It’s finally here – the most overwhelming month of your life: South By Southwest. Having fun at SXSW is the easy part; but maximizing your time from a business perspective is what it’s all about. You will be surrounded by tens of thousands of innovative business leaders, potential clients, collaborators and investors… woah. Here are 5 tips to help you not only survive… but THRIVE!
Connect before you arrive
Social media will be your best friend at SXSW (no surprise there). Use the SXSW website to network and make certain to follow any people or companies you might want to meet. Take the time to curate a list on Twitter so you are following the good stuff when you arrive, and of course search those all-important hashtags.
“It’s really helpful to check out Meetups and other online groups from home before you go. These are the kinds of things you have to plan to be members of, like a Facebook group. There’s one I just joined called New Yorkers at SXSW, and there’s also NYXSW.com. It already has several hundred people, with panels listed and good parties to go to.” – Jonathan Isaac, Global Head of Planning at LBi
SXSW is not your typical networking event. You never know where you’ll meet your next important connection, so don’t discount seemingly random interactions, like a discussion in a hallway, at an after-party, or even at a food truck.
There’s a temptation if you’ve never been before to book out your every step. I’d encourage folks to find the one or two things you’re really excited about—and leave everything else open. You don’t want to short-circuit new opportunities by overplanning on the front end.” – Josh Williams, CEO of Gowalla
Not only should you have a business card, but you should have a business card that is far better than everyone else’s. After meeting and exchanging information with tons of people, a business card will be the only tangible thing left to remember you by.
“You’ll meet a lot of people and you’ll collect a lot of business cards. Plan to have a system for how you’ll remember who was who and how you met them.” – Clark Dansby, Percolate Sales Team
Remember to follow up
The minute you get home, make some photo albums on social media and tag the people you met. This is a good way to engage on social media, while also reconnecting with prospective business partners.
Be sure to send follow up e-mails right away. If you neglect to do this, your trip and hard work will have been a waste of time. Never send your pitch or talk business in the initial e-mail. Be friendly, and remind them who you are.
As I stated before, this is the easy part. This is an opportunity to engage with thousands of people with similar interests to your own – not to mention, you will get to experience some of the best music and food in the nation. Take some time to cruise around and enjoy the food trucks!