Surviving – and Making the Most of – SXSW (and other Uber-Events)

SXSW is a beast — a Frankenstein of film, interactive, and music, both festival and conference. Our Remix team lives for conferences. As we pitch and place speakers at most of the events we go to, including SXSW, we get so amped to see it all come together. 

 imageBut even we can get a little overwhelmed at events - especially the ones as large as SXSW – so we’ve cataloged our best tips for making the most of these uber-meetups here: 

 

 

  • * Map out your day in advance: Like the galaxy, it’s hard to mentally conceptualize the size of SXSW. Think CES, Coachella, Sundance, your High School reunion, and Mardi Gras all in one. This year at SXSW we tried to map out each of our days in advance and narrow down what sessions we wanted to see, activations to visit and companies to talk to. Since events are geographically spread out, you need to have a schedule with travel time calculated in order to see what you want to. Spoiler alert: you probably won’t get into everything you want to see!

 

 

  • Mix up your time with both business and fun: Naturally, we always put our work first, take care of our client needs, and make sure everything is smooth sailing for them. But once that is taken care of, we love to see the people and events that we find personally interesting. Sometimes they’re not overtly work-related, but you never know where inspiration is going to come from. For example, we attended a session with Rachel Hollis, who is an author and motivational speaker, and others with Grammy-winner Brandi Carlile, and actress/Goop CEO Gwyneth Paltrow. While they didn’t “count” as work, we came away with lots of ideas scribbled in our notebooks about how to approach everything we do.
  • Feed yourself well: Keeping your body fueled and eating properly is a no brainer, right? But for some reason, when you are attending a conference, it’s easy to lose track of time and just run from one thing to the next. Plan out where and when to eat, and always keep a snack and water bottle in your bag!
  • Bring the right bag: For years we schlepped around big fancy bags with laptops, notebooks, purse, wallet, and most of the contents of our bathroom countertop. It was SO HEAVY and truly we didn’t need all of that. Luckily in today’s world, our phones have most everything we need. So put on your out-of-office autoresponder and leave the laptop at the hotel. Other necessities: headache medicine, mints, lipstick/chapstick, business cards, and slimmed down wallet with just the basics. Bonus points if you can find a nice-looking backpack or something light and easy to carry.
  • Wearables: I’m not talking about your Apple Watch, but actual clothes! Most conferences are business casual, however people are taking casual to an extreme these days. Just don’t go yoga pants on us. It’s important to still look professional but keep it comfortable. Dress in layers. It’s often hot outside but don’t-fall-asleep-freezing inside. Also, if you’re meeting with your clients or potential clients, you want to look and feel your best. Shoes might be the most important thing here – no heels please! And those brand new shoes? Leave them at home. You want something casual, comfortable and stylish. In fact, we’ve even seen some cute and stylish sneakers that work well for business casual.
  • Talk it out: Be friendly and talk to those around you IRL. Don’t just stick to the messaging on the event app. We’ve met some of the best contacts and colleagues by just talking to others sitting around us and making eye contact. It’s easy to fall into the bad habit of always being on your phone, but it makes a huge impact when you actually speak to someone.
  • Take Notes: Write down your notes to remember important quotes and interesting tidbits. If someone hands you a business card, make a quick note on the back to remind you of who they are so you can follow up with them.
  • You can’t do it all: Realize that events like SXSW require you to make choices. Even if you lived on-site all week, you would have make hard choices about what to see. Make a list of the things that are most important for your business and prioritize. You should leave the conference feeling like you made the most out of it.
  • Provide feedback: If you attend sessions and there is a feedback option via the app or another platform – give feedback! The only way speakers, organizers can get better and improve is to hear from you. Don’t skip this part – it’s so important.
  • Follow up Plan: Make sure you follow up with people you met, speakers you liked or companies you found inspiring. You have a small window of time to make sure it’s still relevant so make the most of it!

 

Overall, remember that the point of events like SXSW is to make connections and find inspiration. Prepare yourself well for an exhausting but fun time. Enjoy the ride (and remember: comfy shoes)!

 

Topics: Public Relations, SXSW, Events, Thought Leadership, Conference Tips