For those who don’t know what South by Southwest (SXSW) is…it’s basically a conference and festival that lasts for over a week and a half. The conference presents panels, meetings, networking opportunities, parties and more for film, Interactive (technology, innovations), music and gaming (officially launched for 2017). As far as film and music goes, creators come from around the world to showcase their films/music to the industry folks who attend by the thousands every year. In a nutshell, the entire downtown, metropolitan area of Austin, TX is completely shut down–roads blocked off and a literal sea of people filling every inch of the street.
Since 2010 I have been going to SXSW’s music festival–and working as a roadie then later videographer for artist interviews. I could legitimately, probably write an entire book about my seven-year experience at the festival.
Unfortunately, 2017 will be the first time I will not be attending.
Now, with that said, you are probably wondering why I even attended this invite-only SXSW Community Meetup networking event. Even though I was not planning on going to SXSW, I pushed myself to go (after admittedly going back and forth about it literally an hour beforehand) because my networking skills are rather nonexistent–I think I suck at it. I’m awkward, I’m uneasy, I’m anxious and don’t know how to fend for myself in a room of people I don’t know. So you could say I was in this for selfish-ish reasons?
Case in point: I arrived. I signed in. I scanned the room and saw no one I could possibly interact with. Everyone was already in conversations with each other in their groups. People came in groups unlike me who went by herself. I was already feeling super anxious about the situation so I went straight for the free food and got myself the most delicious mini-sandwich wrap ever, along with a scrumptious soft, moist brownie with powdered white sugar sprinkled on top. This way, I had an excuse to sit by myself and not engage in conversation with other people while trying to eat.
But after the food was consumed…I did just sit there for a good 10 minutes looking around, again, trying to find an in into a conversation. Chances looked slim so I got up and went to get a water at the bar. I noticed that the event photographer was sort of isolated from the crowd, so I approached him, introduced myself and started asking questions about photography–I was genuinely curious about what camera he was using (Canon, by the way) and also wanted to break the ice for myself and warm up my networking skills.
I didn’t want to continue bothering him since he was working so I walked to another open space and began sipping on my water, standing alone, people watching.
Before too long, I made eye contact with someone and we both had that moment of realization like, “OH YES! I CAN TALK TO SOMEONE!” From there, things started flowing. I would start having a conversation with someone and then two other people approached us and we all started talking together. The group I was talking to were filmmakers so unfortunately I couldn’t offer any insight about that portion of the festival, however, it was truly inspiring to meet people who are busting their hump to create entertaining content. Their movies got picked up by Netflix, has distribution on Amazon Prime and more! It’s moments like these that remind me of why I came to LA: everyone you meet is a creative. Creative thinkers; ambitious, driven creators; it’s just utterly inspiring to meet those people.
The craziest story of the night is that an older gentleman struck up a conversation with me and, get this: he was a former intern at the magazine I work at. Back in the day, in the 80s, when he was in college, he worked under my current boss–our Senior Editor. That blew my mind. And the guy was very humbled to have worked at Music Connection. He said that the magazine was what got him first started in his career. Even further, as we continued to converse about our careers and current projects, we discovered we know the same people! He’s a talent manager as well as a consultant for digital media influencers and I’ve seen/met some of his clients. Small. World.
Though the night started out kind of awkward for me, ultimately I am SO glad I went. It’s always beneficial to push yourself out of your comfort zone, to go outside and meet new people. You never know who you’re going to talk to. In any career, making connections and getting your name and face out there is super important. Make a good impression and people will always remember you.