*This article was published on March 17, 2013, on my old blog*
1. Schedule some appointments in advance. Figure out who is going to be where, when, and if there are people you really want to talk to, hit them up on Twitter, Linkedin, anything. Just go for it.
2. If you haven’t planned anything (like I did): serendipity and hustling go a long way.
Let the flow of SXSW guide you and grab opportunities that arise without thinking. If you meet someone interesting, immediately get their contact, set up a time for an interview or if they have a VIP schedule, do it on the spot. On the same day I got to meet 3 CEOs whose companies I was really interested in, and who I never thought I would meet so easily. It’s SXSW baby!
3. Get the story first. While it’s tempting to approach everybody for an interview because you will meet so many fascinating people, think of your angle, what story you can get out of this because the content will accumulate, and if you don’t have something interesting to say it will just be more work on top of everything else.
4. Do go to some panels, but not too many. Most of the best encounters I had happened on the sidewalk or at a party when I wasn’t in the convention center. However, I attended a few panels carefully handpicked, and they do bring more content, value and context to your stories.
5. Try to keep up with the pace and put some content up almost immediately. Things will accumulate and if you have hours of footage or recorded audio when you go home it will seem impossible to get it all done, plus SXSW is time-sensitive (like anything these days obviously). Try to take a couple of hours each day to review your content and publish what you can. At least during the last two days.
6. If you do video or radio, get help. You will need someone to help you shoot, edit, and more. I sent an email to the UFA (University Filmmakers Alliance of University of Texas), and got an amazing student involved, who worked really hard with me to make great videos (hit him up: Jesse Salazar!)
7. Always follow up and go to the mountain yourself. People are super busy at SXSW and when they have a full schedule, they want the rest of their time to be carefree and not decide in advance where they will be or what they will be doing. So don’t hesitate to follow these people if you know they’re giving a panel the next day, just go up to them after the talk. Send an email or text if you get their card and explain you can meet them anywhere, wherever they will be. Don’t let them forget you!
8. Don’t overthink it. So many things happen all the time at SXSW, if you didn’t get a good interview today, or didn’t have time to write a story, tomorrow will be much better and much different.
9. Always back up your stuff, even if you feel like you have no time because there are a million things going on right now. Back up your video and audio immediately, check your audio as soon as the interview is over in case you had a problem, watch your footage the night of, store everything, make sure you have a clapper or a way to synch the sound to your video (a problem I encountered ).
10. Did we mention serendipity? Because that is the key to everything. Have fun, follow your guts, let the flow of it all guide you, SXSW is all about random encounters and unexpected surprises. Enjoy!