It’s that time again! When thousands of techies will descend on Austin for SXSW, aka, Spring Break for Geeks and time for us to remind you that are some general rules of thumb for navigating South By – or any other huge conference that also happens to be an excuse for a drinkfest.
First, a few SXSW-specific points: For the uninitiated and we have no firm statistics to confirm this, Austin may well be the Stomach Pumping Capital of the World. Seriously. You’ll even notice ambulances posted at certain street corners at night, ready to service those who’ve over-imbibed, and that’s not SXSW: that’s just another night in Austin.
Beware the four-alarm chili. Even the three-alarm, in some cases. Tex-Mex isn’t your mamma’s Tex-Mex, trust us. Good rule of thumb: when you hear ‘three-alarm,’ think Category 5. It’s serious stuff.
Respect the locals. They live there: you’re just visiting and they’ve got to put up with you and thousands of others just like you. While it’s a good general rule of thumb, it’s especially important in Austin. Remember: in Texas, they’re packing. And it’s loaded. Sidebar: there’s a legal defense in the Lone Star State known as, ‘He needed killing,’ and if some of you plan on behaving the way we’ve seen you behave in various non-Texas venues, yup, justifiable homicide, all right.
Pace yourself. You don’t want to burn out on the first day. Or the first night.
Always be prepared to do your pitch. It’s South By. You never know whom you’re going to run into. Mark Suster once said that he started talking to a founder who happened to be walking next to him at the event and ended up funding the company. So be prepared – and make sure to keep an eye out for Mark Suster.
Don’t forget to tip your bartender – or wait staff – even if chances are you’ll never see that person again in this lifetime.
Don’t post to any form of social media when you’re drunk. Not to twitter, Instagram – whatever. Don’t do it. Trust us, that thought going through your brain at that moment is not as pithy as you might think, and as to that former colleague whom you just ran into and want to give a piece of your mind – and share with the world, while you’re at it – do not pass go, do not collect $200. Bad idea. And you (and/or your investors, and/or cofounder, and/or mother, and/or lawyer, and/or all of the above) will thank us in the morning.
Don’t just talk to investors: talk to potential clients, too. Potentially a better ROR, in the long run. Or maybe even the short run!
Try to talk to at least one person every day who doesn’t live in the same city as you, work in the same coworking space or frequent the same Starbucks as you. Never know what you might learn.
Nap if you need to. You need to be on top of your game, and you’d be amazed at what a little shut-eye can do for you. Winston Churchill used to nap every day. Of course, he also polished off a bottle of whiskey every day, too, but that’s not what we’re advocating or suggesting and face it: the man was under a lot of pressure.
If you spot an investor/potential client who passed on your startup, DO NOT go over and talk to them – at length – to see what he/she might have missed. You can say hello, but if he/she clearly does not want to pursue a conversation, move on. Quickly. There are plenty of other fish in the sea, and you’re in the middle of a veritable Pacific Ocean.
Be friendly. Be nice. Be gracious. Be sober, at least part of the time. Don’t forget to do your follow ups later. And above all, get home safely.
Onward and forward.