I've been going to SXSW Interactive since 2010. What can I say? It's my favorite conference / festival of the year. Since then, I've attended every year - as a fan, a speaker, and even a sponsor. It's an annual tradition I wouldn't miss.
Over the years I've witnessed great sessions that stuck with me. From Austin Kleon's "Show your Work" and ad-hoc fireside chats at the original Samsung Blogger Lounge - to presentations by people like Tom Konrad and Ev Williams - SXSW is unlike any other event. The Austin Convention Center offers a plethora of opportunities to hear from and meet great people who have mastered their craft.
First-timers often ask me how to plan their daytime schedule. Here's my advice: Don't worry about scheduling your whole day full of panels because there is so much going at any given time that you are most definitely going to miss something. SXSW is as much about knowing where to go and simply being open to all kinds of serendipitous moments. Put your FOMO aside and focus on enjoying everything you get to experience.
What you should do instead of cramming your calendar with potential sessions is the following: Make a short list of your top sessions of each day. Make it a goal to attend at least one or two sessions that you simply cannot miss. Some of the best moments at South By happen in the hallways and you're bound to hear about a panel you weren't planning on - so you'll feel better if you're not running around from panel to panel, stressed out of your mind.
Make a short list, keep your eyes open, take some vitamin C, drink a lot of water, and don't be afraid to say hi to strangers. The panels are not even half of the South By experience anyway, so just have a lot of fun!
To help you out, here's five (featured) sessions I'm planning to attend this year:
FRIDAY, MARCH 11
Google Self-Driving Car Project
Chris Urmson, Google
SATURDAY, MARCH 12
Tech Diversity: Why We're Still Talking About It
Tracy Chou, Pinterest
SUNDAY, MARCH 13
Android and Future Life
Hiroshi Ishiguru, Osaka University
MONDAY, MARCH 14
Alex Chung, Giphy
TUESDAY, MARCH 15
Stewart Butterfield in Conversation with Farhad Manjoo
Stewart Butterfield, Slack | Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times
I'm also speaking as a featured speaker this year. Pretty cool, right?
The title of my session is "Identity and the Chemistry of Experience" and it's happening on Sunday, March 13. Here's a Q&A with SXSW to get an idea of what to expect.
Hope to see you there!