Attending industry conferences like the upcoming South by Southwest is a great way to network and build your brand, but plenty of planning has to take place before the show even begins if you want to ensure success. If you’re not prepared, the 10-day conference celebrating the interactive, tech, film and music industries can be a pretty overwhelming experience.
If you’re headed to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest, or SXSW as it’s fondly referred to, here are some tips from journalists and industry professionals who have been there and know how to best navigate the conference, including where to find the top panels and networking opportunities.
“I use the SXSW app and plan out each day trying to focus on the topics I'm interested in. Inevitably, I get to about half of them and get sidetracked with exhibits and offsite events that hadn't been on my radar. The app is the most important tool you'll have -- study it before you go and map out the sessions you want to attend.” -Robin Raskin, Founder of Living in Digital Times
“Last year was my 7th consecutive visit to Austin for SXSW, so, I’ve got my personal approach down pat by now:
“With hundreds, if not thousands, of panels scheduled over the entire SXSW, in different venues and locations, it’s important to have a plan. Check out the SXSW schedule and remember you can sort the list according to venue or topic.” -Rob Pegoraro, freelance tech journalist for Yahoo Finance, USA Today, the Wirecutter, and others.
“The keynotes are the most popular – they’re in the biggest rooms, but they also reach capacity quickly. If you want to attend a keynote, make sure you are in line at least 45 minutes ahead of time. Otherwise, you may end up missing it or sitting in an overflow room watching the keynote on the big screen.” -Chaim Haas
"It is physically impossible for you to attend everything you've RSVPed to. When you arrive in Austin, be prepared to be flexible with your schedule and be willing to give up things that sound great for something that promises to be even better!" -Chaim Haas
"Expect to get derailed. There’s too much stuff going on and too many people to run into, so it becomes difficult to stick to any set schedule. What I usually do is flag a few panels and talks that rate especially high, then let the rest of the day develop around them. What often then happens is that my panel attendance becomes a function of what building I’m in—especially if one of those panels takes me away from the convention center." -Rob Pegoraro
Below are a few networking recommendations from Chaim Haas:
“I have become an Evernote zealot thanks to its business-card scanning feature, which not only captures that contact info in a searchable medium but cross-references it with LinkedIn profiles. Here’s the review of that feature I wrote for VentureBeat.” -Rob Pegoraro
“I’ve seen people at SXSW wear everything from business suits to shorts and t-shirts. It all depends on what kind of personal or professional impression you’re looking to make. Just in case, bring sunscreen, shorts/bathing suits (yes, there are pool parties during the day time), footwear you can wear in the rain (when it rains, the streets can get muddy), a poncho (not an umbrella).” -Chaim Haas
“The two electronic essentials I always bring: a battery pack for my phone and a travel power strip.” -Rob Pegoraro