How to do SXSW right

Tips on making the most of your SXSW experience, from two regular attendees

Havas Worldwide’s global digital product director and Cake Group’s head of social innovation offer essentials for SXSW 2015.

1. Hit up the single or dual sessions.
Think of sessions just like meetings – the fewer the people, the better. When one or two brave souls volunteer to put their reputations on the line to drop knowledge on a group of their ridiculously smart peers, you know they’ll be one of two things: passionate and/or prepared. And probably – probably - not hungover.

2. Don’t bother with the keynote.
The wait time to snag a seat for a SXSW keynote? One hour. The wait for watching that keynote and then slowly sauntering back into a packed convention center? One hour. The time you can save by watching keynotes online, days later? Do the math.

In all seriousness, spending all that time in these headliner sessions means you’ll miss a ton of great content at smaller, more meaningful talks. Skip the keynotes and just catch the online videos or @ your friends for the highlights on Twitter. You’ll need something to watch once you’ve finished House of Cards anyway.

3. Lines are inevitable. Embrace them.
If you avoid the keynotes (see #2), it is still impossible to avoid lines at SXSW. They’re as much a part of the experience as Twitter and tacos. So when you find yourself stuck in line, don’t roll your eyes and stomp away in a huff — instead, use the downtime as an opportunity to buddy up with those around you. Think about it: Out of thousands of panels and parties, you and your fellow line-waiters have chosen this one. You must have something in common. The proof is in the pudding: Havas’ Stacy Fuller met her co-presenter while waiting in line.

4. Plan. And plan for chance.
We get it: You came to SXSW to learn and meet as many people as possible. Although it is tempting, try and avoid scheduling every 15-minute increment of your days here. Instead, pick a few must-see speakers and events — and also allow yourself the flexibility to wander into a session at the last minute, or linger a while longer when you find yourself in an interesting conversation. You never know what will happen when you make time for chance encounters.

5. Tackle sessions outside your day-to-day.
Selecting sessions can be overwhelming. It’s easy to narrow down the enormous list based on your expertise — but don’t. While it is important to hear the viewpoint of your peers, remember that one of the greatest benefits of attending SXSW is the access to such a wide variety of speakers, thoughts, and mash-ups of capability. Try to attend at least a few sessions on topics in which you have a personal (not professional) interest, and topics on which you are not already a supercharged expert. Those sessions can be the best learning experiences — and who knows, they might inspire you to think anew about how you do the work you do.

This article originally appeared on Campaign US. Read the rest of their advice here.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in