Here are seome tips on how to win at SXSW from an Austinite business owner and verteran of the conferences.
Don’t do it alone
You can go to SXSW by yourself, but I don’t recommend it. If you’re planning to cruise in and meet up with friends or people you kind of know from various places, you are fooling yourself. Why, you ask? Because you’ll spend your entire time texting people to “try and meet up.” People tend to operate in pods at SXSW, so you should find a pod to go with, too.
Try thinking of it this way: Would you go to a concert alone? As big as SXSW is, it’s lonely flying solo. Attending SXSW with friends or colleagues will help expand your network reach and therefore your access to different parties and fun experiences.
If you’re the choose-your-own-adventure type of person, please disregard this tip.
Everyone has something to contribute
Run your SXSW crew like a well-oiled machine. Assign something to every single person you have there, regardless of how senior they are. For example, put Johnny on extra battery detail, Jenny on hashtag party finding patrol (e.g. #secretwineparty), etc.
It’s an expensive and fairly decadent event, but nobody rides for free. Managers who come to the festival without the expectation of supporting their team are not going to have the results they expect.
If you’re a business trying to promote yourself, don’t. Just fill a need…
The impulse to be zany is strong for many folks at SXSW (and that goes double for San Franciscans). However, should you go the costume route… Know that people are going to make fun of your schtick and forget you immediately if your offering is just flash and razzmatazz.
Austin is an amazing city, but there are always many shortfalls when it comes to basics like Wi-Fi, transportation, and lodging. Just help people out with what they truly need and they’ll be far more open to your pitch. Heck, they may actually listen to it.
Everyone is there at SXSW to promote something on some level. Filling a real need that someone has ensures your introduction is going to be impactful.
Automate everything you can
Cancel all your calls and delegate what you can’t get done. Going to a huge show like SXSW that costs thousands doesn’t seem like a good time to be running your Salesforce reports.
Focus is a wonderful thing and if you dive deeply into the k-hole of SXSW, it could be your Burning Man. I’ve seen it happen. If you’re going to really commit to this thing, you’ll get more out of it.
Make your own challenges
Last year I created the pitchmyhouse.com contest at SXSW, because I was faced with a life challenge: What to do with my house. I realized instead of having a problem that I actually had an asset. I turned my problem around and wrangled it like a bull. As a result, I got to hang out with the crew from Funny or Die for a week. I had an amazing time.