10 Tips For Great Networking At SXSW Interactive

Is that time of the year again. Tens of thousands of people from the marketing, technology, and media worlds will be soon flocking into Austin for SXSW Interactive.

If you are a SXSW veteran, you are sure to relate to some of the tips below. If you are going to the conference for the first time this year, hopefully these will help:

1. Plan ahead

Make sure to schedule as many meetings as you can in the weeks prior to traveling to Austin, just don’t pack your schedule too tight and avoid scheduling any meetings before 11am. I did that a couple of times at my first SXSW, and believe me, nobody will be impressed and neither of you or them is likely to make it anyway. Also, keep in mind that everybody going is doing everything they can to leave things in order at the office before heading down, so don’t wait until the last minute. That said…

2. Play it by ear

It’s good to plan ahead as it will help you make sure you are in the radar of the people you want to meet in Austin. However, once you are there, there will be so many events going on at the same time that it will be hard to stick a very strict schedule, specially in the evenings. Chances are you will meet most of the people you wanted to meet, just probably not exactly as you had planned.

3. Make a Twitter list

A tool that has worked well for me in the past few years has been to put together a Twitter list with all the people I would like to meet at SXSW. Assuming the people you are following are active on Twitter, a list will allow you to see what they are up to when you have openings between meetings and events. If you are coming to Austin and think we should meet up, give me a shout and I’ll add you to my list!

4. Always be charging

How good is a Twitter list if your phone’s battery is dead? Fortunately you will find plenty of power outlets around the convention center and hotels hosting SXSW events, so opportunities to charge your phone will be plentiful. Just make sure you are charging your devices as frequently as possible. External batteries and power cases are extremely helpful, although I hope Samsung brings back their #PowerOn campaign this year and delivers fresh batteries to compulsive email checkers like yours truly.

5. Talk to everyone

The main reason I can’t afford to miss SXSW is that, no matter whether I am representing my employer or just myself like this year, I have always managed to meet new clients, business partners, employees, and *ahem* even employers. Remember that everybody around you in Austin are there for similar reasons as you, so no need to be shy. Who knows, maybe you’ll get invited to a private party or two.

6. Business cards

To make sure you follow up on all those conversations you will be having, bring plenty of business cards. This is not a native ad for Moo.com, but the cards I get from them get complimented regularly, so if you a new set, get your business cards from them. Besides, they are probably the only printer that can deliver your cards straight to SXSW, if you place your order by March 4th.

7. Bring comfortable shoes

You are going to walk a lot, and not just between sessions, which can be happening in different venues around downtown. Between street closures and the sheer amount of people that will be dropping in Austin for the conference it might be hard to get a cab or even an Uber without long waits and even longer rides. On the other hand, walking will make you feel less guilty about all the barbecue you will be tasting. While you are at it, also pack some layers, since Austin can get a bit chilly at night.

8. Street food

There will be no shortage of breakfast tacos and barbecue at every SXSW party, but save space for some street food! Austin has some of the best I had, and one I keep going back to every year are the kimchi fries from Chi’lantro are smothered in their secret sauce, cheese, and sriracha, and then topped with caramelized kimchi and Korean BBQ. You can find their schedule here.

9. Find a coffice

Shameless plug for Coffices, the search and rating engine for coffee shops that I started as a personal project and now has over 800 locations rated by real people in cities around the world, including a bunch in Austin. So, if you find yourself looking for a little peace and quiet to get some work done away from the crowds while sipping on great coffee, check it out the site or this foursquare list.

10. Don’t give in to FOMO

As I mentioned earlier, there are going to be LOTS of things going on at the same time, so if you are having a good time where you are, stay put. The bigger parties can be great, but they also mean long lines, a lot of waiting, and probably not the best conditions for networking anyway.

Have fun at SXSW, and feel free to add your own tips in the comments!

Oscar Trelles helps technology companies connect with potential advocates at brands and agencies. He is particularly interested in exploring the convergence of traditional retail and e-commerce, and working with businesses looking for solutions that deliver truly consumer-centric experiences. Follow him on Twitter @oscartrelles

Originally published at www.linkedin.com on February 17, 2015.

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