Well gang, it looks like we have a couple seasoned South by Southwest (SXSW) veterans here in our midst.
Our own Matt and Evan have been attending the massive media conference we all know and love for the past two years now. (Last year they discovered that everyone turns into a millennial at South By.) This year they know their stuff and are ready to take SXSW 2017 by storm.
But are *you* headed down to Austin this year? If so, Evan and Matt have few tips they’ve picked up from the previous years to help you conquer and get the most out of SXSW 2017. This is SXSW 101!
ChatterBlast: So, you guys have been down to Austin for two years now, What’s the key to surviving and getting the most out of SXSW 2017?
Matt: The secret to surviving SXSW is to not try to do everything. Map out a tentative schedule and be comfortable saying “No” to stuff as well as course correcting. Don’t lock yourself into anything actually. When you get the call that Guy Kawasaki is at the Influencer Lounge, feel free to delay your visit to the Spotify house. Unless a good band is playing.
Evan: I try to pack in as much as possible each day. While you can’t do everything and it is easy to get overwhelmed, I try to schedule out 75 percent of my day and leave 25 percent to chance. Then, I make sure I make time for friends, colleagues, clients and fun time to make sure the experience is as balanced as possible.
CBM: I can understand not getting to everything, but since you two have been attending this event for a couple years now, what are some must-do experiences at SXSW?
Matt: That’s a good question because it really changes every year. Honestly, the McDonald’s House and the Mashable house are really good and always have incredible demonstrations of cutting-edge technology, fab bands or free food and booze. Last year, IBM really blew everyone away with some practical demonstrations of their Watson technology that were entertaining and engaging for everyone.
Matt: The Comcast Influencer Lounge is also a great constant source of ideas and interaction, along with free pizza!
Evan: I think the best discoveries are the unexpected ones, like following some new friends into a brand experience or the surprises at some of the tech providers’ late night parties.
CBM: That all sounds very exciting! But through all the fun and festivities, what are some SXSW mistakes you’ve learned that would be considered a festival foul?
Matt: Personally, I think it’s a festival foul if you don’t attend any of the panels. Some years I meet people who really just hit the happy hours, parties, and networking events. That is a big miss to me, and it really limits your ability to fully enjoy SXSW. And if you do go to the panel, actually try to listen to it. Save the live-tweeting for another time.
Evan: If you miss Torchy’s Tacos, you shouldn’t even bother coming back next year.
CBM: Talks and tacos eh? I’ll keep that in mind. Ok, so SXSW could be kind of intimidating with all the events they hold, how do you two manage to see all you want?
Matt: You don’t, you can’t and you won’t. You have to be happy with what you get. Let me use an ice cream metaphor because I love ice cream. You can’t go into Baskin Robbins and expect to try all the flavors.
It’s just gluttonous. Be content with the fact that you might miss something at SXSW. Stick with an event and have fun with it. Don’t leave fun to look for fun.
CBM: So sometimes you must be content with coffee, I’m following. Well, you guys are SXSW vets now, what advice could you give for networking at such a big event?
Matt: Smile and look people in the eye, don’t stare at your phone during conversations. Be friendly to folks and introduce yourself. People are shy and tech people are the SHYEST. Open yourself up to going chatting with people who aren’t obvious choices – meaning, don’t make everything about “networking” and a “sale”. Try to spend time with people who are interesting and engaging, no matter of what they do…
Evan: Everyone is there to meet people and have a good time. Don’t be afraid to approach anyone and introduce yourself.
CBM: The people sound great and very diverse at SXSW, but how about the city of Austin? What are some hidden gems that people don’t get to see while consumed in the world that is South By?
Evan: Ego’s is a not-to-be-missed dive bar underneath a parking garage in South Congress. It’s totally a local place with karaoke and good drinks. It’s become something of a tradition. I’m also always up for margaritas at Manuel’s or a night of line dancing at the Broken Spoke.
Matt: The Bat Bridge! If you haven’t already heard of this amazing phenomena, here’s the gist. The South Congress Bridge is home to about 750,000 bats, in which you can see exciting the bridge every morning as they go out to hunt daily. There is also the Lone Star Boat Cruise to get even more up close and personal with these bats.
Well, there you have it: the guide to experiencing the most and best parts of SXSW. They’re gearing up to take this year’s events by storm and if you’re headed down to Austin this year, we hope you are too. See you yellow bellies at SXSW.
Follow along with #ChatterSXSW to see what the gang has cooking up this year!