Six Things I Learned at my First SxSWi

That’s me second from the right with @JessBerlin, @MelissaRowley, @BrianSolis, @Pistachio, @Rabeidoh and the photobomber. ;) (cc) Kenneth Yeung – www.thelettertwo.com

Holy smokes I survived my very first SxSWi (interactive) and I must jot down my thoughts while they’re still fresh. You know, this old age stuff is making me very forgetful. FINE. I just have a bad memory. Anyway, moving on!

1. LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION
Whatever you do people, listen to me: you must MUST stay close to downtown. Austin is this tragic land where hailing a cab is nearly impossible. Heck, the cabs with their lights on don’t stop. And. AND it takes forever and a flippin’ day for a cab to come, even after you call them.

2. Make friends with cab drivers
I am not even kidding. The very first cab driver you have rapport with, make sure you tip well and use that one driver for your entire trip there. It will save you a lot of time.

3. Fogo de Chao is overpriced and mediocre
For those who have never been to Sx, you are probably reading this going wtf? But seriously, Fogo de Cao is one of the nicer establishments conveniently located downtown. There will be many dinners there (sit down dinners) that you will probably be invited to. It is not a casual restaurant for BBQ and it is also a chain. Before agreeing to dinner, I recommend evaluating worth. One meal there is about $400 with alcohol, tip and labor — as in your time spent. So think — especially about the company — before agreeing to a dinner there. Note: this doesn’t apply solely to Fogo — there are so many people, so many events going on simultaneously, the most valuable thing at Sx is time. ;)

4. Brunch and breakfasts
It is near impossible to meet people for happy hour, quick drinks and by late night everyone is so wasted, if you are looking to build meaningful relationships, breakfasts, brunch, coffee and or lunch is the best time to connect. I also recommend scheduling with three to five (max) of the people you want to meet before Sx.

5. Put one day aside to avoid your friends
On my third and last day in Austin, I purposely avoided every place my friends checked into on Foursquare to meet new people. It was the best thing I did. Don’t get me wrong, I met up with my friends late night to party but because I avoided the usual suspects during the day and into the early evening, I met and connected with: Jeff Jarvis, Leo Laporte, editors and journalists from LA Times, CNN and NY Times, and the VP of Social Media for National Geographic. Craziness.

6. No badge needed
In case you hadn’t noticed, I didn’t bring up panels, talks and or the actual convention. Unless Sx kicks their content game up, I will most likely go badgeless again next year (if I go.) Sx is all about networking and connecting with people in person. I don’t need to attend people’s panels since I already read their blogs. Plus, recorded sessions show up on YouTube, Vimeo, et al. :)

The very last and most important thing I learned at SxSW is how honored and humbled I am to be connected to so many phenomenal people. The people who move and shake the Internet are…my friends (!) and even lovelier in person than they are online. I am so fortunate to have met the people I have.

So that was seven things, but whatever.
SxSWi 2010 and all my friends: I LOVE YOU. And thank you, Austin for your hospitality!!

12 thoughts on “Six Things I Learned at my First SxSWi

  1. Glad you had fun at your first SxSWi! As a Brazilian, I have to say, Fogo is really nice and pretty authentic. It’s definitely expensive. It’s also the most expensive of it’s kind in Sao Paulo. At least it was last time I went back. It’s a great place, but you need to eat your worth there. Last I checked, it was about $62 per person for a lunch.

    1. Ya, it’s more about the time to sit down and actually dine. There are so many things going on at once, a three to four hour dinner is like a full day. Noted about your take on Fogo. I have one in my area :)

      John! I had no idea you were Brazilian!! That’s awesome!

  2. I agree regarding the panels. Those sucked! I really don’t think that SxSW is worth it unless the panels actually add value.
    Thanks for writing this – everyone should know that the panels aren’t worth it.

    1. I also heard the popular panels were so packed, people were spilling out of the rooms. Such a shame Sx didn’t think of accommodating. Thank you for the comment and I hope you got at least some sort of value out of your time at Sx! :)

  3. Thanks for sharing your observations. I was surprised at the cab challenges, though thankfully I stayed downtown so it didn’t prevent me from making it to the conference.
    I especially like your suggestion about brunches and lunches — with so many things going on at night, it’s a great way to get quality time with your top priority people, especially if you set ’em up ahead of time.

    1. This was my very first SxSW and from what I understand, this year’s was too big and spread out. The key thing about Sx, is solidifying relationships made online in person, so while you build rapport throughout the year via Twitter and blog comments, a quick coffee, breakfast/brunch is the best way to connect one on one. I hope you had a good time — I sure as heck did (though I don’t remember 1/4 — being the late nights when we were all obliterated. haha!)

      Thank you for the comment, Colleen!

  4. I will absolutely a. stay downtown next year (my hotel was 8 ridiculous miles away) and b. avoid friends one day to force myself to meet people.

    Immersing myself in random conversations and making meaningful connections just by talking to people I didn’t know was my weak point on my first sx…I have learned a lesson and will use it for next year!

  5. One day – when I am rich and have time to fly around the world to get there, I will go to SxSW. Of course, I won’t know anybody, so won’t have the social problems :)

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