(Based upon user experience and observations of a seasoned SXSW–er)
SXSW has long been a favorite event of mine. If you network correctly it can be beneficial to your career, your business and your friendships.
SXSW is a valuable resource if you use it correctly. Like all events you get out of it what you put into it. I view SXSW as a meeting place for all the people I converse with during the year online so it is like a summer camp for nerds, techies, online marketers and so on. Many don’t know me and many more know me personally when I leave. The odd uncomfortable feeling of meeting new people is alleviated by meeting them online first. A large personal brand and personal platform is hugely helpful. Being anti-social at a social conference is waste of time.
SXSW Plan of Action
Usually, I would entitle this plan of attack but that would be probably be too confrontational.
1. Set your goals:
Who do you want to meet? Who is someone you feel you should meet? Could you form a new business relationship with or start a personal friendship with? Do you know of a new technology or business concept that could help them and/or their business.
Make a list mental or other wise. Set up appointments outside of panels. Connect with your list on-site or at parties. Creating a synergy where you are memorable is quintessential to forming new friendships.
2. Networking Pointers:
What makes you memorable? I have four sentences that answer the repeatable question “what do you do?” My four descriptive sentences are summarize what I have passion for which I happen to to DO as well. For example, I have passion for social business, community building and all aspects of branding (personal and professional). I present about such topics around how to use social media to build your brand in a hand full of industries (strategy). I am publishing two books in the next couple months and am looking for feedback at that time. Blue Blazing Media (my company) implements everything from web design to mobile and everything in between.
Panels do hold a great value but simply didn‘t appease my needs so far this year. There are a select few panels that add some insight but the majority of them did not add much value. Of the ones I did attend I took some notes but my core conversations happened in the hall and in the lounges; primarily the blogger lounges. I feel the blogger lounges are an excellent location for individuals to meet others that are implementing and have the hands on insight to jump in and find solutions.
Find a couple prime locations on site to meet the people that you need to meet. These do not include social events at SXSW. Everyone is bushed by five pm. It is a long week anyway that you look at it. Social events are to relax and not discuss business unless it is a business dinner. So if you are toted around your bag ‘o’ business baggage and looking to interact and discuss it after five you are not someone I would spend much time with after five.
Align yourself with your goals for SXSW. Strategically time manage your efforts. Make your own introductions and opportunities. Here is a hint; share cabs with others. I’ve befriended some CEO’s just by sharing cabs and discussing there new technologies.
Use your social network to connect before the conference. Find out who is going. Research the parties and events before SXSW. Ping your contacts, announce in your newsletter what is going on, where you will be at SXSW, blog about who you want to meet and so on. There are plenty of groups members of SXSW maintains all year round so you can see whats going one long before you ever are on site.
Handing out business cards has always been up to personal preference. I don’t mind receiving business cards. I don’t have the greatest of memory and the cards help me remember who you are.
Just do it.
At the conference keep your technology items on your person and in your site at all times. Stuff walks away and it is your own fault if you leave it alone. This is a tech conference and it tech goodies are valuable here.
What are your objectives?