Zombieland, 2009© Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc

Surviving SXSW Zombieland

Dan Machen, Director of Innovation at HeyHuman

For first-timers SXSW — Glastonbury for Geeks — is defined by FOMO.

‘What did you see?
What conference centre was that even in??
Where is that NARNIA??!!
My boss is going to KILL ME.

If you are not careful, SXSW can become like the movie Zombieland — focused on cardio, avoiding bathrooms and always chasing your next Twinkie, rather than enjoying the little things.

This is my 4th tour of SXSW and last year I was even lucky enough to speak there. The rules and recommendations I’d pass on to fresh new grunts are as follows…

The Rules

1.Embrace JOMO or the ‘Joy of Missing Out’. Some of the real gems lie way outside of the Keynotes in the Panelpicker sessions. You should also add in some common interest pieces outside of marketing like going to see JJ Abrams. Plus, see people who have differing views to inform both sides of your argument.

2. Plan it forward. It really helps you navigate if you know where you want to end up. Have a hypothesis to test going in. This year I’m looking at behavioural science and people-centric experience design. I’m going to choose sessions, featured speakers and keynotes to test my theories on this topic.

3. Choose a building and build on it. You can get many more sessions in if you’re not trying to shoe-leather it all over Austin. Unless a keynote is so newsworthy — like say the US President! turning up — stick with central Austin if you can. (The POTUS is coming by the way, that’s not BS.)

4. Carry a secondary weapon. A fully charged laptop and iPad should just about get you through a day. Use Evernote to capture notes and, if you can, write a daily blog to ‘defrag’. Running out of battery or failing to capture your thoughts as they mushroom cloud in your mind will make your head explode. Fact.

5. Don’t forget American power adapters — plural.

6. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. SXSW is as much about the party as the work. Get out on 6th Street. It’s awesome.

An appropriately blurry photograph of two SXSWers meeting dour film icon Bill Murray

Meet Bill Murray. Have a cold Tecate beer, eat dogs at Franks & get BBQ at Ironworks.

7. Don’t get so bombed as to fail your homework. This is the best tech and innovation conference in the world. While ‘Lageritas’ are cool they ain’t as cool as SXSW.

8. Remember Ferris Bueller — “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

The Recommendations

1.Iris Bohnet. A behavioral economist who also serves as the director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Women and Public Policy Program, Bohnet offers a new perspective on how to achieve gender equality and how to redesign the way we work, live, and learn as outlined in her book, What Works.

2.J.J. Abrams + Andrew Jarecki. The creative forces behind Star Wars (Abrams) and The Jinx (Jarecki) talk about robots, murderers, and the relevance of the human factor in digital communications. (part of the Future of Entertainment track at SXSW this year)

3.Biz Stone. Co-founder of Twitter, Medium and Jelly covers the evolution of search, networks and unlocking the value of combining humanity with technology.

4. Douglas Rushkoff. Author of forthcoming book Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus revealing how the digital economy enslaves us all, and how it can still set us free.

5. Kevin Kelly. Senior Maverick at Wired and author of The Inevitable, Kelly speaks on the twelve technological forces that will shape our future.

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