In just a few days, South by Southwest (SXSW) 2018 begins. The annual SXSW Conference has a reputation as a must-attend event for business leaders across industries, and rightfully so. From Twitter to Foursquare, slews of successful startups have launched from the SXSW stages. It’s a place where top culture makers and media mavens converge to share and discover groundbreaking ideas and stories.

Attracting more than 70,000 attendees last year, SXSW 2018 is poised to be a remarkable event. But with a conference this size, it can be overwhelming and easy to get lost in the mix. Whether you are joining the program as an attendee or as a speaker, following are a few tips to maximize your time, and ensure you’ll return home with the insights and connections to fuel your business and marketing throughout the year. 

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Maximize This Year’s South by Southwest Conference:

Plan With Purpose

It should go without saying that a little advance planning goes a long way toward making your experience a memorable and productive one. Fortunately, SXSW offers several tools and resources, including an online scheduler, to make your job even easier. The interactive program is chock-full of keynotes and featured sessions to inspire and get your creative juices flowing – like futurist Amy Webb’s session, where she’ll launch her 11th annual Tech Trends Report. With the conference’s tracked sessions, you can go a little deeper into areas or topics of interest; however, don’t pigeonhole yourself into one track. By perusing the full list of sessions you might come across some unexpected gems and opportunities to gain different perspectives. For example, the Code and Programming track might not immediately jump out as relevant to a marketer or communicator. Yet, a closer look reveals several sessions, including one on clean energy technology and another on overcoming racial bias in artificial intelligence, that aren’t only geared toward the expected audience of coders and programmers.

Socialize

SXSW is an ideal venue to connect directly with your key audiences and forge new business connections. Naturally, some of these meetings will happen in the sessions or conference halls. There are also many hosted spaces outside the Convention Center that offer their own experience and networking opportunities. For example, the Fast Company Grill (requires a registration) provides unique programming and opportunities to engage with Fast Company editors and other members of the creative community. The live connections established at SXSW are one-of-a-kind and can be  further strengthened online. SXSW has an active online community – as anyone who has a submitted a session through the conference’s PanelPicker has experienced. Check out the social media and marketing toolkit for tips and tools and start following influencers who will be speaking or attending.

Capture Content

The program promises a wealth of compelling stories and ideas. If you host a blog or column, write down interesting insights and statistics that can be translated into a piece following the show. These relevant nuggets can also be leveraged in follow-up posts and content later in the year to support your content marketing efforts. If you are speaking or participating in a panel discussion, check with the programing team to see if your session will be filmed. It’s always a good idea to have fresh video to show your speaking ability as you work to gain additional speaking opportunities in the future.

And if you are attending the show as a participant but have aspirations of speaking (if not for yourself, perhaps for your brand’s thought leaders), take note. What are the topics that are resonating with the audience? Where are people flocking to? What are the standing room only sessions? All these insights can be useful as you think about shaping a panel for consideration for the next year. Above all else: Don’t forget to have fun!

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Focusing on placing clients on top speaking platforms and developing relationships with conference planners, Stephanie leverages her insight into industry and business trends to secure high visibility engagements. Her work puts our clients face-to-face with the audiences who matter most, whether in the innovation, healthcare, higher education or mainstream business arenas. When Stephanie isn’t in the office you might find her running around town, training for her next road race or chasing after her toddler son.