"I launched my company at SXSW in 1996 with a dream to be a publicist and a stack of orange business cards that I had stayed up all night perfecting at Kinkos the night before I arrived in Austin," writes Ariel Hyatt of CyberPR. "I remember seeing Joan Osborne and I also remember taking it very seriously because after all, it is a music conference. Amazing to think how much it has grown."
Here are some tips on how to successfully navigate through SXSW
1. Envision What You Want Before You Arrive
Austin is a wonderful city, and its distractions are many. Keep in mind that this is not a vacation – even though you will have a blast! – It’s a work-related learning experience. With a little planning and foresight, you can have a million-dollar conference.
My first bit of advice: Arrive prepared. Know who will be attending and create some goals before you get to Austin.
SXSW has a schedule builder that you can access by logging in with your SXSW account you can browse all of the official events and create your personal schedule here: https://www.sxsw.com/schedule/
2. Connect in Advance
Social Media can be really helpful at SXSW. Make sure to follow people you want to see and meet including brands and brand reps, bands, blogs, and individuals who are speaking.
Take the time to curate lists on Twitter so you are following the good stuff when you arrive and of course search those all-important hashtags.
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/SXSW
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/SXSWFestival
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/SXSW
TIP: If you don’t have an extra battery pack for your phone get one before you get there as it will suck to be trying to catch up with your people on a dead phone and your phone might just be what leads you to a magical moment!
3. Bring Business Cards
Yes, you should have a business card, and your card should not just have your name and number. It should have good information about who you are and what you or your band sounds like (your pitch), your social links, and your hometown. A photo of you and /or a logo is also highly recommended
4. Don’t Haul Swag
I don’t think I really have to say this but… don’t bring swag or freebies. People are overwhelmed with free stuff (which is everywhere) and standing on their feet all day and nobody wants extra stuff to drag around or take home. Get people’s business cards or connect with them in real time online and then when you return home send your music digitally through Soundcloud, Spotify or Bandcamp.
5. Get Social in Real Time
Of course, you are there to experience the music and the vibes. Creating a social media trail by photo albums on your Facebook & Instagram and tag people on Twitter won’t hurt. Try to come up with creative angles or themes as you go – fashion, BBQ, beers, unusual stage setups, band members that all have crazy color hair – make it creative.
6. Do Talk to Strangers
Don’t be scared to take risks and meet people. After all everyone came to SX to meet people and make contacts so walk right up and ask “So, what brings you here?” You’ll have a new bestie in no time.
7. Attend Sessions to Learn & Meet!
It’s tempting to blow the panels off and hit all of the day parties, but I encourage you to make an effort to sit in on at least one or two panels a day and there are endless topic choices.
SXSW has created new formats (as 4-5 people panels can be a drag) they now have Solo and Dual presentations which offer deep dives into targeted topics as well as intensive Workshops.
See the types of sessions being offered here: https://schedule.sxsw.com
Sit in the front so that you can meet the panelists after the session (as they will be swarmed at the end and you don’t want to stand in line to say hi).
TIP: If you have a question during the Q&A section of the panel stand up, say your name, and your band name and throw in a quick pitch BEFORE you ask! This helps the whole room to know who you are and connect with you.
8. Get Mentored – You Will Meet VIP’S
The best way to connect with important people in the music business is NOT actually hoping to bump into them randomly at the bar at a loud party (although magic can happen) – Make your OWN MAGIC and sign up to meet them. There are a mind-blowing amount of mentors this year including some of the smartest people I know in the business! Make sure that you have done your research, and have specific questions to ask them. Go here and book yourself!
9. Take Time To Follow Up!
If you got emails make sure to send thank you notes.
Make a game of following up with every single person that you met, add them to your socials, and practice good social media etiquette. If you are active on LinkedIn add them there too.
FINAL TIP: Never send your pitch or talk about business in the initial e-mail, be friendly and be helpful. If you do not follow up, your trip and hard work will have been a waste of your time. So, take the extra time before you go back to your crazy life!