Attending the SXSW Interactive Festival makes for a significant investment of time and money. What follows are a number of time-tested and time-proven tips on how to maximize your experience at the event.
Have a Plan: First and foremost, have a game plan on what you want to accomplish at SXSW Interactive. Don't leave things to chance and don't come to Austin unprepared. The event is simply too big to effectively tackle if you don't have a well-conceived strategy for what you want to achieve. Yes, you will get the most out of SXSW if you start formulating your game plan long before March arrives. One of the best strategies to formulate your game plan is to browse the 2014 Program Book before the event begins.
Read the Schedule Before the Event: The day-by-day, hour-by-hour schedule for the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival will appear online in mid-January. Spend a little time browsing this schedule before the event begins to understand the sessions you want to see. Again, having a game plan is your best strategy for success.
Contact People Before the Event: Connect with the people who you want to connect with at SXSW Interactive by contacting them (and arranging for meetings) before the event begins. Use our in-house social network SXsocial to browse registrants as well as to set up meetings and get-togethers.
Don't Overload on Parties: At SXSW Interactive, you may be tempted to spend all your time at social events where valuable networking occurs. While we understand the value of such networking, we also understand the importance of daytime sessions that teach and inspire. In 2013, registrants who attended daytime programming learned incredible insights from industry leaders such as Elon Musk, Al Gore, Esther Dyson, Peter Thiel, Brian Chesky, Steve Case and many, many more.
Go to Sessions Outside Your Expertise: SXSW Interactive offers a wide range of programming from social media, to food, to fashion, to space exploration. This wide range of programming means that you can (and should) explore topics that you know nothing about. If you only go to sessions that cover content you are already familiar with, then you will miss out on the opportunities to expand your brain or your network.
Ditch your Friends: Catching up with old friends from around the world is always a popular activity at SXSW Interactive, but don't spend all your time with the people you already know. Break away from your tribe to form new connections that will lead to new friendships, new brainstorms, new projects and new business opportunities.
Surrender to Serendipity: Even though we strongly recommend forming a SXSW Interactive game plan, we also recommend abandoning this plan when serendipity strikes -- which usually happens! In other words, if you find yourself sitting next to an amazing new connection, then don't cut short your fascinating conversation with this person in favor of the next item on your agenda. Go with the flow and see where it takes you!
Forget FOMO: At almost every hour of the day, SXSW offers hundreds of different sessions to see and people to meet. But all that should matter to you is the session that you are attending right now and the person you are talking to in this particular instant. So, don't worry about what you are missing -- just put yourself fully into the moment of now.
Wear Comfortable Shoes: SXSW Interactive can be miles and miles of walking, and that's just in one day! If you get a blister, then you've compromised your game plan for the remainder of the festival. Be nice to your feet and they will lead you to a successful SXSW Interactive experience!
Followup After the Event Concludes: Make a good connection during the event? Remember to followup with this person after the March 7-11 timeframe is over. SXSW is all about networking and networking is a non-stop process.