Ahhh, SXSW. That time of year when every startup under the sun flees to the quaint, country-loving town of Austin, Texas only to have their big launch plans hijacked by the likes of Amex and Pepsi. And this year, possibly Uber and Airbnb too.
But have no fear, despite its recent saturation and seemingly oversubscribed experience, SXSW offers many unique opportunities for those willing to plan ahead, take things with a gigantic grain of salt (with a side of BBQ) and ultimately enjoy the company of others who have figured out how to maximize their ROI: Return on Interactive.
From one recently reformed SXSW-avoidant professional to another, here are the dos and don'ts for ensuring that [during your reflective flight home] you don't feel like you've completely wasted your time, money, energy, or worse... lost your sanity.
Do make sure you attend at least two panels or keynote events a day. This will give you plenty of content to talk about later when you're trying to awkwardly network with a bunch of drunk people at an after party. It will also give you plenty of stuff to tweet about and post to your Facebook wall so that you appear to be #intheknow.
Don't try to stack meetings with potentially important individuals between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. because you likely won't make it. Be kind to yourself and accept this reality. We know you are trying to impress the boss, but simply don't do it. You will fail, which is worse than not scheduling a meeting in the first place. BONUS: Sunday, March 10 is conveniently the start of Daylight Savings Time, so you'd better push those meetings back to noon.
Do RSVP to every party that looks halfway decent so you have plenty of party-hopping choices and can also pull the "Where's Waldo" stunt for people you are trying to avoid. This tip is really helpful for investors and other folks with money who are generally inundated with requests from and borderline stalked by startup founders. Journalists also fall into this category.
Speaking of journalists, if you're a startup and you've hired a PR pro to assist you at SXSW, don't get upset with them if journos or other media types don't show at the particular time they've said they are going to show. They are people too, you know, and have likely done one of three things, which is why they've missed said meeting: 1) drank too much the night before; 2) found another, more interesting story to chase; or 3) are just plain mean.
Do remember to drink plenty of water. I highly recommend carrying around one of those eco-friendly, fair-trade, sustainability-promoting, stainless steel water bottles with your company logo on it for covert promotional purposes. When someone you're secretly trying to impress is around you can start a totally natural conversation by saying something like: "Hydration is of upmost importance when attempting to recover daily and run around from place to place, don't you think?" Then you can slyly take a sip of water and flash your logo in their face at the same time.
Last but certainly not least... it's important to keep in mind that SXSW is rife with future business opportunities, important discoveries, and all-around learning for those who choose to engage at a deeper level. With a little planning and organization, you can keep those FOMO feelings at bay and walk away a little smarter and better prepared for complete world domination.
How's that for ROI?