Planning a trip to SxSW this year? I just talked to my good friend Brian Wallace about his company’s upcoming trip. This will be NowSourcing’s seventh year there. Yes, seventh. That makes Brian one of the few old-school guys, not to mention an expert on how to get the most out of SxSW. (I’ve been once, by the way, and it is truly insane.)
“We get a return that’s 10 times what we invest in our trip to SxSW. We get Fortune 500 clients out of it. There’s no way we would skip it,” Brian told me. “But what’s really interesting is that no one tells you how to get the most out of SxSW. ‘Drinking water throughout the day and wearing comfortable shoes’ – you learned that in kindergarten.”
Here’s what they don’t teach you in kindergarten – or tell you before your plane touches down in Austin:
Train like you’re going to do a marathon
SxSW is an intense workout for your body and mind. You have to be in good physical condition, and you have to be mentally prepared. You will be walking A. LOT. And you will be “on” all day, every day.
Have a plan
Sure things will just happen, but if you don’t have a plan, what are you doing there? Look at who’s exhibiting at the trade show. Look at who’s presenting. Look up your friends and people from your city who are going and put together a meetup. Study the map of the venues and cities so you can set up meetings in a central location. Decide what parties and events to go to. And do all of this before you arrive.
Make a solid first impression
Brian hands out funny-looking business cards. People remember them and keep them for years. He just got a client who kept his card for three years.
Just as important, you have to have a short pitch that very clearly and quickly explains what you do. If you can’t quickly tell people what you do, you have a problem. What if you run into Mark Zuckerberg or J.J. Abrams?
Remember that everyone’s an influencer
Everyone at SxSW is an influencer. Treat everyone you meet well, because you never know how important or well-connected the people you meet might be. Have a real conversation with them, be nice, and be presentable.
Follow up after you get home
It’s amazing how few people follow up after they get home from SxSW. Ever hear about the Dunbar Principle? It states that the average person can only hold information on 120 people in their head. If you can’t download who you meet into a CRM, you just wasted that trip. Who are they, how did you meet them, and how do you plan on following up?
Don’t overdo it
You don’t have to go to every panel or every party. Do what you can handle so you can stay focused and sharp and get the most out of the experience.
Brian is obviously very passionate about how to make the most of your experience in SxSW. In fact, he’s been talking about it a lot recently on Blab. Check out his SxSW-focused interviews with Robert Scoble, blogger, author, and tech evangelist, and Scott Jordan, CEO of Scottevest. If you’re going to SxSW, look up NowSourcing on the tradeshow floor (booth assignments have not been made public as of this writing).
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