6 Tips for Networking Success at #SXSW

by Nick Cicero on Mar 05, 2014

Social Fresh NetworkingIf you want to make money or grow as a professional you need to learn to network.

Put simply, you get more online by making real relationships offline.

South by Southwest (SXSW) is an event every marketer should attend at least once. The networking is some of the best you will find in the world and many of today’s most innovative partnerships have started huddled over a charging station in the Convention Center or plate of BBQ ribs at Stubb’s.

A frenetic but organized vibe exists between listening to speakers, hopping from party to party and running into new people all along the way. It’s not uncommon to be standing on one corner, see someone you know across the street and send your afternoon into an entirely new direction.

Networking is an art, and SXSW is one of the best places to hone your craft.

So if you’re looking for a few ways to make the most out of your trip to SXSW, we’ve gathered some tips below to help break the ice, maximize your networking time, and have a lot of fun doing it.

1. Ask uncommon questions

Don’t forget that everyone feels a little bit awkward at networking events. Anna Curran, Founder of Cookbook Create and author of The Official SXSW 2014 Interactive Cookbook encourages people to break out of the typical pitch, be in the moment, and be human!

“Striking up a conversation and saying something other than “what-do-you-do” is a relief to a someone not engaged in conversation. Ask an uncommon question and get engaged in a real conversation. It’s oh-so-obvious when you don’t care about the conversation you are in. Everyone knows when your mind is racing through tomorrow’s to do list instead of listening to the response to the question you just asked. Be present.”

2. Embrace unexpected surroundings

“There are people to meet everywhere: In front or behind you in line at restaurants, next to you washing hands in the bathrooms” suggests Neal Schaffer, author of Maximize Your Social. “Put on a friendly smile and put out an aura that you’re looking to connect with others. Everything will follow naturally.”

3. Share your gadgets

At SXSW one of the key rules to live by is ABC – Always Be Charging. Want an easy way to make new friends? Whip out a mini power strip in the middle of a crowded hallway before a keynote and see what happens. Ever been stuck inside a huge keynote room or tightly packed classroom and can’t get out a tweet? A portable wifi hotspot is a great way to help a neighbor in need and make new introductions along the way.

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4. Get a good networking app

Sometimes the best strategy is to have the best tools. Arm yourself with the ability to process connections without having to stuff a bag of business cards into your carry-on as you head back home.

“Get out of your comfort zone and better understand the people who are actually close by you.”  says Kate Sciesel, founder of People+, a 2014 SXSW Startup Accelerator finalist.

“A good networking app allows you to gather information about the network living just outside of your personal connections.”

5. Turn over your badge

Badge watching is a hobby and while it’s super convenient for identification, there end up being plenty of people lurking around with their eyes on chests looking only at a name and a company. Flip over your name tag so people can’t see it and strike up new conversations when people try to scope you out.

6. Pay it forward

There are no shortage of minor obstacles that come up during SXSW. Fortunately it seems a little kindness takes care of most of these problems. You never know when opportunities will strike simply by being a nice person. Share your umbrella, a pedicab, a taxi, etc.

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What are your favorite networking tips for SXSW? Leave them in the comments below!

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Post Author

Nick Cicero is the Editor at Social Fresh and a Digital Marketing Consultant. Formerly of Expion and Livefyre, Nick has experience building social campaigns for Sony PlayStation, Winn-Dixie, Eminem, Teen Vogue and more. He’s a fan of playing...

  • MouyyadA

    Great post, one thing I would add is to figure out a way to set yourself apart since people meet so many other people there.

    Also networking extends beyond SXSW. It’s important to keep in touch with those you meet after SXSW. An app like Luper (I’m the founder) is a simple app that helps you remember to stay in touch based on a recurring time lup you set. http://luperapp.com

  • Parvati

    Great insights. Love to read to article. Thanks for the share.