SXSWi: Now What to Do...Your Three Unofficial Swag Tips!
Now that SXSWi 2012 has "officially" come to an end (see our photos here), friends and colleagues eager to reflect and implement some of the key lessons learned have asked me what they should do between now and next year’s conference. So think of this as your swag bag of recaps and tips to ensure that your next SXSW experience is better than the last because, let’s be honest, it is only going to continue to get bigger (a.k.a. more chaotic) as the numbers have shown -
- 2012 attendance count = 24,569
- 2011 attendance count = 19,364
- 2010 attendance count = 14,251
- 2009 attendance count = 11,200
- 2008 attendance count = 9,000
In a Statesman article SXSWi Director Hugh Forrest’s commented on the event’s 30-40 percent average growth year-after-year. Of course, the biggest difference some of our team members felt this year, and what others reiterated, was that 2012 was like any other as the show attracted big money such as Doritos and big names like Jay-Z, Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore. It will be interesting to see how conference organizers work over the next 11 months to help manage the growth given some of the city's concerns with the hotel shortage. In fact, the Altimeter Group has already booked their rooms for 2013 and I've heard that the Hilton has "unofficially" sold out for next March's conference.
So besides reserving your hotel and adding the confirmed 2013 dates to your calendar (Friday, March 8 through Tuesday, March 12), what else should you being doing?
Here are three helpful tips as well as some of the most useful links I've seen following the coverage of the conference to ensure you can make the most of your planning for next year:
The "No Pitch" Zone
While many companies have had success launching at SXSWi in the past (Twitter in 2007), if this year has taught us anything it is that SXSWi has now become a “no pitch” zone. One of the best things about SXSW is that it is very difficult to replicate the big aha! moments of years passed, as these can rarely be planned.
In fact, Twitter actually didn't officially launch at SXSW back in 2007... Truth be told, it became official a year before. The conference was just where they had their first big aha! moment. PR friends please take heed – SXSW is a great show; come and take advantage of having over 2,000 press, bloggers and influencers all in the same city attending the same events you are. But do not, do NOT bug press for an official meeting. Just as you come to put names with faces and meet new companies, so do they. Look at this as one of the best opportunities to network in a unique environment and work on building your community. Whatever you do, I beg you to keep this in mind when giving that client of yours advice on how to navigate SXSW. In the end, anything else will just put both of you in a frustrating position. Just learn how to enjoy the ride and you will be surprised at how productive it can be!
I have countless examples of working relationships that started at SXSW and have continued to blossom and be mutually beneficial – this includes media, new business and other PR folks that spur me on to be the best practitioner I can be.
The key has been continuing the conversation throughout the year and well after the conference ends. Much like camp experiences in my younger years, my new-found SXSW friends and I look forward to getting together once a year. So if you haven't already, go back to that stack of business cards you got throughout the week and find everyone on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.. Connect and make it a priority to stay connected.
And when you visit your other cities, reach out and make plans to meet up. I promise it will pay off tenfold when SXSW comes around next year as you won't get stuck trying to track down connections just to find out their plans have been made for months.
Start Planning Now
I know, I know. I'm not an early planner either, but how many times do you look up from your computer and say, "Really it is already [insert date here]?!" Times flies and by the time you actually purchase your badge it will be too late to pull off that big idea you had after the conference wrapped up last year. We are already starting to have those conversations and let me tell you, it will take months just to settle on the right idea, who to partner with and how to figure out the best way to be strategic.
With all the advice, I leave you with a few additional pieces of helpful coverage that I hope will be a good starting point for making next year's plans.
- Are we headed for a tech-burst? More thoughts post-SXSW: The blogger/ reporter is Omar Gallaga and he is a local authority on the tech and gaming industries in Austin. He is not only a funny tech writer, but also did a great job covering the panels and at somehow popping up at what feels like nearly every event during SXSW. Take note and then ask him how he manages to fit in sleep.
- SX Advice from Jon Swartz, USA Today: Jon is the technology reporter for USA Today and in my humble opinion, a brilliant writer. And to add to that, he is also an approachable and a genuinely nice guy. During this video interview, the roles are switched as he is the one being interviewed to talk about how SXSW is a launching pad for creativity/ideas and to address the interesting convergence of media.
- Five Things to Take Away from this year's SXSW: This is according to Bloomberg's Brad Stone and is an interesting take on the biggest brands at this year’s conference, newest technologies, and great advice for your attendance next year.
- Some Austin homeless work as 'hotspots' at SXSW: This is a story by the AP and one that will surely be talked about in years to come. If you aren't already familiar and want to feel like the cool kid before 2013 even starts, it is a must-read.
- Brand Backlash: The Hazards of Heavy Handed Marketing: This interesting post comes from a fellow partner at GSD&M and if anyone knows a thing or two about creative marketing it is them. The post focuses on the huge number of brands trying to ride the wave of up-and-coming start-ups and artists (a first for SXSW). While I agree there was a lot of hype, I personally loved the energy that invaded the city.
Is there any other coverage you think should be called out, or any other advice you've received that you think would be helpful for our readers? Hope to see many of you in 2013.