It is SXSW time again. Time to get excited. Here is my guide to how to have an amazing event:
Forget the hype. Those that hate SXSW for the hype are like those that hate Disneyland for being “fake.” SXSW is the most talented group of creative people in the world gathering in a city for a few days to talk about business, trends and the future by not talking about business, trends and the future.
If you watch and listen you can see the future of the tech space. You can meet the people building it. You can hug the social media ninjas that will try to destroy it.
SXSW is, at the core, a time to meet the people that see what you see in tech and society.
First Hyde Rule of SXSW: Everyone has a Story. You can apply this to life, or you can apply this to just this conference, but everyone there will have something to learn from. I’ve landed $10k consulting gigs in line for a beer and gotten into intense debates about the value of local commerce at 4 AM that lead to millions of investment dollars to gardens in schools (true, odd story for sometime later). I’ve met lifelong friends while waiting for a drink. Be friendly to everyone.
Second Hyde Rule to SXSW: Sit the Fuck Down. You are going to be on your feet running from thing to thing. When you get to where you are going, sit down. Talk to people away from loud speakers. Take many moments out of your day to sit and talk about a subject that you care about with a group. Say you are going to a keynote, perhaps the Julie Uhrman & Josh Topolsky Keynote (I’m really looking forward to it). Get there 45 minutes early. Sit up front. Introduce yourself to everyone around you. You like The Verge, can afford SXSW and are excited enough to show up early? PERHAPS WE HAVE SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT. I hope Josh signs my ear.
Third Hyde Rule to SXSW: Find Lead Blockers. Take a long look at the amazingly presented schedule and find a few things that you have to go to. I hear this session is going to be moderately interesting for those that can read AND like travel. Take an hour and skim the sessions. Find things that make you go I BETTER GO TO THAT OR MY GRANDKIDS WILL HATE ME. Now that you have done that, throw it away. Those sessions, in my experience suck. You know too much about them already. Go to something unexpected. Something new. Something fresh to you. Something a person that you just met said they are going to. Follow them. Play some Mark, Sue. Let entropy be your guide and chance be your savior. Go to random stuff other people are excited about. Get excited about it too.
Fourth Hyde Rule to SXSW: Go to Lame Parties. Not to piss off every friend hosting a party at SXSW but they all kinda suck in this glorious way. You wait in line for an hour to get a free $3 beer and resort to networking by YELLING because the geniuses think that pumping Gangnam Style at concert levels will lead to people to get real close when they ignore each other while tweeting about the appropriate level of music at a party for geeks. That bar next to the party? Yeah, a lot of people are in there. The line for a drink is zero. Grab people fromt he line, yell, “this place is dead anyway” and grab a beer and breakfast taco.
Or go to rad parties with some of the world’s best music. That too.
Fifth Hyde Rule to SXSW: Wear Technical Footwear. You are going to walk 5-10 miles a day (at least I do). If you wear one of those overpriced pedometers by Nike you will score a few 8000 point days. Don’t be an idiot. Don’t bring your laptop. Don’t bring a bag. Don’t bring an SLR. Just bring yourself, and perhaps a wallet if you are feeling unskilled (I went five days of SXSW 2009 without spending $1).
Sixth Hyde Rule to SXSW: See A Film. Your SXSWi badge has a few films you can see. They generally are the more interesting / popular premires. Go to at least one. A nice break and time to take a breath and reflect on the experience you are having.
Seventh Hyde Rule to SXSW: Abandon All Tech. Your phone data will most likely not work, just plan on it. Put down your tech and look up at people.
Eighth Hyde Rule to SXSW: Skip the Marketing. The marketers are out in full force. Your job is to ignore them and find the makers. Skip the overly sponsored pitch-a-thons. They are a distraction to the real event.
The press will also be out looking for stories. “What is the killer app? What is the next Twitter?” If you meet one of these folks look them right in the eye and say “Andrew Hyde is the killer app” and walk away like a unicorn into a rainbow.
Ninth Hyde Rule to SXSW: Have Fun. Stay out late. Go for early morning runs. Wear a horse head at a party. Introduce yourself to a blogger you read. Get front row for your favorite band. Plan something big. Get inspired. Enjoy the passion for life that all these creators have. Bottle that up and make your work a little more focused and grand this next year.
See you there. Somewhere in Austin at least.