GroundFloor Media & CenterTable Blog

After five days of learning, walking, and eating our way through Austin, our time at SXSW has come to an end. It was Olivia’s first time attending the interactive conference and it felt very much like freshman year. On that theme, Carissa completed her junior year and had the opportunity to moderate a panel for our friends at Craig Hospital and Xbox. We’re ready for summer break, but in the meantime, here are some top takeaways for those considering SXSW in the future!

Top Five Lessons from Olivia, a SXSW Newbie

  1. Prepare Yourself for the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) – With hundreds of sessions packed into 10 days, it’s inevitable that during any given time slot, you’ll find yourself making a tough decision about which session you’d be the saddest to miss. Before arriving at SXSW I picked one session each day that I identified as my “deal breaker.” Knowing which sessions I didn’t want to miss helped immensely with planning around them.
  2. Be Prepared to Line Up – People warned me that there would be lines, but this was a whole new level of standing in line. From keynote speaker Brené Brown to sessions about anthropology, I almost always found myself in a line. If there is a session you’re dying to go to, I highly recommend arriving at least 30 minutes ahead of time to guarantee a seat.  
  3. SXSW is the Home of Spontaneity – With fun pop-up activations on every corner and hundreds of Instagramable moments, there’s so much to see at SXSW. Be flexible and open to whatever is happening in the moment. Like stopping to watch the bats, or joining a mediation with The Big Quiet and 2,000 of your newest friends. Anything could happen.
  4. Participate – Resist the urge to stare deeply into your phone during moments of waiting. Some of the best conversations occurred on escalators or while standing in line. Be present during sessions and leave your inbox closed. In Laura Gassner Otting’s session about success, she shared that the best career advice she received was – “You’re just not that important,” which is her reminder that it’s okay to take a break or be present. The world will not end. Give yourself space to absorb SXSW, instead of being digitally caught up in your to-dos.
  5. It’s a Marathon, Not a 5K – With most sessions taking place from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and just 30 minutes in between, there’s not a lot of time to grab a full meal during the day, so stock up on snacks ahead of time! I also logged more than 89,000 steps, so wear comfy shoes that will get you from building to building without making you wince.

Top Five Lessons from Carissa, a SXSW Veteran

  1. Get Outside Your Box – Whether you’re new to SXSW or a frequent flyer, attending sessions unrelated to your day-to-day duties is a must. Free of the expectation of practical takeaways, you’ll find yourself uncovering fresh themes and discovering current trends. Instead of plug-and-play ideas, you’ll return to work eager to share what you’ve learned and ready for creative conversations.
  2. Embrace the Joy of Missing Out (JOMO) – I arrived at SXSW with a head cold then, just as I felt better, I dropped my phone in a toilet. What a way to arrive in Austin! Take it from a SXSW veteran – no matter your circumstances, be gentle with yourself. You might feel pressure to go full steam all day every day, but the truth is that finding moments of quiet to reflect and regroup will make your experience just as valuable – perhaps even more so!
  3. Gear Up – SXSW is a true melting pot, and anything goes when it comes to gear and fashion. So, think about what tools would serve you best “on the go” and prepare accordingly. Personally, I’ve evolved from a fashionable tote and flats the first year to a backpack, rain boots and tennis shoes for my third time at SXSW. Next time, I’d add a battery pack, which newbie Olivia was smart enough to pack!
  4. Walk a Mile – We all know walking is good for us, but I’d argue it has increased value when you’re outside your daily routine. If you’re in a safe area (always ask the concierge or a local to be sure), get out and move around! It will help you get the lay of the land, burn off some extra restaurant calories, offer that precious time to reflect and regroup, and possibly lead you to some unexpected finds – like discovering Austin’s well known Hey Cupcake for a treat on the way back to the hotel!
  5. Take The Mic – It’s one thing to take in the sights and sounds of SXSW – but another thing all together to get behind the microphone. While GFM isn’t new to speaking at SXSW, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel for our client Craig Hospital this year. Sharing insights and engaging with other attendees in this way gave me a whole new appreciation for and a totally different perspective on the conference. I highly recommend applying to speak if you can!

Thank you for taking this SXSW journey with us! Up next: CenterTabler’s Clare Frey and Will Holden will be attending Social Media Marketing World. Follow their adventures on Twitter (@clarefrey and @will_c_holden) or Instagram (@MeetAtCT and @GroundFloorPR)!

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