If you are creative Talent and looking for the biggest party/conference/ schmoozathon you can find on the year's interactive calendar, SXSWi is one that fits the bill, on all counts. In the market for a new job? This is the place to make beaucoup connections, some of which may lead to offers to work on some very cool projects. Are you an agency looking to make strategic alliances, hire talent or showcase your client work? Perfect! SXSWi is for you, too.
So how do you use five days in Austin, Texas to your best advantage?
Be prepared. That means, bring your business cards, enthusiasm to network, and a generous spirit. Don't just look for what you need, see where you can help others you meet, as well. Do some research ahead of time and find out who else you know from around the world might be attending and try to set up a few casual meetings.
Don't overdo it. SXSW is over-the-top with events and panels, parties and booths. Accept it: you won't make it to every single one. Pick the panels that seem most interesting, funky, or engaging to you. Realize that the parties with 300-person capacity and 2,000 RSVPs will not necessarily be the most fun. Sometimes catching a beer with 3 or 4 new acquaintances might be a lot more rewarding and enjoyable.
Be strategic. Think about some goals you might have. Is it to meet 20 cool people with whom you can follow up after the conference is over? Get their Twitter handles and be diligent about following up when you do return to the comfy confines of your home/office the week after. Or heck, follow them from your smartphone live at the event! Perhaps you want to meet companies in the same space as yours (aka "competitors")? You never know, a strategic alliance might form that changes your business' future for the better.
Have fun. Leave room for serendipity. SXSW is a casual conference where the most surprising connections can happen. Go with the flow and enjoy mingling amongst the digerati. Have a flexible schedule - a lot of things happen on the fly so be ready to make and change plans constantly.
And, if you are one of the ones who are still in the office holding down the fort while all this mayhem is going on, don't despair. This year, SXSW will be live streaming the keynote presentations here: http://sxsw.com/node/6644. Even if you aren't able to go out and network ‘til you drop, you can keep a finger on the pulse of the conference through Twitter (hashtags #SXSW and #SXSWi)