Conference Festival

I’m anxious. I don’t really get nervous, but this is close.

Tomorrow morning, I leave for South by Southwest, the Interactive, Music, and Film festival/conference. I’m volunteering at a booth (setup and take down) in exchange for an access badge to the trade show.

I’m not even officially attending. I’m not attending any of the official programs or presentations (that’s a different access badge). I won’t be in the room when Twitter blows up with people angry that the speaker isn’t prepared (yeah, that happened last year).

I’ve heard over and over again, “SXSW is really about what happens in the hallways between sessions.” I’m going to milk that (and the trade show) for all I can. I’m going to have my photographer look about me (camera, nametag, giant stack of business cards, etc.). I hope to make a lot of contacts with people in Austin as well as those who might need a photographer in Texas.

Still, even with my “in the wings” style for attending, I’m freaking out a little bit.

There will be 8,000+ people attending this event. That’s 8x (EIGHT!) the size of Texas Photography School. Most universities aren’t this big! The University of Miami was only 12,000 when I attended (it’s ~15,000 now). Can you imagine 8,000 trying to get into the same speaker/panel/party when the cap on some is 100?

I have two main concerns/fears:

  1. It will be so crowded that my personal bubble (which, as you all know, is quite large!) will be violated constantly. I’ll feel like the country kid in the big ol’ city bar and won’t be able to find the air I need to just breathe normally. (no, I’m not really claustrophobic, I’m just not a big fan of strangers touching me as they push past. I much prefer the gentle hand on the shoulder or back that says “It’s loud in here, so I can’t shout ‘EXCUSE ME!’ but I need to excuse myself past you to work through the crowd.”
  2. I’ll be so overwhelmed that I’ll retreat and then be the quiet person in the corner that no one talks to.

Now, in reality, I know that I’ll fall somewhere in the middle. I’ll be fine.

[Oh, crap. I just realized I don’t know where to park for tomorrow morning’s set up.]

I understand these rules of this event:

  • Go with the flow (your individual schedule will likely change a great deal every day).
  • approach people. Don’t ask what they do, ask them how they are enjoying SXSW.
  • Listen more than you talk.

I’m also completely—over, in fact—prepared with non-perishable food items that can be my meals and snacks. So, if the chance for free food or a meal out presents itself, I’ve left room in my budget for that. But, if I’m buried/involved and don’t want to leave, I have sustenance.

Except for parking and the unknown, I’m as prepared as I can get.

Wish me luck.

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