Good morning and welcome to a special edition of CurrencyTransfer TV! We’re getting pumped for our trip to Austin, Texas. We hope you are too. Today, we’ve put together a South by Southwest Virgins survival guide, going through what we perceive as the top 10 tips and some common secrets everyone seems to come back to.
CurrencyTransfer.com is also lucky to have been selected to “represent the UK” as part of the UKTI government mission, along with other budding tech startups out of the UK. As part of the process, we’ve attended a fair few training days and picked up on some nice suggestions.
So, here goes. Our top ten tips for first timers at SXSW interactive, AKA “Spring break for geeks!”
You’re in Austin, Texas. NOT Wall Street
Put away the Prada suit, fancy tie and waistcoat. If us as Brits, the notorious fancypants can say ‘go casual’, you can take it as a given! SXSW is notoriously dress down. If you’re going to a dinner with investors, then MAYBE you’ll take a smarter shirt or pair of shoes. But don’t fret, it’s a very relaxed environment.
Be the quirky standout guy
Are you from Scotland? Wear a quilt. From the UK? Wear a pair of Union Jack trousers. In the midst of all the SXSW interactive noise, it’s high risk, but it can pay to stand out! In 2012, Room 77 team dressed in sumo wrestling suits. How comes? Good question. They wanted to show the attendees they were “kicking the competition’s butts” when it comes to lowest hotel prices. If it’s your first time, the name of the game is to build connections and dress code stunts could just do it.
Treat rumors with a pinch of salt
So, you hear that Jack Dorsey is doing a special Q&A at a pub downtown! Or perhaps The Zuck is in town and wants to meet 50 young upstars. The rumour mill at SXSW goes into overdrive. Many could be for real, but most take with a pinch of salt. For sure, keep track on search.twitter for spontaneous events as you never know, that Tech Celebrity you’ve always wanted to meet may be just round the corner. At the same time, plan with caution!
Learn your elevator pitch
Networking can be done in the hallways, pubs, clubs and mentor sessions. Practice your ‘elevator pitch’ so it flows very smoothly. How would you explain your product to a 2 year old, in 30 seconds? What problem are you solving? What’s your business model? What are you looking for? You’re most likely going to be in a relaxed environment. So, don’t be the guy that sounds too rehearsed. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, student, service provider or speaker, it has to look natural.
Write notes on back of business cards
Putting it out there, we made some huge cockups at our last show at Finovate Europe. We met so many people, picked up so many business cards and sadly, missed out on a couple opportunities. Why? We forgot who the person was! If you’ve picked up a card and think it could be an awesome lead, take a minute to note down the interaction and how that specific person can help. Reach out personally as soon as possible for maximum context. Networking carries on after the show. Convert your warm leads!
Planning your schedule is key too. Download the SXSW app that will let you keep track of your schedule and those planned keynotes you wanted to attend. Of course, if opportunities arise and you need to skip a planned event, don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s 100% normal.
Hustle. Force serendipity
Don’t be the guy or girl at the bar who is on his phone non-stop, or sitting down at the pub with his head down. Never, ever underestimate the power of a smile or a simple ‘hey, you enjoying your day.’ Force serendipity, put yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s much, much easier than you think and you’ll reap the rewards.
Are you going with a Co-Founder? Don’t stick together like glue. If networking is the name of the game, divide and conquer. There’s more chance you’ll meet more people, build more one on one relationships and get more out of your SXSW experience for your company.
Accept all invitations
On the SXSW website, unofficial party website and your secret Google drive doc with peers, there are a million and one SXSW parties and keynotes you could be attending. Rule #1, accept all invitations. FAST! Events can fill up quickly, and at the time of writing, many of which are already on a waiting list.
Lastly, if you do get into a session or party and it sucks for whatever reason, LEAVE! There’s no shame or embarrassment in this at all. You’ve paid a fortune for the privilege of attending SXSW and if the keynote or social session is not up to scratch, you’re entitled to politely leave. Just be considerate.
Push yourself to fill knowledge gaps
For example, if you’re an expert on content creation, don’t fill your schedule with talks on content creation. Perhaps go to sessions on social marketing and distributing your fabulous content.
In our case, we’ve just opened an office in Tel Aviv. We want to leave SXSW being 20% more confident in strategies to execute and tools that will make us even more efficient in managing a distributed team. As such, we’ll be looking for sessions on this topic.
Wear comfy shoes
So in the morning you have a bunch of sessions at the Convention center. Then it’s drinks next door at the Hilton. You then need to hop off to another hotel a few blocks away for a meetup, followed by a party at Austin campus. If you’re planning to get around by foot, pack a pair of comfy shoes and ditch those heels. It’s Austin. It’s casual so leave those Guccis and Jimmy Choo’s back at home.
Ride the #sxswi hashtag
Listen, respond and react to hashtags that will be trending during South By South West. Dive into conversations where appropriate, add your own spin on a dialogue and become part of the action.
As our hero @garyvee would say, never underestimate the ROI of a simple wink, joke or piece of information you can add to a conversation. It can be game changing on many levels and create context that can build valuable business benefit. So, try it. Check in multiple times each day and ride the hashtag!
We hope you have the time of your life, make game changing business connections and achieve everything you set out to. If you have any questions, or want to connect with us, feel free to tweet @currencytransfr OR @dan_currency – our co-founder who will be attending SXSW Interactive.
Our company, CurrencyTransfer.com will be attending as part of a UKTI government trade mission. If you have time, come stop by at UK Demo day on Monday March 10.
Have a great day.