This year, we took our talents to the South by Southwest conference.
A breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies, SXSW Interactive has been one of the biggest conferences of its kind since 2007.
As a first-timer, I was overwhelmed, yet invigorated by the variety of content and events. Along with our executives AJ Gerritson and Tom Lee, we tirelessly combed through digital guides and enthusiastically connected with SXSW veterans to build a targeted programming strategy.
I was in for an unforgettable experience. Here are five of my most prominent takeaways:
We crafted our itinerary based on session and brand highlights and built a schedule knowing very well we could deviate if need be. However, the interval between sessions is only 15-30 minutes. Between the vast layout and oversaturation of attendees, it made getting to other venues in a timely matter impossible. Next year, we will factor in the importance and convenience of spending a full day at just one location.
2. SXSW App
This is the best networking tool we used. SXSocial is an innovative way to connect with attendees before, during, and after the conference. Attendees create a profile with links to their social media outlets and can browse all registered attendees by keyword, location, or industry. The best feature is that the app lets you star these contacts, which compiles them in a “favorite” section for future reference.
3. Word of Mouth
There are dedicated accounts on Instagram and Twitter to scoping lines, RSVPs, and capacity information. Do your research and find the trending hashtags. We skipped some of our top targeted events because of hot leads we came across during the day. Stay flexible and give yourself permission to eavesdrop.
4. Innovative Networking
Waiting in line is an integral part of the SXSW experience. Even if you did your homework and RSVP’ed to everything, you will wait in line. A really long one. Fight the urge to use this time to catch up on e-mails, and instead, make friends in line (and save your phone’s battery life!). Some of the best contacts we made started with casual commiseration about wait times. Remember: everyone is there to network. Use coffee lines, walking commutes, pedicabs – anything – to start up a conversation.
5. Pace Yourself
You are forewarned repeatedly: Drink water, take a break and bring sunscreen. It won’t be until you arrive in downtown Austin that you realize how non-stop SXSW is. Blink an eye and you miss an invitation or conversation about the next hot spot. Make sure to take the time each day to round up your mass of business cards, have some water and ground yourself.
*Bonus Tip: Work Hard, Play Hard
SXSW has been a fundamental part of Austin since its creation in 1987. The city has grown organically around the festival, establishing itself as a staple city for millennials in the multimedia fields.
We highly suggest you take time to revel in all that the city has to offer. The food is delectable, the bars are diverse, the music is advanced, and the people are wildly authentic. Austin’s culture is truly one of a kind.
It is safe to say, we will definitely be back for more. What tips do you have for making the most of SXSW?