You're going to SXSW, Congratulations! South By Southwest is the ultimate melding of what's current and about to take the world by storm. This cosmic convergence of film, interactive media, music and conferences takes place in Austin, Texas, the weirdest place in the lone star state. By weird I mean, "stereotype smashing, where in the world am I and can I just move here and stay weird", kind of weird!
SXSW 2018 takes place from March 9 to 18 and once you arrive you'll be rubbing elbows with an incredibly diverse group of people travelling from around the globe, eager to connect with new people and new ideas in the southwest's most unique city.
Now that you've made the decision to attend, how do you get the most out of your SXSW experience?
Let's jump past squaring away your travel and hotel and focus on pre-trip preparation to ensure you have an enjoyable and eventful trip. South By Southwest is packed full of professional and social events with unlimited opportunities to make long lasting professional and personal relationships, so every minute of the day counts!
Plan Out Your Days in Advance There is so much happening at SXSW that you could go nonstop and never see it all, don't try to pack in too much each day or you'll burn out fast. Check out the SXSW schedule here and plan each day with one or two must attend main events and allow time to meet people, socialize and have meals. Many events have the long wait times so keep yourself energized and charged up!
Pack Smart On most March days, you can plan on Austin running in the mid 60's temperature wise with a bit of a chill in the mid 40's at night, but rain is not unheard of. Very few events at SXSW require formal business attire, so pack casual and comfortable clothes consisting of light layers you can add and remove for the early mornings and late evenings.
Don't forget to pack a back-up power pack for your phone, you're in for some long days and recharging stations may not be available at every conference or event.
Pack a Tide Stick stain remover, Downy Wrinkle Remover spray and keep your style bright and fresh all day long.
Roll your clothes and stand them on end in your suitcase, once you hang them up at the hotel let gravity work out any wrinkles.
Packable waterproof wind breakers make a great travelling companion for every traveller.
A messenger bag is a great way to organize your tech and essentials and to store the swag and business cards you're going to collect each day.
The big guys will be out in force at SXSW so plan to bring your A-Game and represent with your own promo materials.
Business Cards - don't leave home without them, it's networking 101, you are the best part of your brand and your business card is how your name and contact information will stay in the hands of everyone you meet, invest in the best you can afford!
Business Card Case - prevent dog-eared or damaged cards and keep your business cards separate from all of the others you will be collecting. (see tips on the exchange ritual below).
Stickers - one of the most desired pieces of swag, stickers are a universal favorite of convention goers.
Temporary Tattoos - add some fun to your brand, you'd be surprised how many folks like to collect and wear temporary tattoos.
Print Custom T-Shirts for SXSW - Wonder Woman and Superman know all about branding, follow their lead and keep your wonderful super brand front and center!
Custom Tote Bags - with so many freebies handed out at each event handing out branded tote bags is not just a functional way for people to keep that swag together, it's a perfect walking advertisement.
1. Make yourself at home - when you get to your hotel, unpack your suitcase, put your socks in drawers and place personal items where they are easily accessible. Hang up your clothes to smooth out the wrinkles to ensure you'll look and feel your best. Your hotel room is going to be your home for the next 9 days, make it as comfortable as possible.
2. Shop for essentials - hit the local market and stock up on bottled water, snacks and the comfort foods you'll want each morning and night. Making your hotel room a retreat will help you rest and recharge for each busy day ahead.
Pack For A Long Day - messenger bags are perfect way to keep organized.
Arrive Early - most events are booked full, arriving early will help you feel prepared and confident.
Organize those business cards - set aside time to look at each business card and make notes to recall and reply to each person.
You're going to be the happy recipient of a ton of swag. Many vendors offer tote bags, grab one to store all those extra goodies.
Does the idea of being surrounded by crowds of people make you nervous? Does the thought of striking up a conversation with a stranger make your palms sweaty?
Guess what? You're not alone. Other than those very rare people who can talk with ease to anyone anywhere, most of us experience some form of anxiety at the thought of meeting new people.
Here are some quick tips to calm your nerves and actually enjoy the opportunity to meet new people:
Relax and enjoy time away from your normal routine and remember you're not here to seal a million dollar deal, this is time to socialize, you can seal the business deal later.
Have your business cards at the ready and be sure to separate the business cards you receive, you don't want to hand out the wrong card!
Practice your elevator pitch, that 15 - 30 second rundown outlining you and what you do, practice on your dog, cat or co-worker until you feel comfortable and unrehearsed.
Smile it really does make it easier for you and anyone else in the same boat as you.
Listen, your mama was right, and this is perfect for those who really don't like to talk with the benefit of really getting to know and understand the people you meet.
Focus the conversation on the person you just met, get to know as much as you can about them and show a genuine interest in what they're telling you.
Flattery will get you everywhere. An honest compliment is a great way to start or end a conversation, practice kind words.
Line up. If you need a break or you're feeling anxious find a line to get into, at the very least you have the chance to meet the person in front of and behind you.
Don't drink too much. Many people find a drink helps with nervousness, but remember you're representing your business so save the over indulgence for another time.
Follow up - that fine collection of business cards isn't like a set of baseball cards to be cherished, send a follow up email, make a phone call or send a hand written note as soon as possible.
The practice of introducing yourself and exchanging cards has a long history dating back to the French Royal Court. In the west a smile and a handshake preclude the exchange of cards and then, in most cases, we simply put that card in our pocket.
We suggest you adopt a more Japanese approach to the ritual of the business card exchange. After the introduction and handshake, hand over your card and accept your new friend's card with both hands, repeat their name and then read everything on their business card to understand who they are, what they do and where they are from.
All of this information is going to help you to keep the conversation going and more importantly to remember them by. Treat business cards given to you like they're made of gold, this is a not only a sign of respect it is also a way to show your genuine interest in developing a relationship with that person.
One last tip to remember the name of the person you just met - use the business card ritual outlined above, repeat the name of the person you just met as soon as they tell you and keep doing so throughout your conversation. Here's a great article on remembering names from Forbes.