This year the opportunity arose to travel to Austin for SXSW for work, and I couldn’t have been more excited! After about a week of navigating the SXSW events, I’ve gathered a few tips/mistakes to share with you guys. When I announced that I was going, so many of you asked for a recap, so here it is. I’ll definitely be implementing these for myself next year as well!
Overall, the whole week was a huge success. I met a ton of cool people, navigated my first conference, and got to see a different side of Austin that I’ve never experienced before. Having grown up in Texas, I’ve visited Austin quite a few times. However, getting to explore the city during SXSW was a totally different vibe!
So for a little background… I know a lot of people go to SXSW for the music/film tracks, but I was actually there for the Interactive track. I got to see really cool upcoming trends in media and technology, and meet people who worked in marketing/business. So if you’re wanting to go for the music/film festivities, these tips may not all apply.. but hopefully you find at least a few to be helpful!
DON’T PUT TOO MUCH PRESSURE ON YOURSELF
I honestly came into it pretty nervous. There was so much I wanted to do, and I was also traveling alone and only knew a handful of people attending. One thing to know is that it’s totally okay and normal to show up to events alone. Honestly, I encourage it! It definitely forced me to step out of my comfort zone and talk to people I may not have otherwise.
DESIGNATE TIME TO RELAX
The whole experience can be a lot! Having to be “on” all day long can be exhausting. Every afternoon, I took about an hour to just sit in a coffee shop alone and get some work done, read a book, or just watch some Netflix. Listen to your body- if you’re exhausted, you won’t enjoy your time anyway. Take some time to just wind down a little and relax! Then you’ll be re-energized and ready to get back out there.
BRING A SMALL NOTEBOOK WITH YOU
I love writing things down, so this was super helpful when I attended panels and events. Also for writing down events that people told me about throughout the day, when my phone didn’t have service.
KEEP A BUSINESS CARD ON YOU AT ALL TIMES
This is one that I wish I had known prior! Unfortunately I had totally forgotten to bring some along, and after meeting people I ended up having to just share phone numbers. It’s not a huge deal, but there were quite a few times that I had wished I had a business card to share. Definitely remembering this one next year!
HAVE A FLEXIBLE ITINERARY
My tips for taking on SXSW events: come up with about 2-3 events per day that you really want to hit, and leave the rest up to chance. The type A in me really wanted to have an exact schedule of when to be where, but honestly I found it so much easier to do it this way. If you’re flexible, you can fit in time to have coffee with people you meet, random events you get invited to, etc.
YOU DON’T NEED A BADGE!
I think a common misconception of people who haven’t attended SXSW (myself included) is that you need a badge to get into events. Of course, there are quite a few badge-only events, but going without a badge is just as fun! There are so many events that you can attend badge-free. Just make sure you do research into what events are open to the public and RSVP online. The SXSW Guest Pass is a great option- they have a ton of free events with registration.
Another important tip: join as many SXSW Facebook groups as you can! These are amazing forums where people share parties and tips. I found a ton of events through these groups- just search on Facebook and you’ll find a ton! Shoutout to my friend Anthony for this tip. 🙂
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE ENVIRONMENT YOU’RE IN
At South By, you’re surrounded by so many people who have similar interests to you! Take advantage, and network your little butt off. Something that helped me navigate through was changing my mindset. “Networking” can seem scary, but if you just think of it as meeting new people and making new friends it takes off so much of the pressure.