By Larry Chiang
South By Southwest (SXSW) is THE cool conference for web 2.0-ers as it is the sandwich meat wedged between SXSW Film and SXSW Music. Sure, there’s an infusional waft that is strongly Californian, but the meat of it is Texas. Sprinkle in a tad of Austin weirdness and you get a powderkeg of creative force.
I am not one to tread lightly when faced with a business opportunity. I don’t attend industry shin-digs with a go-and-see attitude. SXSW is a tool and in this post, I will expose five tips that will get you a substantive return on your conference dollar.
-1- Go With a Conference Focus.
There are PhD students that wallow in and out of topics. My college experience was no different. I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with the intent to make as much money as a Harvard MBA graduate by the time I graduated. I did by sophomore year. I don’t write this to promote myself. I’m confessing that I can, with my 88 well-focused IQ points, outflank and outmaneuver a team of tier-one MBAs.
-2- Elevator Spiel, Engage.
Have “who you are” and “what you do” ready at a moments notice. This should coincide with your conference thesis and focus. For example, if I go to a technology conference, my sound byte is, “I head up a company that graduates college students with a FICO of 750. I’m here to see if we can text to and from an 800 number.”
-3- Book the Middle Seat.
Normally I prefer to wedge my 6’5” frame into a window seat, but pre-conference prep requires that I maximize my networking time belly-button-to-belly-button.
-4- Pre-Party on Twitter!
Before you go to Pangaea, you pre-party to save money… right?!
Well if you pre-party on Twitter, you can push your SXSW focus and thesis ahead by tracking speakers, panels and topics like “#vcSecrets”. Or if you’re a Facebook fan, I am sure that there are SXSW groups to join. Better yet, try to secure a venue and host an alternative party since the parties in Austin OVERFLOW during SXSW.
-5- Prey and Spray.
Kiss alpha, gamma and beta ass. Don’t make the mistake of just being a star-chaser and only kissing alpha ass. Kissing gamma and beta ass means being nice to assistants & staffers (gammas) as well as fellow attendees (betas). Tip, bribe and comp to augment your conference experience. Also, no rockpiling with your hotel-mates – that’s a huge conference no-no.
Larry Chiang is the founder of Duck9, which educates college students on how to establish and maintain a FICO score over 750. He has testified before Congress and World Bank on credit.
He is a frequent contributor to Business Week’s blog on “What They Don’t Teach You at Business School”