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An Entrepreneur's Guide For SXSW 2013

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Guest post by Brenden Mulligan, tech entrepreneur and founder of Onesheet and ArtistData. Follow him @mulligan.

I just got back from SXSW 2012. Before going, I tried to come up with every excuse to skip it:

  • I had a lot of friends who weren’t going
  • I didn’t want to spend the money
  • I wanted to stay home and get work done
  • The weather was supposed to be shitty
  • I didn’t have a place to stay
  • blah blah blah

To be honest, I was being a little bitch about it. I was looking for excuses, but the real reason was that I was just lazy.

In the end, I decided to go. And after getting back, I thought I’d write a note to my 2013 self who’s thinking about whether or not to go.

Brenden, you are a moron if you don’t go. Seriously, if you want to skip it, get the hell out of my house. Now. Take your shit. You’re not welcome here anymore. Because you’re an idiot.

- Brenden

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s some useful advice for making the best out of 2013 while it’s fresh in my head from 2012:

  1. Book a hotel room right now. RIGHT NOW. DO IT.
    Don’t wait on this. Rooms wont magically appear like you thought they would in 2012. 
  2. Stay up twice as late, drink half as much.
    This was one of the best things I did in 2012. In 2011 I overindulged several nights and because of that felt like crap the next day and didn’t remember 100% of certain conversations I had the night before. This year, I made a concerted effort not drink very much but stay out as late as possible (didn’t go to bed before 4 any night). This led to a ton of serendipitous moments, conversations, and experiences that I have full recollection and appreciation of. That’s what SXSW is all about, and drowning those memories in too much booze kinda defeats the whole point for me.
  3. Don’t schedule anything before 2 PM.
    I held to this policy 2 out of the 3 days I was there. Because I was up late, I slept in late. And woke up feeling refreshed. I would meet up with people for lunch, but I didn’t have any specific obligations, which led to some nice lunches full of good conversation. 
  4. Schedule as little as possible.
    A lot of people wanted to schedule time to meet and chat, and I just kept giving them my cell number and saying to text me when they were out. Although there were some people who I missed, it made seeing people feel like random fun, instead of a scheduled obligation.
  5. Break the schedule rule by setting up a small dinner each night
    This year I didn’t do this, and it was a shame. The best part of SXSW is the random conversations you find yourself in, and although these sometimes happen at the big parties, I feel the best ones happen in smaller groups. Next year I want to skip the early parties and get together with small groups for dinner.
  6. Go for 3 nights.
    I’ve always gone to Austin for 4-5 nights. But I get drained from staying up late and stressed I’m not getting enough done. This year I went for 3 nights and it was perfect. Friday to Monday would be ideal, but Saturday to Tuesday is also solid.

I’m sure there will be more, so maybe I’ll keep this updated over time on my blog. But that’s what stands out as the best of 2012.