You’ve got your tickets and accommodation sorted (six weeks to go), stuff like visas and printing with a strict deadline has been orders (five weeks), now with four weeks to go it’s time to sort out your own SXSW timetable.
Hold on a moment, I hear you digitally thinking, the timetables and schedules aren’t complete, and I thought SXSW Baby! always said go with the flow? That’s true, but even if you are floating around Austin like a leaf in the wind, it’s a nice idea to know what sort of shape you’d like the destination to be. Which is what this week’s get ready is all about.
In my summer break I went to Southby and I got…
Get a blank sheet of paper and grab your sharpie. Write down, in one sentence, your goal for attending South by Southwest, your mission statement, your reason for going. Is it to promote your start-up? …to learn about directing music videos? …to get noticed by the US music press? …to get your mojo back?
Everyone going to SXSW will have a different goal, do you know yours? In a single sentence, sum up how you want you Southby story to end.
Things to get
I’d also suggest you grab yourself a notebook. The hipsters in you can have a dedicated Moleskine book for SXSW, the smarter readers will go for some Field Notes, and no matter how many times I suggest it, the only Filofax at Interactive will be mine. Still, all the agents and promoters at Music will join me with the ring binders, so I’ll keep the powder dry. No matter what you use, keep this close to hand over the next few weeks.
Anyway, note machine in hand (with that mission statement printed in large friendly letters on the front page perhaps?) I’m going to suggest two sections. The first is things to get. Be it medication and pills (Tylenol, paracetamol, ibuprofen, etc), a new hands-free cable for your iPhone, a US to European plug adaptor, you’ll have moments when you remember there is something you want to bring to Austin. Always write it down.
By the time you get ready to leave, you know you’ll have everything you want and need.
People to see
SXSW is all about the moments of meeting people in a corridor, over barbecue, or in line for a secret gig by Stan Bush. Some of those will be happenstance, but others, where you ping someone in a Twitter conversation and say “we have to meet at SXSW!”, you can work on to make happen. In the whirlwind of the Convention Center, you’re not going to be able to remember all those notes, nudges, and status updates. You will miss someone. Again, write it down, and give yourself some targets and goals of people to meet outside of your big statement. It’s unlikely you’ll get the full set, but you’ll get far more than you miss. And what is SXSW if not the connections you can make.
Stuff to do
And finally, how are you going to answer the external question “where’s the party?” once March is here? If you’re me, I flip open my Filofax, and can rattle off to or three for most times of each evening. You can do the same. Whenever you see a link to a party or event, follow it, RSVP, and write it down. Same for your must-see sessions, bands, and films.
Yes, all three of these elements are the same idea – when you have a spark or idea about SXSW, if you can’t act on it at that very moment, then capture it so it’s not lost. A simple idea to improving your time in Austin, but one that’s incredibly powerful. Because when you get to SXSW and there’s no time to think, all you need to do is look at your secret weapon notebook for the next play.