Surviving and Thriving at SXSW: Make It Your Show

Photo Credit: Brittany Ryan via SXSW

I know everyone‘s doing it, but I can’t resist. I’ve only been to SXSW interactive a few times, but that’s long enough to make lots of mistakes and learn from them.

  • Prepare, But Be Flexible. Later on this list, I’ll suggest you disregard your carefully-prepared schedule, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need one. In fact, it’s best if you have a schedule prepared that allows for Plan B and even Plan C.Say, you’ve decided you want to go to one panel, or one party. If something doesn’t work out — and shit happens — be ready to move on to the next opportunity. Maybe you’re stuck on the wrong part of town, maybe you let yourself get caught up in conversation with someone you met, maybe a thunderstorm starts up just as you were heading out — whatever the wrinkle, don’t let it bother you. Just have Plan B ready to go, and pivot.
  • Take Care of Yourself. You’ll want to pack as lightly as you can, because you are likely walking everywhere you go, but be sure to have a few key items: Water, so you don’t get dehydrated. A snack (maybe peanut butter crackers or nuts), in case low blood sugar strikes at a time you’re not ready to go in search of food. And, this year, a small umbrella. Along those same lines, wear comfortable, broken-in shoes. There’s nothing worse than hobbling. The same applies to your drinking strategy (yes, you should have a strategy). I don’t agree with the “don’t drink” philosophy, partly because I’m a bit shy and having at least one margarita helps me make conversation with strangers. But, moderation is key. Don’t embarrass yourself, and don’t ruin the rest of the show for yourself. Perhaps set a limit of 1 or 2 drinks per day, and drink club soda the rest of the time.
  • Go With The The Flow. It’s easy to get uptight. Either you become too married to your schedule — so you spend your time rushing around from one event to the next. Or you become a party-chaser — always convinced that the best party is the one that the guy you’re following on Twitter is attending. Guess what? The best party is the one you’re at, right now. The best food truck is the one you stumble upon when you turn the corner. Allow yourself some serendipity. It’s your SXSW, and it may not be exactly as you planned, but it’s likely to be pretty darned good if you seize the moment.

I’ll be aggregating links and such to good posts I find on the subject, posting them below and continually updating. Feel free to drop more in the comments. Thanks!

P.S. On the beer subject, I’d recommend the Real Ale Brewing Company’s Fireman’s #4 — it’s awesome.