SXSW 2017

Welcome to Austin’s SXSW 2017. So much to do, so many people to meet, so much to learn! The first weekend is over but still so many business events, networking and parties to go.  Yes, it is a marathon, not a sprint.

Whether this is your first SXSW or if you’ve been showing up since 1987, the swirling array of events, after-parties, unscheduled meetups and must-sees can be overwhelming. And if you are bringing employees along, the week can be overwhelming AND expensive.


Allow me to share some tips to help you make the most of the rest of this week for you and your team. (Pssst. If you’re skipping SXSW this year, they work just as well at your next industry conference in Chicago or New York.)


  1. Protect your ROI

SXSW is fun and inspiring, with legendary festivities. Make sure you set clear expectations, so that your employees come back with business benefits, not just a hangover.

It is smart to discuss the party scene upfront. The parties are awesome, but getting tanked up does not represent your company professionally. Ask your crew to treat the parties as an awesome way to meet fantastic people in an informal setting. SXSW Social helps you all figure out who you could most benefit by networking with and find out where they are. Or better yet, set up a meeting beforehand or during lunch…prior to alcohol.

  1. Manage your time – and your employees’ – wisely

SXSW is famously frenetic with dozens of talks, meetups, shows and parties. As the boss, consider the best way to divide and conquer. Outline what you expect each employee to attend or accomplish and do not fail to follow up once you are all back at work.

Like any other assignment, think in terms of creating respect for managing one’s own projects and deliverables together with management’s support. It may make sense to plan a daily stand up (scrum) meeting at a specific time and place to make sure everyone is on track with assignments.

Once you are back at work, take time to debrief each participant about what they set out to do and their results.

  1. Wear your recruiting hat wisely

SXSW events and lounges are golden opportunities to meet and network with some of the brightest folks in their industries (also for free food and drinks, ahem). Making one-on-one connections with someone who may be a great future hire or resource is one of the most valuable aspects of SXSW.

It pays to be different so….

Don’t lead with treats, parties and booze because you’ll attract people who come to work every day looking for more treats. They may arrive on day one asking where the latte machine is and how much time they get to spend playing beer pong. Second big no no is guerrilla recruiting at other people’s great parties. Austin remains, in many ways, a small town. It takes about an hour-and-a-half to get a bad reputation.

Do make a plan. Figure out who you’re looking for and why. If you’re early stage, that might be a generalist who has skills in lots of different areas. Or you might be seeking someone with a specific skill-set.

Work the networks. Use SXSW Social to find who is planning to be here. Do your research and make a personal connection if you can. Use other social media to spread the word about what you are looking for and make it easy for them to find you.

Ultimately, what you are doing is important work. You’re not looking for the person who can drink you under the table, you’re looking for the person who can put you on the map. They’re not, actually, the same thing.

SXSW is a great place to make connections. It’s the time when people fall in love with Austin and are ready to make a job decision to move here. But it is a busy, crazy time and perhaps not the best place to clinch a deal. It is, however, a great opportunity to reach out and build a candidate list. Plan to follow up with sober conversations that lead to fruitful, productive hires.

Need help taking the next step with recruiting, interviews or staff development? We are here for you.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at or call (512) 420-8267.

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