SXSWi 2012: Making the Most of the Madness

Photo by Davidlohr Bueso
Photo by Davidlohr Bueso

‘Tis the season for all the digi-folks to descend on Austin, TX for five days of non-stop panels, parties and, of course, networking. Admittedly, I’m a newbie and, as such, I have enlisted our seasoned veteran, Gemma Craven, EVP and Head of Social@Ogilvy NY (@gemsie), to share her tips for making the most of the madness – whether you’re an account director, brand manager or start-up:

The Sessions

Always have a back up plan. Popular sessions will often fill up and if you don’t get there early, you may not get in.  Have a second session in your back pocket so you can make sure you do not waste precious time while you are there.

Find the unexpected. Why shove your way into the main ballrooms to go to the sessions that everyone else is at? SXSW originated as a place for start-ups and innovators to share their ideas, so seek those ideas out. Go places to hear from folks doing smart things with technology. See what is happening in the Google Developer House, attend a Hackathon, hang with developers. You can always catch up on keynote speaker content afterwards through recorded streams, daily visual summaries from Ogilvy Notes, and the Twitterverse.

Be realistic. Many of the sessions are in different parts of Austin or even the same building, so give yourself time to get around, as well as time to talk to the people you will naturally meet when going between the sessions.

Be prepared to wing it. You can plan all you like but quite often, what you end up doing is the opposite of what you had planned. Go with it!

The Networking

Find a mentor. This year at SXSW, there are new sessions launching that enable direct connection with a thought leader on each day. This is a great idea, those sessions will likely be popular. Use SXSW to do this on your own steam. Find those innovators that inspire you and strike up a direct relationship with them and ask them directly if this is something that can endure once the BBQ and bourbon has worn off.

Talk to your neighbor. You will be sat next to many folks, both when you are in sessions but also when you are eating lunch, drinking coffee and naturally when you are out in the evening. Strike up a conversation wherever possible. These are the most fertile networking times.

Jobseekers must differentiate. If you are looking for a role, make sure you have your elevator pitch pat down. Can you summarize yourself in 140 characters? What makes you stand out among the 40,000+ other people in Austin over this weekend? If you don’t know that now, make sure you do by the time you get off the plane so you can wow potential employers instantly.

Use the platforms. This year Highline is getting much pre-event buzz as ambient social networking – serves you relevant contacts who are near you based on your interest graph and contacts, rather than you physically checking in – is apparently where location is headed. Yet as obvious as it may sound, using the existing platforms you are connected on, particularly Twitter, is equally important. Track conversations and events going on while you are there is as important as using the event tracker on; the melting pot of SXSW spawns many other events and happenings.

The Logistics

Power supply. Take a power back up. In fact, take two. You will get through all your juice in what seems like a matter of minutes.

Pace yourself. The experience is intense and four days in Austin can leave you in tatters if you don’t strike the right balance.  Unless you truly are just going to party – in which case this point is moot.

Weather. Word is, it ain’t going to be typical Austin weather. Pack your umbrellas, folks – and bring a jacket (not usually a SXSW requirement).

And finally… Social@Ogilvy will be in search of the best and brightest out there to join our award-winning team as we continue to grow the world’s largest network of social media experts. If you’re heading to Austin, we’d love to connect — we’ve got a full team on the ground! You can find us at…











See y’all there…