SXSW first-timer advice for 2018

Google Tiltbrush Painting SXSW


I’m a SXSW old-timer at this point. This will be my 11th year attending. I’ve spoken four times and am now on the SXSW Advisory Board. I directly credit this event, the people I’ve met there, and the things I’ve learned with impacting my career in significant ways.

But you have to put a lot in to get a lot out.

So in 2014 I curated this extensive First-timer SXSW advice from the Pros post. There are lots of good insights there from a host of friends who attend each year. Otherwise, my must-do’s for 2018 are below…

Greg’s advice for first-time SXSW attendees:

  • Seek out the smartest, weirdest, most disruptive topics and experiences you could not get back home. The curation of breakthrough content and thinkers at SXSW is amazing — take advantage.
  • Do not go to any sessions that are essentially case studies you could read about online. Instead, make a note for yourself to go read those when you get home.
  • Do not go to any sessions where you yourself could be on the panel. You’re already a subject matter expert. Go learn something new!
  • Do not to go any sessions with a movie, television or social media celebrity. In my experience the lines are huge, the content isn’t great, and there’s probably a niche session down the hall that you’ll get more value from.
  • If a session sucks, get up and walk out immediately. You picked the crappy session, but you don’t have to sit there for an hour being pissed. Literally look at the rooms next to your session, and I bet there’s something of value nearby.
  • Go to everything early, and expect to wait in line. Lines are real. If there’s one session you care a lot about, schedule your day around getting into it.
  • Bring battery backups for your devices. This seems obvious until you’re sitting nowhere near a power adapter and realize you’re on low battery mode.
  • Eat a big breakfast. Lunch breaks can be hit or miss, depending on the sessions you pick. A protein bar in your bag will help.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes. By the second day you’ll be glad you did.
  • Bring a jacket that can tolerate rain. Austin isn’t really built for downpours and many event venues are designed around patios or open air courtyards. Stay dry!
  • Network like crazy. Don’t hang out with your crew from back home. Meet and befriend creatives, innovators and disruptors. This is just as valuable as the content.
  • Eat a good dinner each night. Make dinner reservations in advance and invite strangers you meet during the day to hang out and share what they heard during the day. You can’t hit every session, but this gives you an exponential window into what you missed.
  • Spend a day when you get home processing, writing and sharing your takeaways (and formally connecting with the amazing people you met). That stack of business cards in the corner was all for naught if you don’t get those into LinkedIn!
  • Lastly, if you aren’t willing to put in the effort for an amazing experience, stay home next year and complain about it on social with everyone else. SXSW didn’t jump the shark. Lots of people just missed the point of putting in the work to get a lot out of it.

Want to hang out? Best way to hook up is text — 612-845-1020.

See you in Austin!