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.
It’s the holiday season, which means not necessarily the usual networking events: people are in a festive mood and companies, investors, meetups, et al are hosting holiday parties, yea, even in this post-Weinstein Age of Inappropriate Behavior. There are a few basic rules to keep in mind if you want to enjoy the season without fear of embarrassment, breach of etiquette or the need to retain counsel.
- Don’t overdo it on the open bar. You don’t want to do or say something stupid, and alcohol does have a tendency to lower one’s inhibitions. Tech is a small town. Chances are that these are people you will see again – or work with. Pace yourself or brace yourself.
- Don’t talk about work ad nauseam. It’s the holidays. Lighten up. If there’s someone there you’d been wanting to meet, introduce yourself – but don’t go into your elevator pitch. If you do manage to get as far as the exchange of contact information, drop him/her a note and offer to follow up after the holidays. Do not suggest coffee. In any correspondence. Ever.
- What happens in Vegas, doesn’t stay in Vegas anymore. It lives on social media forever.
- Be careful what you share on social media. No embarrassing shots. No dumb or inappropriate hashtags.
- Tip your bartenders. Always.
- Dress appropriately. You might want to dress up or dress down a bit, but don’t wear anything that will elicit unwanted or the wrong kind of attention. Ok, so there’s music and dancing, but you’re not in a club: it’s a work or networking environment in a more festive setting: the last thing you want to do is to have to face the music the next day.
- The Ugly Sweater Exception: ugly sweaters, for some reason, are celebrated this time of year. Note to self and as a general rule: there are certain sweaters that should be burned rather than burned into someone’s memory.
- Don’t skip the party. Holiday parties are different from the usual networking parties. You can network, but remember that this time of year, the emphasis is on social. Be social. But not too social.
- Don’t fall prey to FOMO. There are multiple parties on any given night – in New York, anyway – and they all start at roughly the same time. If you’re at a party that you’re enjoying, don’t worry about the next party and what you might be missing. You’ll meet whomever you’re meant to meet, wherever you happen to be. And there’s always next year. Or next week. Or tomorrow.
- To kiss or not to kiss. You do have to be careful these days, so – air kisses. Ok, so it may seem a bit disingenuous, but does remove the threat of potential lawsuits.
- Never do anything after the sun goes down that won’t stand up to the light of day.
- Thank the host. It takes time and effort to put an event together. Take a minute to say thank you. Especially if you’re someone’s plus one. Thank the host for including you.
Bonus! Study Fast Company’s video suggestions on What Not To Do At Your Company’s Holiday Party