How to get the most out of SXSW Interactive
So as you might already know Visuality this and next year is going to be present on many different conferences. SXSW, Techcrunch Disrupt SF, Gitex Dubai, DLD Tel Aviv and WebSummit --- you will see us there for sure. Such events always make people from our industry wonder what to actually do there. It is clear that everybody wants to advertise and sell, but is going from stand to stand and bore people with a standard sales talk a really good idea? Visuality participated in a lot of different conferences and meetups and we have some experience with that. So what you should really do to make the most out of the event you're going to? Read my article to get some advice.
tl;dr? There's an infographic at the end of the article. But hey, don't be lazy!
As a business developer, I do a lot of things. Planning the strategy for our company, coordinating marketing activities, getting feedback from the clients and asking them for Clutch reviews etc. But of course I do sell, it's one of my principal responsibilities. I pitch our company, negotiate the conditions of the contract, prepare product briefs and mockups etc. So you'd think that on SXSW or Slush I would run around the venue and molest people with my pitch. Well, I tried once and the outcome was underwhelming. As everybody wants to sell their product or service, after hearing out 20th sales rep in a row, people lose interest and even if normally there would be chemistry between you and him/her, they just don't give you a chance to glow.
My advice to you? Don't choke people with the information and pitches. Be natural, and show honest interest in other people and their products, and most importantly LEARN from them. Yup, conferences are the best place to learn about clients' needs and demand. Based on that, you can prepare an offer that would match clients' needs the best. Instead of selling your product or service - "sell yourself". Be friendly, find some things that you and your new contact have in common. Invite him/her for lunch, sightseeing or a beer. Make friends, not leads. Friends can convert into leads but if not, you will at least have a good time.
Knowledge is power
On conferences such as SXSW you will be able to participate in hundreds of lectures and discussion panels. Before the event browse through the agenda and prepare a list of the events you'd like to see. Ask your companions to do the same and decide who goes where. When you're already there listen carefully to learn about upcoming trends in your area of business. You will know what to expect from your future clients and you will have time to research and be ready for the challenges. Remember that you shouldn't only pick the events from your general area of expertise or interest. LGBT is not your thing? Maybe on a lecture about that, you will get inspired and come up with a great service or a solution for LGBT community. Be open-minded and read the messages between the lines.
Meetups and parties
The conference lasts a couple of hours and you won't have time to meet everybody and visit all the stands. For sure after the intensive day, you'd like to relax a little bit. Go to your hotel, take a shower, 15-minute power nap and go for a meetup, party or a pub-crawling event. Guess what? You will meet new people - most likely conference participants but in a different surrounding. They will be relaxed but still looking for some new contacts. If you like networking choose a networking party. You will share a cold one, exchange some business cards and gain new friends. We like to buy things from people we like, don't we? By no means I want you to be cynical and be fake. It's a party, have fun!
The city of Austin and every other big city that hosts tech conferences are full of interesting places to explore. Try to mix with the crowd, visit places locals love, eat food you won't be able to try at home. Take a cab or rent a car and visit some landmarks out of the downtown area. There is nothing better than to escape the "cosmopolitan" places and see some real world. Every big city is practically the same in the central districts --- malls, skyscrapers, fancy restaurants. Hey, don't get me wrong. I like big cities, I live in one, but it's always good to see some peripherical districts. If you get to know the city well, when you meet a client from that city in the future you will have some things to talk about. If somebody starts to tell me about my favorite burger bar in Warsaw I feel a connection with him right away!
Be present virtually
It may be trivial but people sometimes forget to document their business trips. Some think that if its business and not leisure so why bother. I say differently, do make tons of pictures and videos. If you don't have your company Instagram make sure you do have one before you leave for the next conference.
Check out ours: https://www.instagram.com/visuality.pl/
We have 2300 followers and potential clients among them too. Every marketing channel should contain information that you are at a conference. Don't forget about the tags! Always tag pictures with dedicated tags for the conference. Maybe somebody will notice you in his/her feed and would like to talk to you about business.
Come earlier and come back later
I recommend you coming 1--2 days before the fun begins and give yourself extra time after the conference is over. Especially coming earlier is a good idea as you will have time to get familiar with the city, transportation, adapt to the timezone if you come from a different one. Many people do so and you will have a chance to meet them before you get to business. Before the conference, you can also schedule some appointments with local companies that are interested in your services or product. During the conference, everybody is busy, tired and already have some plans so it might be tricky to meet for a coffee between the lectures and panels.
See you around?
We will have our own exhibition stand somewhere between hundreds of companies. We hope you will notice us! But if you are afraid that you are going to miss us, please write me an email at firstname.lastname@example.orgLet's hang out together! See you in Texas!