Attending SXSW and industry trade shows like it is, without a doubt, an expensive sales and marketing tool. However, the potential public relations payoff is virtually unlimited.
These events are usually the only place where you can rub shoulders with industry leaders as equals. It is also the only place to truly be on the cutting edge of the technology in your field. You should be attending SXSW, regardless of the incidental costs. But you should also be monitoring and maximizing your return on investment. Here's how:
1. Give yourself a checklist that must be completed before the end of the event.
Identifying actions that can only be taken at an industry event such as SXSW is essential to working this strategy correctly. Do not waste time doing anything in person that you could have done from your office.
For instance, targeting specific CEOs to meet for an extended lunch is a great idea. Handing out your business card to all of the CEOs is a bad idea.
Make sure that all money that you spend is based around fulfilling these goals. If you can get yourself booked in the same hotel is one of your targeted CEOs that would be worth spending a premium. If one of your preferred contacts is definitely going to attend a certain talk, it is worth your while to do whatever you have to to attend that talk as well.
In this way, you will be sure to spend money only towards the fulfillment of your purpose, which is sure to increase your ROI.
2. Identify and attend the events that are most likely to benefit you.
SXSW began as a showcase for musicians, but is now one of the premier international events where entrepreneurs and startups network. There will be so many things going on at once in Austin that it would be foolish not to plan ahead of time.
Once you have a solid plan, everything is geared towards helping you achieve your goals. At SXSW’s Startup Village, you can rub shoulders with other influencers even while you’re between events.
3. Have a plan of action for your new contacts.
The return that you get on your investment at any industry event will be made in the weeks that follow. The people that you target and the events that you attend must all move in the same direction. If you have a particular product that you need promoted, then your resources should be spent on finding industry tastemakers that can help boost break your product.
People may consider it pretentious to ask directly for a specific action, but this is really the only thing that separates effective business people from ineffective ones. Write down exactly what you want your new contacts to do, then relay this message to them in a professional way.
4. List what you have to offer to any new contacts.
The reason that you want to get in touch with people at industry events is because they are important. You may not be as well known as these individuals, but you are important as well. You need to understand exactly why you are important so that you can go into your future relationships bringing something to the table.
CEOs and other high-ranking officials in your industry do not waste time with people who are looking to take without giving. If you make a list detailing exactly what you have to offer your chosen targets, you will have a much better conversation with them once you meet with them. They will be more likely to remember you because you actually have a service that you can perform for them.
5. Increase your productivity by being mobile and automating rote tasks.
When you are on the scene at an industry event, this is the time to be completely present. If you are worried about the minutiae of various secondary office tasks, then you will not be able to move as quickly as you should. One effective technique that many successful business people employ is hiring a virtual assistant to take care of the office while they are away.
The other logistical matter to consider is your mobility while on site. Organize your resources into a single device if possible so that you can go into events looking prepared and professional. There is something to be said for an individual who looks busy, however, the person who walks into an event with a briefcase, smartphone, tablet, digital profiler and a notepad is doing him or herself a disservice.
Take the time to formulate a plan and prioritize your steps and money in the direction that benefits you, and you will begin to view industry events as an opportunity rather than as another annoying expense.