Attending South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive??

Ten days before SXSW 2010 in Austin, TX I was still undecided whether I was going to attend or not.  If you are considering whether you or your company would benefit from attending, or just interested in learning more about the event this post should help.  If you have attended SXSW anytime in the past and have some useful advice for anyone considering attending hope you can share your experiences in the comments below.  

SXSW is one of the largest festivals/conferences in the U.S. spread over several days featuring “music”, “film” and “interactive”.  You can buy a pass for any combination of events or you can buy an all inclusive pass at a discounted price to attend all three.  Prices range from about $300 to just over $1,000 depending what pass you select and when you register.  While the music and film would be fun, I decided to travel to Austin because of the interactive portion.

One of the primary benefits of most conferences, events and festivals is the ability to meet and network with like minded individuals in your industry, many with similar goals.  While SXSW offers this opportunity, there are over 15,000 participants in attendance throughout the event from all types of industries.  Depending on what your goals are in attending an event, this can be very beneficial.  This many people can make it a bit harder to find the people you are interested in meeting but for companies interested in launching and showing off their companies for the first time SXSW creates a great platform to do this.

Similar to other events, some of the best opportunities to network and promote your brand are at the bars and hotels after the presentations and panels.  Austin is certainly a city that features a great variety of places to party after hours.

If you are looking to promote your company at SXSW you really need to be creative to separate yourself from all the other companies looking to do the same.  Setting up a booth and talking about your products and services can be great but to make a lasting impact you have to go beyond this.  Some ideas are to throw a party for SXSW participants or give away your product outside the convention center.

Creating a lasting impact is always the end goal of any company.  Some of the things I remember most were all the after parties like, Gary Vaynerchuk’s Secret Wine Party.  I also remember getting a free Monster energy drink from a couple of good looking women in the bed of the huge pickup with the Monster logo.  Come to think of it getting attractive women to give your product away is always a good way to get a bit of publicity.  So if you are looking to unveil or promote your brand this can be a great place to do it, especially if you can create some publicity by thinking out of the box.

Every year one or two companies really get everyones attention.  This year it was a continuation of the location based social networks, primarily Foursquare and Gowalla.  A few years before this Twitter was making all the noise in Austin.  SXSW is a great opportunity to get all the early adaptors, aka nerds using your product and getting valuable feedback from them.  If they like what you are working on, they will spread the word for you.

Besides having a great time in Austin at my first SXSW it was a great opportunity to see and meet a bunch of well known authors, bloggers and company CEO’s.   I am already looking forward to SXSW next year.

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