Making the virtual a reality: a case for SXSW

Written by
Poke Studio

Our own Nick Farnhill has written the article below for Shots

Several days have now passed since the close of the SXSW tech fest and I’m still reflecting on many of the themes and ideas that surfaced during the week. Once the meat-induced torpor has subsided, the familiar debate around whether SXSW is worth the trip rears its head again.

For me, there is no debate. In fact, the real question to ask is: why wouldn’t you be there? Anyone with even a passing interest in how people now live their lives and how technology will influence their future should go and dive whole-heartedly in.

With 30,000 attendees descending on the Texas capital, the SXSW experience is often bewildering; whether you’re a veteran of the festival or a complete newbie. It’s a sprawling affair and everyone tackles the beast in a different way; some stick to the keynotes held in the cavernous exhibit halls whilst others will guide you to the smaller, intimate sessions and push you to explore subjects that take you beyond the norm.   

But it’s the sheer size of this juggernaut of an event that defines what it truly is: our industry’s best networking event. If you’re shy of striking up a chat or swapping a card, then I’d strongly advise you to gear up for stepping outside of your comfort zone. It’s easy to hide behind email and status updates. As members of the global digital fraternity, we often operate in a disparate and virtual manner. The chance for us all to converge in the real world is too great anopportunity to miss. Granted, this is not always an easy sell. Austin is a long way and your to-do list isn’t getting any shorter but as we all know: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So here are my tips for securing that direct flight in 2016.

Don’t rely on serendipity. Connecting during SXSW requires careful planning and prep. A simple place to start is understanding whom from your own network will be there. Reach out before you leave and get time in with people – a quick breakfast, lunch or end of day beer are always going to be good moments to hook up outside of the frenetic schedule.

Relive your college days. If you’re feeling brave, go a whole step further and suggest sharing a house for the week. Austin offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to beautifully designed, short-term rentals. Get on AirBnB pronto andbook something now. Invite those with whom you have a passing acquaintance and would really like to get to know better. Swapping notes and sharing the days experience with your new housemates is an amazing way to reflect on what you have learnt and sharpen your opinions. 

Speak to the stars. You can reach out to any number of the speakers and panellists taking part. It may be hard to battle through Biz Stone’s entourage but if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Invite them for a drink. The worst that can happen is they’ll say no. Imagine sharing a burger with Momofuku’s David Chang or quizzing Eric Ries over a beer. That would be the story to return home with. 

Take the stage. Submit your panel idea this summer for SXSW 2016 and instead make people want to meet you. 

With these tips in hand, I’d urge you to begin making your case now. SXSW is only a wasted opportunity if you fail to come back with a pocket full of business cards, a new work BFF and a renewed appetite to take on our ever-evolving industry.

PS: Another nice piece on the savory side of SXSW also by Nick here.