As you pack your bags and get ready to beat a path to the film, interactive and music festivals that make up SXSW, keep these 8 tips in mind – They’ll help you make the most of your time and money in Austin, Texas this year:
Talk to strangers
We know your parents told you never to do this, but SXSW is best viewed as a shared experience. If you want to learn and share with others, talk to strangers and make new friends! Take an empty seat at a table full of strangers, and chat it up. Put your hand out at a party (or more realistically, in line for the party) and introduce yourself to the person next to you. Opportunities are abound to meet and greet with a variety of people, and you should take full advantage. If you’re not really the gregarious type, don’t worry – people will often introduce themselves to you. Being open and friendly can lead to making some lifelong connections.
Take a breather & a friend to Magnolia Café
If you need to break away from the hustle of downtown Austin during prime festival time, hit up Magnolia Cafe on South Congress Ave. It’s located just outside the SXSW bubble, which gives you more time talk and make a connection. There’s an excellent selection of food, it’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (breakfast included)! If you plan on going in the morning, anticipate a line.
Establish a home base in the middle of the madness.
There are several sponsored lounges within the Austin convention center where you can kick back, charge your devices, mingle with other attendees, and maybe even get a bit of work done (maybe). Many sponsors also take over nearby bars and houses throughout the duration of the festival as well. Explore the options, find one or two “home bases” where you can retreat and take a break once a day, and use it as meeting ground for friends old and new.
Collect contact information and follow up during or immediately after the show.
The friends you make at SXSW are a special breed. Like summer camp, you’ll make promises to stay in touch when it all ends. Keep your promise by getting their contact information – either a business card or a mobile phone “bump” – and follow up as soon as you can. Follow your new found connections on Twitter, Facebook and of course LinkedIn. If you’d like to add them to say, your company’s email list, remember to ask if you can add them first.
Identify at least five people who can help you further your goals and find ‘em.
Before you board the plane to Austin, spend some time thinking up at least five people you’d like to meet at SXSW, like a particular blogger, or an entrepreneur. If you know specific names, jot them down and search for any sessions they may be presenting, or parties they may be hosting. It also doesn’t hurt to send them a quick email or tweet before you arrive in Austin simply stating you’d like to connect at SXSW. Make it a goal to introduce yourself to all five people you’ve identified.
Get better acquainted with an online friend.
Facebook says you have more than 400 friends, and Twitter says you have just over 1,000 followers – Awesome! Have you met all of them in person? No doubt, some of your online friends will be in Austin, so make sure you connect. Hit up your favorite BBQ together (we prefer Salt Lick), grab some margaritas at Shady Grove, pay tribute to the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue at Town Lake, and hit up parties together at night. Take the time to get to know what you each of you do, who else you may know, and how you can help each other. Turn an online friend into a friend for life (and perhaps even a business partner or investor!).
Discover new tools and new ideas.
The SXSW Tradeshow is where excited companies come to put their best foot forward by showing off their emerging technology, latest new tools and exciting products. Walk through the entire show floor once to get a lay of the land. Look for interesting companies, and make note of where they are. Then revisit the booths you found most interesting, make connections with people in those booths, and collect some schwag. Afterwards, snag some grub at many of the food trucks parked around the convention center.
Live blog or tweet at least one session.
There’s no way anyone can possibly attend every session at SXSW, so do your fellow attendees, or non-attending followers a favor and live blog and/or tweet about one of the sessions you attend. Use appropriate hashtags like #sxswi or #sxsw, or any tags specific to your session. This is also a great way to attract more followers and readers. Often, folks will comment, reply and share what you post, so mind your manners and try to answer any questions.
We hope these 8 tips help you make the most from your SXSW experience. If you’d like more scoop, follow our roving Skadeedle reporters coming to you live from the Austin convention center, streets, parties and more, with all the SXSW action.
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