You can’t communicate your destination or your personality to others unless you know it in your bones.  “Fake it till you make it” works in some situations, but not this one.

Day One of the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) tech conference in Austin always starts with standing in line to check in/get badges/figure out what to do with the swag bag, then go to a few good panels and speakers before hitting the first round of parties.

What did I learn yesterday?

  1. Don’t let administrative procedures suck up valuable time. Check in as early as possible at any conference (and at SXSWi you can pre-upload a headshot photo for your badge and pre-organize your schedule on their Web site.)  You aren’t there to do admin. You’re there to learn and connect.  I checked in Thursday night and was done with it.
  2. Don’t be a schmuck with the “rock stars.” I saw two people grab ahold of Problogger Darren Rowse in the hallway and ask for video interviews for their own sites.  Darren is the nicest guy and he didn’t say No, but I thought it was rude and intrusive. They’re doing that so they can stick a Problogger interview on their site and look like they’re “plugged in” with the biggies. They clearly did not attend the panel on “How To Not Be A Douchebag at SXSW.”  Sure, shake hands and introduce yourself to your idol, but for heaven’s sake don’t put them to work on your personal douchebaggery projects.
  3. The only panel I went to was on Web design, and a fire alarm emptied the building before the speaker Matthew Smith from Squared Eye really got going.  What a disappointment for all of us!  My big takeaway before we had to evacuate:  your site must really reflect YOU.  To me that means your destination and the people who live there, and not enough Web design processes truly go to that depth of knowledge before they put together the first page of the site.  Matthew said that good design ensures that your site “gets stuff done and makes it a pleasure to do so.”
  4. No, you are not the only one who doesn’t know anybody.  At one of the evening parties, a woman I met said that “everyone here seems to know everybody.”  No, they probably don’t. They’re faking it.  Look, you’ll really only connect with about 3-5 new people in a giant human mixing bowl like SXSWi.  Glad-handing business card collectors are not the big deal that they think they are. Focus in on that one really interesting person at the party, if the conversation’s good. You do NOT have to “work the room.”

Okay, I’m off for the next set of adventures in geekdom….