One of the 5000+ events at the SXSWi (South by Southwest Interactive) tech conference in Austin, Texas is a series of Meet Ups so that people with similar interests have a chance to find one another in the 20,000+ person mob that is “South by.”
Today is the Travel Bloggers Meet Up, but it’s really for anyone interested in travel, so there will be an interesting gaggle of people showing up….last year the guy who writes the TSA Blog was there, along with the founder of Matador Travel Network and the lovely people from Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama (where I ended up going a few months later to teach a social media workshop, yet one more example of the business opportunities at SXSWi.)
I’m the Meet Up’s “official host” for the third year, but my job is to welcome everyone, then sit down, shut up and let them mingle.
It’s an honor and a thrill to get one whole hour with a bunch of other travel fanatics.
People will ask me my best advice for SXSWi, and I’ll tell them these things:
** The keynotes are usually pretty enlightening, so try to make it to them. They’re livestreamed as well.
** Pick one panel to attend that looks intimidating….you have no idea what they’re talking about and are convinced it will be “over your head.” That’s how you learn!
** Go through the schedule, tick everything that sounds good (yes, you’ll have 14 choices all for one 3:30 p.m. time slot) then about 30 minutes before a session, do a ruthless triage deciding which to attend, based on your location and mental state.
** Follow the #SXSWi hashtag on Twitter.
** Be prepared for complete mental overload by Sunday afternoon of the conference. Then realize that there are two more full days to go. Also, your feet will hurt.
** A huge pile of irrelevant business cards will never beat collecting one or two really great contacts each day of the event, then following up later with each of them.
** Eat BBQ, Tex-Mex and breakfast tacos till they come out of your ears. Check out this year’s new SouthBites food trailer gathering near the Convention Center. Have a drink in the bar at the iconic Driskill Hotel and toast the digital creative madness that is Austin in March.
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