10 Ways To Maximize Your SXSW Experience

The SXSW Interactive Festival is an amazing experience that you won’t soon forget. The following are cues to maximize your on-the-ground resources and minimize the “could have, would have, should have!” Adventure is near the beginning of the dictionary, and that is where this story will start too. Let’s look at it from a sports perspective.

Pre-Game:

  • Prepare your game plan by downloading the official SXSW App for your mobile devices and peruse all scheduled offerings – both official and “un-official” events. Next, strategize which are “Must Attend,” “Maybe” and “Hey, I’m curious.” RSVP in advance for events, talks and parties if required. But remember, sometimes plans don’t pan out and opportunities that you hadn’t expected present themselves. Game-time decisions are for the bold, just do it!
  • Organize your roster of teammates, coaches and subs. Are you traveling with a group? Set up “group text” to build a community around you and maximize intel. Make a list (or several) of people/businesses whom you want to meet and pre-schedule face-to-face time if possible.  Take advantage of mentorship sessions offered by industry leaders and have your pitch and questions prepared. Follow Twitter handles and hashtags of folks and/or trends you’re interested in, you just might “street meet.”

  • The “Go-Bag” is  a must for organized players. In it, consider including: business cards, a Sharpie (permanent marker), and a Mophie self-charging cell phone case or mobile power station (you can bet the provided charging stations and outlets will have long lines). Always have at least 3 pens. You’ll lose one, you’ll let someone borrow another, and that will leave you with your one and only. A protein bar, —or a zip-lock bag full of almonds or other non-perishable protein foodstuffs— bottle of water and breath mints. Hand sanitzer — hopefully you’ll be shaking a lot of hands.
  • Rest and recovery. You won’t get much when you touch down to Austin so organize your sleep schedule to include less hours per night. Start tonight.

Game Day(s):

  • Comfortable trumps cute. But comfortable and dapper? You’re a winner, especially in the shoe department! Chuck Taylors are a go-to for many, just add an insole and you’ll be ready for action whether dressed up or down. Also, don’t forget your sweater or light jacket —the conference rooms are often air-conditioned.

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  • It’s been said that SXSW is the sum of serendipitous meetings. Compliment someone on their exquisitely tied Chucks, ask a friendly face what sessions they’re excited about, strike up conversations with strangers while waiting in line for lunch. There’s no danger there and it’s prime networking time. Remember, that’s just the point of Interactive and no one will find it awkward. Also, try to venture out on your own, you’ll meet friends as you go (plus yours will probably be late to scheduled meet-ups anyway) and you might encounter an awesome session or experience that you hadn’t intended. Snatch a flyer here or there too. If the company/party spent money on advertising, the promotion might just be worth it.

  • Get in the zone, live in the present and if you don’t like it —leave it. If there is an event that you’ve had your eager eye on, you had better get there early. Don’t be late. Don’t be on time. Be early. Remember what your grandma said, she was right! The lines may astound many first timers. Then once you’re in a session, engage. Avoid the habit of thinking about what’s next or what could be better that you’re missing. Finally, if you need to take a time out in the form of leaving midway through an unfulfilling session or a taking an unscheduled nap, just take that knee and don’t chastise yourself later.

  • Don’t get placed on Injured Reserve. Most likely you’ll be operating on little sleep, high salt, sugar and hops intake and suffering from “tech neck.” Do your body and brain a favor. Hydrate. Hydrate. And then hydrate some more. Try to get fresh air whenever possible, stand up, stretch and un-crane your neck at least once per hour. Also, try to walk to venues whenever possible. Often times lines for free rides and traffic will take longer anyhow.

  • Unsportsmanlike conduct can take you out of the game. Get familiar, but don’t get too familiar. The parties and after-hours festivities are memorable but if you go too hard you’ll miss the wealth of day-time opportunity. Don’t forget that the camera is always watching and now more than ever. Folks will take great pleasure in posting your lowest moments to social media and watching them go viral overnight. Be mindful that you represent the company you work for and/or your own personal brand. Have fun? Of course! But don’t do anything that can’t be undone.

Post Game:

  • Did you get the win? Not until you follow up post-conference. This means taking account of all that you saw and learned —review your notes and devise implementation strategies. But the human element will prove most important in your game stats accounting. Hopefully you collected business cards on which you wrote the date, time and place where you met the person, and a unique quip or conversation cue that will allow for a personalized email or tweet correspondence.

