Learn the Rules

All conferences are different. South by Southwest was described to me as: Spring Break for tech and social people. It’s overwhelming and easy to feel left out. If it’s your first time, take the time to watch and observe the game. Because that’s what it is: a game.

There are rules, some implied and others explicit (mostly, don’t be a jerk). Once you learn the rules, the game becomes easier to play, but here’s the catch the rules (according to those who have attended more than one SXSW) change every year, but once you learn the basics playing the higher levels is easier.

First, learn the logistics. This year’s SXSW was spread across 10 campuses, miles apart. If you weren’t lucky enough to be in a downtown hotel, add parking or taking the shuttle to the list of things to navigate. As Omar L. Gallaga of the Austin American Statesman points out in his Austin360.com blog, spreading out the campuses meant overcrowded panels in some places and near-empty sessions in others. Some lines were worth waiting in and others once you got in, many people wondered out loud why they waited for the session. Accept that ahead of time.

Second, realize you’re there to meet people, not just attend panels. Gallaga states, this year’s attendance at SXSW jumped nearly 36 percent over last year to 19.364. That’s a lot of people! It was easy to make friends and exchange business cards (another type of game play). Have your 30 second elevator speech ready and if you want to provide additional information that what your business card already has, write it on the back before you head to the convention center.

Third, be flexible. The more flexible you are, the more prepared you’ll be when the session you want to go to is full or when a stranger invites you to dinner. However, flexible does not mean unsafe. You have gut feelings for a reason, use them.

Fourth, pre-plan. Look over the conference schedule as soon as it comes out. Know which sessions are a must attend (either by your choosing or your boss’s choosing). Then when the times get attached, it will be easier to decide where to be when.

Fifth, accept the learning curve. If it takes you two days of a five-day conference to feel like you have a handle on what’s going on, then at least you figured it out. There’s a reason people return to conferences year after year, and not just SXSW. They understand what’s expected of them and what they can expect of the sessions, workshops, panels and other attendees.

Bonus: It helps even more to connect with someone who has attended the conference before. They can be a great resource for knowing hidden information, such as if you hate a session, feel free to walk out (not accepted at all conferences). Also, don’t get overwhelmed by the have-tos. Go do some sight-seeing. Visit a restaurant off the beaten path.

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Dating in the office

Image from: selfhelpmagazine.com

According to a recent survey, more than 60 percent of relationships begin in the office.

While this is not as frowned on as it was in the past, this is still a very fine line and not for the faint of heart. Because no matter who you are or what your job is, you will be the topic of office gossip. Your co-workers will speculate and evaluate the relationship and you and it will affect your work environment.

Even if you think you’ve kept it quiet, it’s not quiet. Don’t ever forget that.

If you’re one of the lucky ones and you and your relationship rise above the petty office gossip, you don’t let it affect your job and you end up happily ever after, that’s not the end.

Your co-workers will still evaluate and speculate every argument (real or imagined). The gossip doesn’t stop. If you don’t end happily ever after and break up, know you’ll have to see the person every day, your co-workers will take sides and everyone will feel awkward.

Some general tips if you choose to test these waters:

  • Never your boss. Period.
  • Never your boss’s boss. Ever.
  • Try to avoid dating someone in the same department.
  • Don’t pen love letters, arrange dates or break-up via the office e-mail.
  • Tell your supervisor. (When is up to you. But if you are planning a vacation together, tell your supervisor before you both put in for the same time off.)
  • Don’t date more than one person in the office. (This goes for at the same time and in general. More than one increases your chances of being labeled and exponentially increases the gossip and potential for problems.)
  • Don’t snoop through the other’s desk.
  • Don’t involve other co-workers.
  • Keep the relationship talk out of the office

Bottom line: be extra discrete, use common sense and be flexible.