I shared my perspective on why I attend SXSW earlier, as a response to those people in my network that decided not to make the trek out to Austin this year (for reasons other than more important work or personal commitments, which are always acceptable excuses).
If you did decide to make the trek out to Austin for SXSW this year, and provided you’re not an eight-time veteran like some people I know, here are some tried and true tips for maximizing your experience at SXSW this weekend (and beyond into Monday and Tuesday should you last that long):
- Attend at least one session each day on a topic you know nothing (or very little) about. For me, I’m interested in learning about the new wave of retail technologies that are going to change the way we shop offline. It’s not even closely related to the work I do everyday, but it might be in the near future.
- Introduce yourself to at least five people you’re standing in line with. You’ll be standing in line a lot at SXSW – make the best use of it. You’ll be surprised at the mutual interests, connections and ideas you discover through this act alone.
- Develop relationships with those new people that you meet and hit it off with. If you meet somebody you connect with, don’t let it die there. Reach back out and meet up for a coffee or free beverage. Go check out one of the many activations taking place around SXSW.
- Roam around aimlessly for an hour or so. You’ll stumble upon all kinds of interesting people and activations. Alternatively, just find a busy lounge in a hotel or the conference center and take a seat at a big table. Wait for people to come to you. Share your power cords, mints, gum or war stories about working in the industry.
- Don’t forget about social media. Use Twitter search to see what’s trending around #sxsw and the other hashtags bound to take off over the course of the next couple of days. Be curious about what people are talking about and go check it out. Download the new apps that launch at SXSW and see if they’re the next big thing. Even if you stopped using Foursquare (or Swarm), now would be the time to download the app again – you’ll find a lot of people using the app here. And be sure to update LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to let your fans and followers know you’re here.
- Check out new technologies. Every marketing technology vendor is camped out somewhere around SXSW. Swing by their events and hospitality lounges and check out their stuff. There are a lot of new platforms and tools out there to help you do your job. Bring back some of that fresh insight to the office – you’ll save countless hours you would have spent doing one-on-one demos later on (and screening calls from salespeople). You might even get a cool t-shirt or two in the process.
- Be on the lookout for famous people. SXSW has tons of famous people – whether tech celebrities or actual celebrities – roaming around and seeing what’s new. If you’re into that sort of thing, you might get that #selfie you can brag about to all your friends on the plane ride home.
- Okay, if you must – hit up a party or two. There is no shortage of parties at SXSW – and let’s face it, you’ve worked so hard hustling all day long at SXSW (and in your day job the past year), you might as well blow off a little steam with some cool people while you’re at it. Eventbrite is a great option for finding events you might want to attend (and more importantly, for RSVP’ing). For any event, get there early – the lines are always long (but remember point #2 above).
If I were to add a tip #9, it would be to reach out and say ‘hello’ to me. Beyond blogging about PR and journalism topics, I also run the social media and content marketing practice for digital marketing agency Definition 6. Reach out and introduce yourself and let’s connect while we’re both here. I look forward to meeting you.