Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

Advice for the SXSW-bound

Yup, I’m heading to Austin for SXSW Interactive again. I’ve been going since it was called SXSW Multimedia, before there was wifi, when we had to walk uphill both ways. Here are a few things I’ve learned the hard way.

Stuff to Bring

  • Wear comfy shoes. You’re gonna walk a lot. Unhappy feet make for unhappy campers.
  • Bring an umbrella and a lightweight waterproof jacket. It’s going to rain. And not just any rain. Texas rain. (One year Heather and I took shelter in a sudden downpour with Ze Frank. And if that sounds like the beginning of sad geek porno, well, yeah.)
  • Bring your acid reducer of choice (like Zantac). Austin is all about the Tex Mex and BBQ. And when you’re sick of Tex Mex and BBQ, there’s more Tex Mex and BBQ. If you’re not used to that, bring pills.
  • Bring business cards, but don’t be a douche about them. We all know how to use Google. We can find you later. Better to be genuinely memorable than contribute to the epidemic of pocket spam.
  • Bring a small camera and leave the big one at home. It’ll just weigh you down and make you feel like an even bigger dork.

Getting Personal

  • Feel awkward? So does everyone else. Remember, this is SXSW Interactive. There are no rock stars here. They show up next week.
  • If you want to meet people, write a question on your name badge. People always glance at your badge, even if they don’t mean to. If there’s a conversation starter there, it really helps break the ice. (I once wrote “What should I name my company?” on my badge. I got a ton of funny suggestions, and I’ve never had so many people ask me to pitch them.)
  • If you know a lot of people there, recognize that it’s impossible to see all of them or have a real conversation with any of them. Too many people, too little time. So just go with the flow. Don’t try and organize dinner with everyone. Grab who’s near and just go. Don’t feel left out if your friends split without you – you’ll find them later.
  • If you bump into someone you think you know, don’t guess their name, just introduce yourself and they’ll do the same. And if it’s me, and we’ve met before, let me just say this now: I apologize for not remembering your name. It’s not you, it’s me. (I once mistook Linda Stone for Sandy Stone. She was nice about it. I was mortified.)

Don’t Miss

And if you’re going, may I suggest a few things to attend?

Austin is an awesome town. Enjoy it. See you there!

Have you been to SXSW? Got any advice? Let’s hear it.

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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.