Where do I start? SXSW is an experience that all millennials should pursue in their lives. The business workshops, career development and networking are unlike any other! Have you ever heard the statistic that shares that there is typically a spider within five feet of anywhere that you are in the world? The same is for the distance of change makers and cool people at SXSW.
When I arrived, I was excited and even more overwhelmed... it takes a lot to have me feel overwhelmed. I remember going in, looking around and asking myself, where do I start? Where else can you see President Obama, Kerri Washington, Brene Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. and Guy Kawasaki. The fusion of tastemakers, researchers, up and comers and creators is similar to warm apple pie and ice cream(All the right flavors textures and temperatures combined) ! The difference this festival has from ANY other that I have been to is that everyone is prepared to have a good time while getting business done.
Where else will you find a group of entrepreneurially minded individuals in one place? I have not found a place yet. So let's explore the entrepreneurship mindset. It is the ability to approach situations as a problem solver and innovator. If you are looking for this kind of rare specimen, SXSW is the place to go. While everyone is not an entrepreneur, everyone present is looking to solve a problem or innovate. There is an energy that is shared when you have a large mash up of people from various professions coming together for one cause. The energy is indescribable and you'd need to attend in order to understand how addictive the energy is. Hence, the reason for so many people attending saying that they are SXSW veterans. The setup of the festival/conference is extremely unique. They have mastered creating a social,business and fun atmosphere to develop relationships and learn more about your industry. There are a variety of places that you can find others in your industry. There are workshops, panels, keynotes and sessions to pique your interest. My experience was bananas and want to share some advice that I realized after my time at SXSW.
Industry Thought Leaders are all in the same location:
Brene Brown, Guy Kawasaki, Gary Vaynerchuk, Gretchen Rubin, Jason Mayden all in the same place!?!? It's UNHEARD OF! If you are an entrepreneur, creative, marketer, technologist, human resource professional, young professional or unemployed this is the place to improve your current situation. You will be amongst like-minded forward moving professionals. The amount of energy that is shared at the festival is heightened due to the aforementioned. The benefit is that there are
The organizers are superheroes:
It is beyond me how a small group of people can manage over 35,000. Well, the team behind SXSW did it and it was amazing. Many would think that with over 35,000 people in one place that it would be chaos. Well, the organizers of SXSW have made it very accommodating for everyone. There is always a information booth within a short distance and a smiling face to help. I've been to conferences where they had 100 in attendance and chaos. How they seamlessly orchestrate this conference is unbeknownst to me, but it is amazing to witness.
Don't spend money on food or drinks
If you have a pass, you will have food and drinks for the week without spending a dime. So if you can afford a pass, I would HIGHLY recommend going when you factor an average of 100/day for food and entertainment, you save BIG TIME. I was there for three days and the likes of Lil Wayne, Common, Just Blaze and Quest Love were there to name a few.
Your ROI will be insane:
Some people may be saying, well it costs too much. The reality is, people who are on top got there by digging to the bottom of their pockets to invest in themselves. Millennials HAVE to follow suit and invest in their goals/dreams. As millennials we are often looked at as immature, too young of leadership and questioned. If you have developed yourself professionally, you will be able to angle it as a strength. Exposure to events and conferences like this will allow you to trump the competition. I've heard people say that they can solely go to SXSW and meet all the people they are looking to meet for the year. If tactical and strategic... I think it could happen!
Don't do push-ups on moving vehicles.
Ok, that may seem obvious, but I'll explain what I mean. While most people can do a push-up on the ground, it because difficult to balance your body weight and movement of a car at the same time. It is important to balance your time at SXSW. Being that there is so much to do, it is easy to become unbalanced in your approach and feel like you missed out. For me it was important to learn new information but also to network. Therefore, I had to balance my approach. In the beginning I focused solely on workshops and keynotes but realized that I'd met people, but not as many as I would have liked. Sessions give amazing advice and provide excellent content from subject matter experts. I've never been to a conference where you get so much and have it concentrated into such a short time.
On the networking side, my experience has shown that you are able to meet more people when you attend meet-ups and more social events. After everyone is through with their knowledge binge, they are ready to get loose AND connect. You will find venture capitalists,creatives, celebrities and startup founders in the same mixing pot having a great time and for the common goal of getting things done.
In conclusion, SXSW is an experience like none other and I would recommend to all millennials looking for an edge, career advancement, a good time and good people.