Here's our two cents in marketing. Of course,
we write it in the hope that you'll find it more
valuable than that. Like 10 or even 20 dollars'
worth of good advice.
West Cary Group sent Blair Keeley, WCG Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, to SXSW earlier this month to soak up the latest in digital, social and interactive tech. The following is a March 8 blog originally posted on Blair's personal website about how he made sure his time in Austin was time well spent.
So that was the bumpiest takeoff I’ve had in a few years…
Just now leaving Richmond, VA for the friendly and picturesque landscapes of Austin, Texas. That’s right – it’s SXSW time! Finally, the opportunity to watch, listen to and hang around with some of the worlds smartest digital/interactive/social media minds…and eat Texas BBQ (still debating on what is best).
I’m attending the conference with one of West Cary Group’s great Creative Directors, Alexis Gayle. When we were preparing, we had the chance to scroll through all of the events, speakers, panels, sessions and venues. It looks like a lot of fun, but – good golly – there must be a thousand presenters with 500 different programs. Kind of intimidating for a rookie SXSW attendee.
We looked at each other and wondered, “How do we do this?” It’s almost like there’s too much. Well, not almost. There IS too much! And that is a good thing. Something for everyone. So…how do you decide what to hit? What will bring the most bang for your buck … especially if you’re focused in one discipline? Here are a few ways to narrow the field and focus on what matters to you at a big conference like this one.
1. Define Your Goal. Do you have a clear-cut objective for the conference? What do you plan to accomplish? Is it networking with like-minded peers? Gathering new tech ideas? Learning about a new field you’re interested in?
Seems pretty rudimentary, but you’d be shocked how many conference attendees will not lay out any plans for the time they’re there. I decided weeks ago this was a big networking opportunity and I want to learn more about the bleeding edge of social media. What that did for me was cut out about 300 programs that will not matter to me in the end. Whew! Onward…
2. Hit the Keynotes. Just about every conference will have one or more keynote speakers. If you can, see them! You paid for them! However, as you go through your day, you should write a personal list of desired speakers or programs that help you achieve your goals. Again, simple, but few people do it.
Since I want to learn more about what’s happening in social, I’ve created a list of speakers and presenters I want to see who are specifically at the leading edge of the industry. And I want the venue to be small enough where I might be able to ask a question or two. Now my list of programs is down to about 50. Still big, but more manageable over five days.
3. Chat It Up. If you can, try not to rush from event to event, hour after hour. You’ll certainly get a lot of sessions in, but I’ve found that sticking around for a few minutes after a session might give you the chance to have a one-on-one with the presenter. That’s where REAL networking can begin. Exchange biz cards, set up further conversations… Who knows? Maybe grab a drink at day’s end (in the most professional sense, of course).
It’s not always a successful strategy, but in my experience, it’s the best way to start dialogues meaningful to your goals. Even if you don’t speak with the presenter, other like-minded people may be in the room trying to do the same thing. Chat it up with them!
4. Branch Out. One last thing… Time permitting, of course. Branch out a bit. Try a session or a speaker that is your “wild card.” Find something of personal interest outside of your goal that may enlighten you in another area.
I’m a bit of a film buff, and SXSW has a film component to it. I’ve planned to attend one or two evening screenings just to mix it up and experience something new. Who knows? You might stumble onto something really meaningful you didn’t expect.
That’s it for now. This flight is so bumpy, I can’t type anymore. Enjoy YOUR conference, and I’ll be blogging about this one as it goes!