The SxSW Survival Guide to Staying Home

SxSW is almost incomprehensible if you are not there in person. If you are there in person it’s also almost incomprehensible. For those who have not experienced it, here’s what it is about:

  • Great parties
  • Decent networking
  • A little bit of in-person learning
  • Lots of on-line sniping (like this?)
  • Lots of being the first to hear about X
  • Good opportunity for brands to bond with social media influencers and early adopters
  • Easy way to gain more Twitter followers

It’s a conference that is located in Austin, TX but actually happens online. Attendees are far more likely to Tweet, Facebook, group SMS each other than they are to network in person. A Twitter post about a single session can drive hundreds of attendees to jump from one convention hall to another, mid-presentation. For most people it’s a lot of fun, assuming you don’t have to share a hotel room with a co-worker, or actually get much real work done.

Reasons not to go:

  • You don’t like BBQ
  • Your hotel is out by the lake – give up, you are never going to get a cab
  • You don’t like live music

SWSW hallway at the Austin, TX convention center

I chose not to go this year. I had the opportunity to go, but  a  little under a dozen of my co-workers are there, so CMD is well represented.

If you chose to stay home or couldn’t make it for other reasons . . . here are my tips for managing SxSW from your desk:

  1. Avoid Twitter or filter out the SxSW  hashtags. Most of it is noise and the good stuff will bubble up in blogs and news articles.  So instead of following along in real-time, read the recaps.
  2. If there is a session you are really interested in,  check to see if it is live streamed. Officially there is no stream for most of the sessions, but the CMD  team brought equipment down to live stream the sessions hosted by CMD.
  3. When people ask why you aren’t there.  Don’t go down the route “it just isn’t cool anymore.” Instead respond with something like “Austin is surrounded by Texas . . . and I can’t go back to Texas.”  Then just walk away.
  4. If your coworkers didn’t bring a powerstrip with them to the conference,  Fed Ex them one. They will love you forever. Without one they’ll never find an empty outlet. Carrying around a power stirp to a tech conference is like bringing beer to an otherwise dry tailgate party. They’ll make lots of friends.

And so far the most interesting phenom out of this year’s conference isn’t a social media product, idea or even presentation. It’s an old-school bricks and mortars store placed in Austin specifically for the conference by a company that doesn’t employ much social media themselves. Well executed offline tactics,  create great online conversations.

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