At SXSW, Let Go Of What You Know!

The Forrest Four-Cast: February 21, 2017

March in Austin serves as a great venue to catch up with old friends — people from across the United States and around the world who you have not seen since (perhaps) SXSW 2016. But if you are only spending time with people who you already know, then you are missing at least half the value — and half the fun — of this annual celebration of creative culture. Because if you want to maximize your SXSW experience, you should try to challenge yourself to let go of what you know.

Letting go of what you know can mean ditching your familiar acquaintances for at least a day. So (for instance) attend networking events that bring together people you haven’t connected with before — and don’t typically encounter in your regular routine. Browsing the 100+ Meet Ups in the online schedule will help you better understand the locations and times where you can expand your rolodex. From the “First Time to SXSW Meet Up” to “Professional Women of Color Meet Up,” these casual get-togethers provide an effective way to target new kinds of people who can open up new kinds of exciting opportunities for you. To be clear, the Meet Up title will help you to identify some of the people who will be present at this specific event — but you should feel free to attend whether or not this title fits your current professional / personal profile.

But embracing the new should extend beyond simply networking get-togethers. The same strategy is strongly encourage with regards to the 1000+ SXSW sessions that occur during the March 10–18 timeframe. So (for instance) if you are an agency person, then skip a day of Brands & Marketing panels and presentations in favor of Startup Village. Likewise, if your wheelhouse is policy, then take a break from the Government sessions to attend all the cool content at Intelligent Future. Encountering completely new ideas that fall outside of your traditional field of expertise is one of the most meaningful ways to exercise your brain — and to be inspired by the wisdom of the forward-thinking SXSW community.

Purchase a badge to enjoy all the networking, learning, discovery and serendipity of SXSW 2017. Know that we’ve improved lots of aspects of this year’s event — read this list before you finalize your transaction. Also, plenty of convenient lodging options are still available via the SXSW Housing Department. Finally, gain a better understanding of who else will be in Austin in March and start setting up meetings with fellow attendees by activating your account on SXSW Social.

Hugh Forrest tries to write four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts generally cover technology-related trends. When not attempting to wordsmith or meditating, he serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW in Austin.