I spent day one of SXSW settling in and I spent day two going completely in. I jumped into a friend’s car and prepared to take the conference head on with my laptop, iPad, iPhone, Samsung phone, voice recorder, Canon 5D, miniHD camera, and a prayer that nothing breaks or gets broken. I really did not want to fight anyone in Austin over a device malfunction altercation. I am from Detroit. I do not live that life.
My Saturday ended up being jammed packed full of Foursquare check-ins, sessions, random run-ins with my boss, and surprisingly awesome and rewarding connections. I ended up making connections and potential business deals in the back of cabs, BBQ’s, dinners, and hallway conversations while waiting in the Blacks In Tech/RAPP lounge at the BIT House. This conference, if you roll right and tight, can be very profitable. I take full advantage each time I am here; so far, SXSW 2013 has solidified three new projects that are in the bag for the coming year.
If you plan to venture out this way, think of several ways to make yourself stand out amongst the crowd. I ran into Ashton Kutcher at a secret wine party during the wee hours of Sunday morning and it made total sense to have my elevator pitch ready while I had his attention for 30 seconds.
I devised a list of items to consider when developing your branding plan / networking game during SXSW Interactive. It would be helpful to have these items in tow or uploaded to your smartphone device. The internet access, while free, tends to slow down across board due to the influx of people invading Austin.
1) Download both of these mobile applications: CardMunch for LinkedIn and Evernote Hello. Collecting business cards as you hop from bar to bar is just one part of the game when it comes to selling yourself or your brand to a complete stranger but more than likely, as the drinks start to flow, lessen your chance of that occurrence. CardMunch allows you to take photos of each card that automatically synchronizes to the person’s respective LinkedIn profile. Evernote Hello operates more like an online Rolodex and keeps card information stored on their cloud server.
2)Take advantage of start up sessions courtesy of the Startup Village and Startup America programs. Venture capitalists and business development specialist are on site to aid with showing and displaying the best ways to set up your start up pitch to the rest of the world. A start up does not have to be framed into something like an application for iPhone. Think of Curlbox, Around The Way (a mobile application that exclusively features black businesses within the United States), or an agency idea.
3) Party with a purpose! Stand out (dress fly), show your charming side, be very well versed in what you know, and sell yourself as a connector. I utilize this conference as a way to get my “Bevy Smith” on; her model for being a corporate connector and lifestyle influencer has definitely made an impact on how I approach and deal with diverse audience. Drink to socialize, not to have fun. Research the brands and agencies behind each event to determine your outcomes and goals.
4) Utilize the SXSW Sessions as a direct connection to your industry idol or favorite web personality. Take that leap, walk directly to the front of the panel when it is over, and introduce yourself. Make a connection on twitter by agreeing to follow each other as a way to stimulate future correspondence.
5) Pay attention to your favorite brands and be prepared to be surprised. There are many “Easter eggs” in place from respective sponsors and technology brands that will benefit the average SXSW attendee. Set up a plan to follow the tweets of these brands for information on how to gain special access to their events or complimentary products.
As your SXSW day of education and learning turns into night time party hopping, networking and 'key-keying' with executives from around world, do not ignore these tips. It is important to set yourself up for success given that this conference is not cheap to invest in fully on your own. If you happen to be sponsored by your employers or business, try to maximize the potential and be responsible for your self-image. Play the game to win and not just to be popular.