When it comes to my successes in networking I frequently reference the South By Southwest Festival (“SXSW”) in Austin, Texas. I previously posted about it here. I have built a successful law practice and now networking seminar business by being involved quite involved in building relationships during SXSW. I always focus on these three points to maximize my time:
If I am going to the conference “officially,” meaning with a SXSW badge that gets me into official events, then here is how I work the festival:
1) Get the directory of who will be at the SXSW trade show and on panels, and search by industry people I want to meet, not by panel topic (whether for a job prospect or just a simple meet and greet)
2) Find sponsored panels and meet an influential person or client prospect at the panel session before they begin (let’s you get more undivided attention as after a panel most speakers get swarmed);
3) Meet a potential client or referral course at the trade show (people on the tradeshow floor are there specifically to market and network. It’s low hanging fruit);
4) Find a name of a person or company (in the festival directly) I want to make a connection with at one of the hosted social events and make sure I scour name badges to find them.
If I am not going with a badge, NO PROBLEM! I actually find it just as effective to network without an official badge. Here are some tips I use at any conference in that case:
1) Still get the festival directory and search of panelists I want to meet and hang out in the hallways outside of the panel session so that I can catch the speaker before or after they go into their panel (usually only badge holders get into panel sessions);
2) RSVP to non-official events. They are all over! You can still find plenty of people to meet;
3) Hang out in one of the numerous “relaxation stations” that a company will host. Many do not require having an official badge to get in. Stay in one place for an hour and try to meet as many people going in and out as possible;
4) Hang out near charging stations. There are so many mobile users, that the conference invites many charging station companies to set up booths. I always have the line of thought that if you are on your phone that much that you need consistent re-charging you are probably either a decision maker or a media member and are in the know. It seems so simple but I have been interviewed at a charging station and also recruited clients at some (even with a full charge).
I hope this helps. And if you read this in time, come check me out as I talk about effective SXSW networking on March 4th!