This month we are taking a time-out of the nitty gitty of cross platform storytelling to talk about one of my personal favorite industry conferences: South by Southwest (or SXSW for short). For reference, SXSW is actually three conferences in one that you can attend individually, or in any combination thereof, and takes place in Austin, TX in March. The conference is comprised of: Music, Film, and the ever growing Interactive segments.
Personally, my experience lies with SXSW Interactive (SXSWi). I have had the opportunity to attend the last two years, and will be doing so again this March. However, like San Diego Comic Con, SXSW is an experience that needs planning, even from the veterans. Below are some of my favorite SXSW tips to help you get through the 6 (or 14 if you attend the entire conference) days of panels, networking, and parties.
SXSW Schedule: Know it, learn it, love it. But don’t be married to it. Look at the schedule in advance. Some workshops need RSVPs, some panels this year (particularly at the Wanderlust) allow reserved seating. Don’t wait until the last minute to investigate these things. Also, star any panel that looks interesting. Yes this may seem counter productive because the last time I checked I didn’t have a TARDIS, but it is something I highly advise. You never know where you may be or who you may be with when it’s time for a panel, and options are important. I highly recommend the Webseries Meetup on Sunday morning, hosted by the IAWTV. I’ll be there!
Use SXSWSocial to find people you want to connect with before the event. You can see who is attending that you are connected to on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Maybe that social media executive who you follow is going to be there, or your favorite podcaster; you never know! Also, this is where you can house your SXSW Schedule and find your digital SWAG bag.
Bring comfy shoes and clothes. Dress code for SXSW is generally casual. T-shirt and jeans are commonplace. My go-to outfit is usually jeans and a blouse for a casual professional look. And while it may be tempting to wear those cute books that go great with your jeans, you will be walking, a lot. SXSW has now been spread out amongst multiple hotel campuses, and while there is transit in between, it is not always reliable when you are trying to get from point A to B in order to not miss an important panel or meeting.
Know your transportation options. SXSW Shuttles, pedicabs, SXCycles, and the Catch A Chevy program are all great ways to get around. Also, keep your eyes out for Uber. If you aren’t staying in the Downtown Austen there is a shuttle service that goes to the official hotels and runs from early in the AM to the wee hours of the night.
Don’t forget to eat. Not every party venue you’ll go to will have food (though most will have free alcohol). Also, you’re in Austin and the BBQ is to die for. So enjoy the great food that Austin has to offer and give yourself energy as well!
Keep your eyes open for the all important party and event RSVPs. Not only are there parties listed on the SXSW official schedule (and some of these do require RSVP), but many companies are having parties as well. This is a valuable time to network, and free food and drinks aren’t bad either!
Last but not least NETWORK! Talk to other people, don’t wait for them to talk to you. You never know who you will meet. Get their cards, follow them on Twitter as soon as possible, and join in the SXSW conversations both online and off. My favorite part of this particular conference is the people. I always feel so blessed to find so many like-minded, creative individuals in the same place.
And next year: get your tickets and hotel room as early as possible. SXSW can be war – not unlike SDCC, and planning over a year in advance is advisable.
Are you going to be in Austin for SXSW? Follow me on Twitter so we can meet up!
More of my articles on transmedia storytelling can be found here.