It’s that time of year again when musicians, filmmakers, media and tech’s elite (plus 72,000 of their closest friends) all descend upon Austin for South by Southwest. Over the years, SXSW Interactive has become a networking mecca for technologists and innovators, a stage for startups to show their chops and a forum for big brands to create immersive brand experiences. With its growing popularity however comes the inherent challenge to stand out amongst the noise. With that in mind, we’ve come up with a few tips to help conference goers make as many connections possible while maneuvering their way through the crowd.
1. Get real face time
This is a no brainer. When a conference can gather this many like-minded people and companies in the same vicinity, take the opportunity to make an in-person encounter happen. If scheduling a meeting ahead of SXSW doesn’t pan out, consider attending that private dinner you got an invite to in order to make an impression and have some not-so-small talk. Parties are another alternative and oftentimes it’s even easier to build relationships in a social setting.
2. Go geo-loco
Leveraging location-based messaging apps can help in facilitating the networking opportunities you want. Apps like Topi, Swarm and Here On Biz are great ways to see who’s around and helps you find those you already have connections with. SXsocial is another great tool that can pre-identify fellow conference attendees.
3. Pick and choose
The Interactive portion of SXSW hosts more than 30,000 attendees and it will be overwhelming to decide if you want to see Sir Mix A Lot present or catch Logan Green’s keynote. It helps to have a plan of attack when it comes to the programming you can logistically attend. Be strategic and selective about how you narrow down a day’s itinerary. If the content isn’t at the right level (too broad or not in-depth enough), move on to the next session and don’t waste your time. Take into consideration speed-networking events for entrepreneurs, which are smaller sessions that facilitate discussions rather than lectures.
4. Camp out in one location
Consider meeting up at The Driskill hotel, a historic hotel in the heart of Austin where you can rub noses with visiting tech luminaries. It also serves as a great meeting point with colleagues for a drink in the lobby. By staying in one spot, you are bound to cross paths with more than just a few influencers and companies of interest.
5. Stay social
When in doubt, utilize your arsenal of social media platforms. This is the best way to get your real-time updates on exclusive events and last minute changes. Scan Twitter and Facebook feeds and event hashtag conversations to stay up to speed on the latest.
Most importantly, don’t forget to power up your devices and guard your badge with your life (replacements come at full ticket price). See you there!