Get the best out of SXSW

Get the best out of SXSW

Major international conferences and trade shows can be overwhelming.

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Partner, Head of Technology & Media, Fintech Lead

KPMG in Ireland


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Major international conferences and trade shows can be overwhelming. With so many people to meet, leads to follow and presentations to listen to, it can feel a bit like getting lost for days at a huge airport.

KPMG’s Anna Scally leads KPMG’s Irish Technology, Media & Telecommunications team and is an industry veteran of this type of event. Anna also leads KPMG’s Emerging Technologies practice in Ireland. She is based in Dublin, one of Europe’s leading technology hubs. Anna spends much of her time working with clients in the US who are looking at European expansion and using Ireland as a launch pad into the 500 million strong European market. Anna hosts many of the sessions at Web Summit - Europe’s biggest tech event - held annually in Dublin and also attends SXSW: a film, music and technology event that takes place mid-March in Austin, Texas.

Here, Anna shares her thoughts in: ‘Tips for Getting the Most Out of SXSW’.

1. Make new friends

Work the room and widen your circle of friends. Bring business cards, introduce yourself to strangers and find common ground. You will be surprised at how much you will have in common and who knows where conversations may lead. Many delegates find their next business partner or future investor at such conferences and if nothing else, you will have made a new friend. Networking at SXSW is where lasting business connections are created so make sure you follow up once you get home, either by email or LinkedIn.

2. Know why you’re attending

Before you go, set yourself a list of five key objectives. Ask yourself: ‘why am I attending SXSW?; what do I want to achieve?; who do I want to meet?; what do I have to offer and how can I make things happen?’. Whether you are aiming to break into new markets, raise finance, get advice on becoming the next big thing or you simply want to take it all in, know in advance what it is you want to get out of SXSW.

3. Don’t try to do it all

It’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed by the vast scale of SXSW. My advice is to visit the exhibition area at least once to find your feet. Take note of the stands that catch your eye - perhaps do some homework on those that appeal to you most - and go back once you have had time to digest it all. Doing your homework ahead of time will pay dividends. Also, a good pair of sensible shoes, Google Maps and using Lyft to get around Austin will all come in handy.

4. Location location location

Find a comfortable location where you can recharge the batteries as well as meet like-minded people. SXSW boasts plenty of lounges and venues which provide opportunities to meet and network with other digital natives. Check out the IDA’s SXSW blog for a great line-up of Irish events taking place in the run up to St. Patrick’s Day including a panel discussion on Saturday evening on the topic of doing business in Europe. Catch up with peers and make the most of your SXSW experience by finding a convenient location to do business.

5. Reach out

In advance, reach out to your social media contacts to let them know you are attending and perhaps arrange a catch-up on the ground. Update your LinkedIn profile and share relevant insights about the conference via Twitter. SXsocial is a tool for delegates to search for other attendees as well as send messages and a host of other things. Submit your biography and include a headshot so people will know who you are.

6. Ask lots of questions

Curiosity is key. In order to learn from the best you need to ask questions and lots of them. Act like a sponge at SXSW and absorb the various pearls of wisdom, tricks of the trade, success and failure stories from people in the know and who have been there and done that. To help ask the right questions, check out SXSWorld Magazine en route. The publication is a fountain of knowledge for the latest happenings from the worlds of music, film and interactive industries so make sure you read up on the latest before you arrive.

7. Make friends with Twitter

Have something to say and use the event hashtag #sxsw to amplify your message and attract more followers and potential leads. This is a great way to involve yourself in the debate and start a new conversation which could help position your expertise and business ideas.

8. Soak up the atmosphere

Austin, Texas provides a great backdrop for SXSW. The atmosphere is relaxed and the social side is just as important as the business side. Potential investors will be mixing with attendees on pub crawls, in food halls and at dinners. Events like SXSW bring new life to our connections and can create all sorts of opportunities for meeting inspirational people. We will be hosting a special Six Nations Rugby breakfast with the IDA on Saturday, March 14 so register in advance and drop by to help cheer on the boys in green as well as pick up some great tech insights.

Anna Scally is Partner & Head of Technology, Media and Telecoms with KPMG in Ireland

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