screamed, you don’t want to miss a thing.

Like we said, if this is your first year, you won’t listen. You’ll have to figure it out for yourself, and then, once those five days are over, you’ll feel like you can cure cancer or start to take down Zuckerburg. If you’re lucky, you’ll even hear some good live music, meet the guy who invented touch screens and learn a thing or two. Have fun, be safe and keep your eyes peeled for your favorite Black Sheep! SxSW experts, share your seasoned perspective in the comments.

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