This was my first year at SXSW Interactive. I was unprepared. I am a planner to my core. SXSW is different, you simply can’t prepare in the normal sense of planning what sessions you will attend, making dinner reservations, getting the right invitations to the after hour parties, scheduling business meetings with potential partners, etc.
The way to prepare for SXSW is to take classes in mediation and to embrace the theory of going with the flow. Truly – let go!
This post is for my future self and what I will do differently for next year; and it is for my present self – lessons to apply to my everyday life.
Don’t check the twitter stream when you are in a session that you are enjoying; no matter how good Seth McFarlane is, you will find yourself clenching your fist when you read that Jimmy Fallon is tearing it up at the Nike tent across the street.
Stay present in the moment you are in. Don’t check your wall or stream or Instagram, you will find things that may be more interesting that you could be doing – but now you’re not only NOT doing that but you are NOT enjoying what you are actually doing. This concept was actually a topic for a session where the question was asked Is Social killing Social? Good question for the next dinner party – try it especially in mixed generations.
It’s ok to indulge in the persistent use of devices with screens. It’s ok to not look up at all during a session even though there is a live person on stage. It’s ok to check in. It’s ok to tweet. All the time. Even if you opt out of being able to tell people back home what Austin topography is like.
Save that behavior for Austin.
Don’t go to panels.
But be willing to change your steadfast rule, as you may stumble across an energizing panel on How to Hire the Right People like my colleague did. He is a technologist (aka geek) and was more energized from that one session than most anything else he saw at SXSW.
Be open. You may be surprised.
Stay in town. Book as soon as the dates are announced (even if you pay a cancellation fee if you choose not to go.)
Don’t put off what you can do today until tomorrow. Make plans, you can always adjust. Plans, like education, give you options.
Don’t amble, lead the group. You’ll know when you’ve gone too far. It’s always better to have colleagues/friends to attend sessions with, but at the end of the day you have to do what interests you and you can’t wait to see what everyone else is doing and if they will get there. Most times I did change my mind minutes before a session because someone would suggest something that sounded better than what I originally picked. That’s how I saw Seth McFarland with Mark Wahlberg talking about Ted Movie and Jeffrey Tambor’s Acting Workshop.
See #3 AND once a decision is made go for it with gusto.
Pack an umbrella and two raincoats (light and heavy), then do a rain dance.
If it hadn’t rained Thursday, Friday, Saturday and the morning of Sunday, I would have had a very hard time staying indoors absorbing all the great discussions, presentations and conversation. On Sunday I went outside the Convention Center for a quick bite to eat at a food truck; it was very hard to go back inside. The weather had turned from a rainy/windy 45 degrees to a sunny 75 in a matter of hours.
There is always a bright side, it just may take you longer to find it.
Call Wilson. Our cab driver.
Surround yourself with people who will answer the call.
The last thing is just a note of something very valuable for parents to remember and keep learning – let children fail. It was dimensionalized for me during two sessions about the principles of Gamification. This builds resiliency and drive to overcome obstacles. Don’t jump in to stop the error, don’t say “trust me because I have the experience” – unless it is dangerous. Let them learn and apply.