The more preparation you put into any event before you go, the more you will get out of it, whether that’s a small social gathering at work or a huge industry event such as CES or SXSW for example.
According to 2016 statistics, there were 70,000 SXSW trade show, exhibit and party attendees with nearly 38,000 participants for SXSW Interactive alone (including 82 foreign countries) of which 3,093 were speakers at nearly 1400 sessions.
So how can you stand out or at least get the most for your time and effort?
Fortunately, there are a number of strategies you can implement to get more out of your participation whether you’re an attendee, exhibitor, sponsor or session host (or even an online spectator).
Follow these proven strategies consistently before any major industry gathering to up your game during and after in ways that maximize your time, energy and resources, not to mention, help position you as the go-to guru in your industry.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING: Condition the marketplace ahead of time and increase your share of voice by planning to distribute company news or other announcements well in advance of the SXSW March 10th start date. Doing this achieves a cadence of consistent communication and visibility that helps your voice or brand break through. This could include any executive appointments, product announcements or relevant insights, as well as a weekly blog post series or a Twitter stream or Instagram posts that share Tips of the Day.
HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY: Create a content strategy (blog series, Tip of the Day tweets or Instagram tips/how-to posts, or similar) so you have something fresh and relevant to build on as the noise around SXSW heats up. With 200K to 300K pieces of content being created each day, quality, frequency and quantity are the best ways to capture your share of voice. This could be text, images and/or video - even better if it’s all three.
ALWAYS #HASHTAG IT: Compile key and trending hashtags to include in social media posts, including #sxsw, #sxsw2017 and other more niche tags such as #sxswbranding and so on. These give your posts and tweets extended reach and visibility. Don’t forget to include any of your own hashtags if appropriate.
YOUR WHO’S WHO LIST: Shortly after CES ends in early January, begin feeling out key press, bloggers, influencers and other digital tastemakers by email or social media interaction to find out who will be at this year’s event, note who covered it last year, and create your target influencer list.
GET FAMOUS: Pitching to seed and ultimately secure press coverage timed to the SXSW event should begin in early February, about one month out, to get on the radar and find out who might be interested in you as an expert source, your company news or who is assigned to cover specific topics like must-see sessions, trending topics and other predictions about the annual digital festivities.
BE INVITING: By the end of January, know who you want to suggest coffee, breakfast or a drink with - or invite to your event or session. During the first week in February, start inviting anyone you’d like to meet up with because schedules fill up quickly, particularly with savvy SXSWers. By the 2nd or 3rd week in February, most press, bloggers and other tastemakers’ schedules will be booked and the only way you’ll be able to catch up with them at SXSW will be via accident or ambush.
TUNE INTO THE SXSW CHANNELS: Identify and plan to follow SXSW content channels, including their blog, Twitter feed and other key channels where they will be communicating all the goings on before, during and after the event so you know what’s hot and what hasn’t been discovered yet. Mention them, get on their radar, check if they are open to guest articles or Tweet chats.
CAN I GET A @MENTION? Compile, curate or update key Twitter handles and other social media lists of contacts, partners, press, influencers and tastemakers so you can begin mentioning them now to get on their radar during SXSW, be part of the real-time conversation, and afterwards to keep the relationship warm.
BREAK THE NEWS: Extend your content strategy right through SXSW by planning to create content during the event that’s fresh, and possibly allows you to break news yourself, including tweets, selfies with folks from your key influencer list, Snaps, Facebook Live streaming and blog posts of “key learnings.” These demonstrate you’re part of the insider crowd. If you’re not attending, watch the announcements and social media posts of your key influencer list and curate interesting round-ups or thought leader pieces on how you see these developments impacting the industry, consumer or how we live our lives.
EXTEND THE WARMTH ALL YEAR LONG: Follow up after SXSW and tie up any loose ends. TechCrunch Disrupt, Cannes, DMexco, Advertising Week, LeWeb and plenty of other events are just around the corner and many of the same folks are involved in these other industry tent pole events as well. By focusing on “deeper” connections, you’ll get more out of your efforts in the long run.
Now it’s time to put these strategies into action. Here are a few next steps you can begin to tackle now:
Brainstorm unique and timely content topics for a blog post or video series
Pull ‘Tip of the Day’ sound bytes from your content series to create tweets, and other snackable size social media channel posts
Create your shortlist of influencers and hashtags so you can begin interacting as soon as possible.
Many of these pre-event strategies are designed to build momentum that will continue through the event but an early start is critical for achieving real impact.
We can help you brainstorm new concepts and support these activities, as they can offer great exposure – not just with reporters, but analysts, end users and other influencers as well. If you’d like to discuss how we can help you get the most out of major conferences in the future, then please do - contact us.
Finally, you can take our 10-strategy game plan with you or keep it on your smartphone for easy reference or for sharing with your colleagues - DOWNLOAD HERE.