I’m writing this post prior to the end of SXSW with the intention of scheduling it after the madness of SXSW ends, but I think I’ve gained enough of an understanding of how the thing works. At least, I’ve gained an understanding of how to navigate SXSW as a business person. My key takeaway from the whole thing is to be flexible with my time and to be intentional in meeting both people I know and don’t know.
I started SXSW with a schedule, mainly because I have a badge that gives me access to almost everything. It is a handy thing, but as of today, Sunday, I’ve only attended two sessions (three if I count my own). Its handiness is found in its ability to give me entry to some of the lounges (Thank you, Mark Schaefer, for showing me the ropes!) where I have met the Womacks from California and Chaim Haas from Kaplow. I’ve met interesting people, too, such as the founder and CEO of Lemon.ly, a company that designs delightful infographics.
I’ve spent time at events, often events that do require RSVPs but not necessarily SXSW badges. At those events, I’ve met people I already know. Those people introduce me to other people with whom I exchange conversation and business cards. It isn’t a “We want to hire you!” moment, but it’s a start.
I’ve also spent time catching people on Twitter and asking to meet. Some of them I simply want to meet to see if there’s a potential for collaboration and some of them work in my focus areas, namely non-profits and social good. Others are people recommended to me by friends, so I’m doing my best to meet with those people. I’ve had some success with that; one of my meetings later today is the result of a recommendation.
Mostly, though, I’ve been putting physical bodies to avatars. I’ve met some of my wonderful, wonderful friends, including Jason Konopinski and Geoff Livingston. I’ve also met Jess Ostruff, Stacey Acevero, Chuck Hemann, Aaron Strout (who may or may not count as we’ve met in the past), Aaron Wood (Check out his Grumpy Cat poster on Etsy!), Jason Rehmus, Tim McDonald, et al. All in all, I see those things as the best things of the entire conference. I do want to develop business contacts, but it is a glorious thing to meet friends and acquaintances in person. I don’t think anything can take the place of that.
Oh, by the way, I’m already planning for 2014. The deadline for panel topics is in June, so if anyone wants to apply to have a session at the next SXSW, now’s the time to start planning.