I have a confession. I lost my virginity last weekend.
My SXSW virginity, that is.
As someone who’s been looking forward to the SXSW insanity for three years now (last year I was hiking, and the year before I was just flat out poor), I went into the festivities with equal parts excitement and uncertain expectations. Is it a party? Is it an educational conference? Is it a networking event? Is it technological royal rumble?
I got my answer: yes.
And as part of my continuing series of sharing my technology conference virgin-smashing insights, I wanted to let you in on some of the secrets behind SXSW.
1) Technology Spring Break
Undoubtedly SXSW is chock-full of some truly groundbreaking, entertaining, and educational keynote addresses, panels, and presentations. That being said, many of those who flock to Austin never see any of them nor do they have any intention to do so. One of our Tech Cocktail #StartupLife interviewees referred to SXSW as “technology spring break.” For many, it’s a central meeting ground, an excuse to hang out with distant friends, and an opportunity to show their face at some of the must-attend parties. If talking shop happens to bleed into their night, so be it; but business is often secondary.
Unless you’re a techno-n00b, the true value of SXSW lives in hallways (and taverns). Bring extra business cards, a smile, and some coconut water.
2) When Life Gives You Lemons…
Free word association: Texas. What comes to mind? Guns, hot, Alamo, dry, guns, oil, and guns. Right? Wrong – well at least the dry part. This year, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were nothing shy of a monsoon. For a city that is said to have 300 days of sunlight, SXSWi 2012 sure caught an unlucky streak. Sure, rain can be frustrating when walking from points A to B, but when hosting an event where 25% of the venue’s capacity is outdoors, the frustration grows a bit more severe.
But no matter how torrential a downpour one faces, however, it can only rain on your parade if you allow it to. Instead of pouting about what wasn’t the Tech Cocktail #StartupLife Celebration, we instead focused our energy on “what do we have to do to make this party even more kick ass?” A celebrity cameo appearance and spontaneous talk by Steve Case, a tightly packed room full of startups closing deals, and an open bar have a way of shedding a little sunlight on a cloudy day.
Learning lesson: the conditions are outside of your control. The ultimate experience is not. It’ll take a lot more than a little precipitation to foil a celebration.
3) Bye Bye Battery
Remember “Jack” – the movie where Robin Williams’ character has a rare disorder that causes him to age at four times the normal human rate? That’s what SXSW is for your cell battery. Not only does this relatively small college city swell in population during this week long conference, its inhabitants are technology addicts, and therefore also data gluttons. Texts, phone calls, and mobile browsing turn data towers into a Los Angeles traffic jam. Add to this the host of new mobile apps that continually pull your GPS (i.e. Highlight), and your smart phone’s battery doesn’t stand a chance.
Pro-tip 1: Get a hybrid smartphone charger/case (e.g. Mophie Juice Pack Air Case)
Pro-tip 2: Bring a spare battery/batteries.
Pro-tip 3: Put your phone on airplane mode, in your pocket, and enjoy what’s happening around you!
4) Clear Your Post-SXSW Schedule
If you’re anything like team Tech Cocktail, you burn the candle at both ends. Work hard, play hard. Getting it for a day requires only a modest recovery period. Getting it for the better part of a week, however, will induce days of penalization. It’s a fact of life. Accept it, and move on with your day.
Upon returning to reality, your body will demand professional amounts of sleep. I left Austin on Monday. My full body hangover is ending just now as I type this sentence (officially between the “body” and “hangover”). For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Pro-tip 1: Avoid scheduling early calls and appointments for a few days after the conference, if possible. Tell your counterpoint that your mornings are booked and that the lunch hours are all that remains.
Pro-tip 2: Same goes for late night networking events. You are delaying your entry back into health.
Pro-tip 3: Disregard pro-tips 1 and 2 and rage the SXSW music conference.