Going to South by Southwest (SXSW)—the annual conference with the goal of helping creatives reach their goals—can be an incredible way to find new inspiration. But it can also be a bit overwhelming. With so many events packed into the 10-day festival across tech, film, music, education, and culture, it can be hard to know how to get the most out of your ticket. 

Here’s some guidance for tailoring your SXSW experience to fuel your creative fire.

Quick Links

  1. Get Inspired by Showcases and Panels
  2. Meet Fellow Creatives
  3. Follow the Lead of Your New Friends
  4. Explore Different Mediums
  5. Bring Your Sketchbook

5 Ways Creatives Can Get the Most out of SXSW

1. Get Inspired by Showcases and Panels

If you do nothing but go see the musicians performing, the films being shown, and the incredible speakers, you’ll leave SXSW with more inspiration than you know what to do with. There’s so much going on that you’ll want to take some time before the festival to build your ideal schedule (for official events, you can do this using the SXSW app). 

Accept the fact that you can’t choose everything, prioritize a few top choices each day, and have backup events saved in case an event reaches capacity before you can get in.

2. Meet Fellow Creatives

The performances, panels, and parties are great, but many people say the best part of SXSW is the people you meet. Of course, you could do this through the official meetup events: Some stand-out options for creatives include the design community, female filmmakers, creatives in music, and the general creatives meetup

But you can also strike up conversations with the people around you when you’re at events or waiting in line—many folks even say they meet interesting conference-goers on the flight down to Austin! Resist the temptation to browse your phone during downtime, and take the opportunity to get to know other people who are also excited about the future of creativity. 

3. Follow the Lead of Your New Friends

Once you start meeting folks, it’s not a bad idea to throw your schedule to the wind and be a little spontaneous. There’s a good chance you’ll learn about interesting unofficial events around town, panels others are passionate about that you would never have considered, and more opportunities to fill your schedule in exciting new ways, with interesting new people.

Best of all? Just the act of embracing spontaneity can increase your creativity and innovation. So by doing this, you’ll get a more interesting SXSW experience and improve your capacity to improvise and play in your creative practice.

4. Explore Different Mediums

With so much going on, it can be tempting to stay in your creative lane: You like music, so you only go to the concert showcases; you’re a filmmaker so you plan on sticking to the film track. But many creatives swear that the best way to develop your unique voice and create work unlike anyone else is to let yourself be inspired by creatives outside your medium. 

SXSW is a prime opportunity to test this theory. Artists of all kinds will be gathered, working across mediums or even in multiple mediums! Let yourself be curious, and you may be surprised how something completely new to you could influence your work.

5. Bring Your Sketchbook

You’re going to be soaking up so much during the course of the festival that there’s no way your brain can hold onto it all. Don’t let these creative ideas get lost! Make sure to bring your travel sketchbook, journal, iPad, or any other preferred method for jotting down ideas. 

Anytime you need to take a break from all that walking you’ll (inevitably) be doing, you can pull it out and scribble down all the things that have been inspiring you.

Keep the SXSW Inspiration Going

It’s normal to feel a bit of creativity withdrawal once you get home from SXSW, but you can keep the flow of inspiration coming all year long. Explore top Skillshare classes to learn from incredible artists in the comfort of your own home, sign up for a Chroma Course to surround yourself with other creatives, and keep pushing your practice until next March comes around.  


Check out more SXSW coverage on Skillshare.