SXSW is an amazing conference that brings the best and the brightest from music, film and a technology (interactive everything - web, gaming, technology, business) together for 9 days. Having spoken an attended SXSW previously I have to say those who are lucky enough to score a ticket to this year's conference are in for a treat. Not just from the amazing sessions, music and films one can see but for the incredible people one can meet, engage and connect with.
Everyone knows that attending sessions is a great place to meet people. It's the perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation as you're waiting for a panel to begin or a speaker to take the stage. Although many people miss this golden opportunity to ENGAGE. They settle into their seat and immediately start playing on their laptops or fiddling with their Blackberries or IPhones.
Want to connect? try unconnecting for a little while. Put away the devices and engage the person next to you, in front of you or behind you. Ask them what brought them to this session? Ask them what sessions they've already attended and what did they like? Ask them for any recommendations on sessions you shouldn't miss. Ask them where they're from and how they like Austin. Share with them what you love about Austin and what should be on their not to miss lists while they are here.
Each of these simple but powerful conversation starters will get you engaged in conversation and perhaps connecting with someone that could prove to be a powerful resource, professional alliance, a ticket to a great party (hey it happens - I met some powerful people from Pay Pal one year), or heck just a new friend. Not a half bad result any way you slice it if you ask me!
But you don't just have to have a ticket to capitalize on all the hub bub but you do have to participate.
Let me explain.
Let's say you don't have a ticket to this year's SXSW....no problem! There are tons of places in and around the convention center that people will be hanging out. Coffee shops, bars, restaurants galore are within walking distance of the Austin Convention Center. All places guaranteed to be packed with tons of people who are attending the conference or simply want to be near the incredible vibe that permeates downtown Austin. This means there is no shortage of engagement, connection and conversation opportunities!
If you don't know where to go check out the Serious Eats BLOG for some great ideas.
Regardless of whether you are attending the conference or not you can still strike up incredible conversations with those who are. In fact in year's past, I've made even more connections hanging out at the local coffee shop, grabbing a mid-afternoon beer (met one of the Flickr Executives doing that) or just going to one of the bars or clubs after hours than I have in many of the conference sessions. In fact engaging those people in conversation you meet "out and about" is even easier because there's no speaker about to go on stage or other conference distractions to limit your conversation time. If the conversation goes well you might just find yourself downing more than one cup of coffee or multiple beers and is that such a bad thing? I should think not!
So how do you engage those people that you see out and about? I knew what you were thinking before you even thought it.
Why you Ripple your way to starting a conversation of course!
You might start with a question like....
So are you attending SXSW? How do you like it so far?
Where are you from?
So what do you think of Austin so far?
What sessions, bands or films are you excited to see?
What portion of the conference are you most excited about?
The point is it takes very little to get the conversation ball rolling and whether you are actually attending or not, this next week and half opens up so many opportunities for you to engage in some amazing conversation opportunities with incredible people from around the world. Don't let it pass you by just because you may not have a ticket. There's too much cool stuff going on that's free or near free to not be doing your own SXSW 2010 tour.
I'm off to speak at Microsoft and so bummed to be missing my own connecting opportunities. So do me a favor...pinch hit for me will ya? Go create some connections and make some lasting Ripples. Trust me...you can thank me and fill me in on your people adventures later over a beer!