Was it worth it for a self-employed career coach to go to SXSW Interactive? Hell yes! It was all that I hoped it would be — inspiring talks and people, endless learning, fun, sunshine and Austin.
Some of the highlights:
Staying close to where the action was. I was very lucky to have a friend who graciously let me stay with her. We got to hang out together and everything was within walking distance which saved me time and money.
Tip #1 — Pace yourself. For me that meant getting enough sleep and not trying to cram everything in. It’s impossible to see it all, so just do what you can.
Connecting with people — the best part was connecting with old friends and meeting new ones. Most of my encounters ended up being spontaneous either running in to someone or connecting via twitter or text.
Tip #2 — Stay flexible. People are running around between events. It sometimes works to meet and sometimes not. There’s always something else you can do. But, if you’re thinking about seeing someone, do it. It’s fun to swap tips and stories and just hang with your pals. In regards to the actual events I got shut out of a couple of big name speakers but it was fine. For the first one (Amber Case) I went to the overflow room and for the second (Al Gore and Sean Parker), I took a load off and made some calls. There’s always an alternative.
Tweeting on the move — I’ve never done this much and had set the intention to do it while here. It was fun. You can see who is at a specific event and if you’re there too, it’s sort of like having someone else’s notes to look at if you miss something. Next time there’s an event that I’d like to attend, but can’t, I’m going to pay more attention to the hashtags. If you can get past feeling like you’re missing the party, there are some golden nuggets in some people’s tweets.
Tip #3 — Only tweet if you can still concentrate on what you’re doing. If you get too distracted to really hear what’s being said, take notes and save the tweets for later. I had to stop a few times when I realized I needed to be more present.
The tradeshow was worth a spin. First, I like swag and I got some fun t-shirts + stickers. Secondly, it made me realize how much I like to talk to start-ups like this one called Artist Signal where musicians post a song + get voted on with the winner getting $25k to launch their career. Next year I will be sure to visit the Startup Village. Finally, the tradeshow gave me an idea for introverts who don’t like to network. See Tip #4.
Tip #4: Tradeshows or career fairs are great places to practice introducing yourself and giving your *spiel* (or elevator pitch). People want to talk, and they have limited time, so you can practice making an impact with fewer words. If you hate crowds, go to the tables with fewer people. They’ll appreciate it and it’s good practice for you.
Knowing I could return next year. I knew immediately that I would return to this event. That took the pressure off to get everything in this time. Before my trip i decided to not have any expectations and that helped a lot. I went with an open mind, did what I could and took notes for next time.
Tip #5 — Go with the flow, but be prepared with good shoes, layers of clothing, chargers and business cards.
I stepped out of my comfort zone and was rewarded with an excellent experience. It has me revved up for more events so I will keep you posted. I’m told the Unconference during Creative Week in NYC should be my next stop. Hopefully, I’ll see you there!