  • Plan for next year! It’s bigger + better every year. And you know this, MAN!

Get it in where you can fit it in! –Andia

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Days 3,4 and 5: SXSW CliffsNotes!

What a week! Before we get to the highlights, let’s get to the shout outs! Special thanks to one Donell Creech, master and commander! His vision for Blacks in Technology was a complete success and we are proud to have been a part of his team’s groundbreaking efforts. Thank you too Hugh Forrest, Director of the SXSW Interactive Festival. He wrote me a personal note before I made the journey to Austin and that just set things off! A lot of people spent a lot of time working collaboratively to create the remarkable South by Southwest experience, we thank you all.

Adventure is near the beginning of the dictionary, and that is where this story will start too.

Monique was an all-star on a panel about the provocative Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained that included academics, film and cultural critics, filmmakers and activists. The room was PACKED and the conversation at times animated. *Disclaimer: the discussion was far superior to the actual film. That is not just my opinion, it is [reel] fact.

My panel was inspired by real people making real-time decisions about their health and livelihoods. Have to give it to my shredded counterparts for flexing on the shared mic and inspiring my early morning “vacation workouts.” I contemplated doing hanging abs from Adonis’ biceps but that might have been awkward, so I refrained.

Steve Garfield framed the SXSW experience as the sum of serendipitous meetings. We agree Steve, we agree. How’s meeting one’s cousin, James, for the very first time for $1,000, Alex? Oh! Daily Double. And then, of course, there will always be that time in which you meet your neighbor from Harlem while awaiting your tropical protein smoothie at a local Austin cafe. Rushing cabs and then sharing them with Microsoft developers and social media managers and journalists and literal world changers. Or, Sara Reinertsen on Trinity Street at 4PM — we both serve as ambassadors for the Women’s Sports Foundation. She couldn’t talk long as she was preparing for her own presentation –The Bionic Athlete– and an early morning run. Commitment.

We danced with the lead designer of standout app foursquare but were too nervous to two-step our way over to NY Times columnist David Carr who was really feeling the beat. Go ‘head with your bad self Dave, I see you. Maybe, in the tradition of SXSW, we’ll meet him randomly in the street here in New York. Or maybe it’ll be in Newark, home of the “Social Media Mayor” Cory Booker who we were excited to street meet. Cory is tall. Tall man swag. And brilliant too. His presentation was rated “top talk” and we know why. We were there. Check it out here. Speaking of brilliance –two words: Mae Jemison. Here are another two: Interstellar Travel. That’s what she said. Her panel may have been our favorite as she’s  made history –first woman of color in space– and continues making it with plans for the 100 year Starship: Yes,  “Daring makes a difference.”

Standing in line for the bathroom and being recognized as the “fitness girl from Forbes” always proves entertaining. It is a little less awkward when in broad daylight waiting for a grilled cheese sandwich though. It was tasty especially with the unicorn grilled on top. You might hear of Austin food truck lore and I am here to tell you that Grits and Greens prepared by local farmer Hoover Alexander is the best in town. Delicious, nutritious.

We were on our feet a lot. But promise of learning how to really play poker from a professional caused me to sit. Enter Edwardo Jackson, son of the 206. That’s the Seattle, WA interchange for those unfamiliar with the Emerald City. We sat for photographer Robert Fogarty and the Dear World campaign. Actually, that’s not true. We stood again while he took our photos.

But then we ran when a Twitter friend told us that a clip from our movie was being shared by Hugh Hefner’s daughter Christie Hefner, Executive  Chairman of Canyon Ranch Enterprises, across town at another SXSW panel. Her panel, sponsored by the world’s largest PR firm Edelman, explored “the research and anecdotes of how digital content can transform health, change attitudes and behaviors and turn knowledge into action through compelling storytelling across mediums.” How’s that for social media and contagious content!

We were featured in Black Enterprise before the week was over

I started with thanks, I’ll end with thanks. To those people doing good things for their communities and the planet, thank you. Personal best high jump high fives to scholar, activist and athlete Terri Givens of Take Back the Trail; the good people of organic neighborhood market The Boxcar Grocer in Atlanta, Georgia; the peace bringing RootWork of Naya Jones; and to the dedicated and impactful curation of Ashara Ekundayo of HUB Oakland. To those leading inspired and inspiring lives, big side-to-side bear hugs for you.

We look forward to next year. Until then, get it in where you can fit it in! –Andia