How to speak at #SxSW and protips
Greetings from the San Francisco > Austin plane taking me to the South by Southwest event. I am seated next to Rohit Makharia, a corporate VC from GM investing in AI and self driving in the very back of the plane. Yeah, I got the middle seat. Networking has already started so it’s fun despite the crappy seat.
Are you going because it’s a big party?
There is a special recipe that makes it very unique and useful
-both major brands CMOs or digital officers and startups participate and mix. It makes it extremely interesting business wise and those two worlds aren’t generally together (I’m doing this at Leade.rs Paris too see our digital brands speakers on our event website).
-it takes over an entire city, non stop. It’s not only the exhibition hall. All the restaurants, clubs and streets turn into the event. You can do the entire event without a badge and not going to a single official session. Funny enough, SXSW has this in common with the World Economic Forum in Davos.
-there are thousands of events and sessions happening at once. They’re not all good and it can be overwhelming. FOMO (fear of missing out) is happening non stop as you are always wondering if there is a better event or party you should be at.
Any pro-tips for newbies?
-hang-out in the streets and terraces if it’s not raining, it’s the best networking
-always bring a rain coat, it rains often and can switch from ☀️ to ☔️ in minutes
-don’t plan too much. Collect all the events you are invited to and/or interested in on a single note and share with friends. “Feel” what’s happening. Stay in touch with friends on Messenger (Twitter used to be the source but now too noisy) and decide last minute when you know where the best parties are happening
-carry a big enough portable battery to keep your phone charged 8am to 2 am next day. Yes you will be as exhausted and dead as your phone.
Okay now seriously, how do I get to speak there too?
Yes. Don’t be that random attendee that just takes and doesn’t contribute. I started as an attendee and loved it the first year. I had only one question in mind “how do I contribute?”. I was organizing a small event at the time called LeWeb. There was a (very good) session gathering event organizers who wanted to learn from each other. Maybe 50 event organizers showed up. That’s not much on tens of thousands of people but it did not matter. It was a small roundtable but really helpful to all participants. I shared everything I learned that made LeWeb a success.
Okay 50 people session is 👍 but how do I get a really big session [like Gary Vee]?
No one can ever beat Gary Vee. Oh, wait, Obama did last year.
If you aren’t Gary Vee you need patience. Get to know the organizers. I got in touch with them. They saw what I was doing with LeWeb and invited me to be a speaker in a larger session featuring latest technology trends. Since that session I always helped them and they always gave me a role. They did because I helped them.
This year I entirely put together a session on Chatbots. It’s a hot topic in Silicon Valley and I have experience with it as we packed a whole Leade.rs event in San Francisco on that theme earlier. Phil Libin was instrumental to help me choose the best on chatbots.
Based on this event, SxSW trusted me entirely to invite the speakers and create fantastic content with some of the best speakers.
With my team we made sure we had gender parity and three amazing speakers. Stan Chudnovsky leads messenger and “M” the Facebook AI that answers any of your questions. Lili Cheng leads the whole chatbot platform at Microsoft and speaks for Microsoft’s Cortana, their AI. Yes, Microsoft is cool again.
We could not do this session without a startup. Eugenia Kudya who works on Luka, a chatbot that learns to become you and speak like you.
Good news, you can be immortal now. SxSW gave me a 1,000 seats official room. I am grateful for this. It should be great and it’s very smart to get help from curators to organize sessions. I am doing the same with Leade.rs and building a platform to make it easy.
We won’t be quite as big as SXSW at Leade.rs in Paris April 11–12 but we will have the key recipes. We will have top brands and corporates mixing with startups (see our digital and enterprise speakers on our event website). We will have many workshops happening at the same time so everyone can learn the best in the industry (see some of our first workshops on our website). Most important, we will have amazing networking and fun. Even a magician, Marco Tempest, that spoke at TED and got millions of views. He will do magic with drones at Leade.rs Paris. Trust me he’s incredible.
If you don’t have your ticket to Leade.rs Paris yet you can get an invite as you are reading this here. Don’t wait too much we should sell out pretty soon.
Keep rocking! Next: my report on my 2017 SxSW. Wish me luck,
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