Everyone knows this is why you come to Austin for SXSW, because EVERYONE will be there. This year's event didn't disappoint, as I reconnected and met with literally dozens of great friends. The networking at SXSW is always a big draw, and this year didn't disappoint. In fact, I made a huge mistake in not scheduling more time in Austin. I alloted myself the same 2 days and 3 nights that I had last year. But this year, I knew far more people than I did in 2008, and far more people knew me. The end result was that I didn't have enough time to meet everyone I wanted to meet, and really didn't have enough time to spend with anyone that I did meet.
And this brings up a great point about companies and how they can participate in events such as this. In the weeks leading up to SXSW, I had several company reps either email me or reply on Twitter asking me to stop by their booth or find them during SXSW. But in almost every case, I never got to meet any of them.
But I did get to spend a TON of time with reps from two companies; Dell and Radian 6. Why? Because instead of setting up a booth, Dell hosted two events, All Hat No Cattle on Sunday, and then they were involved in a social media panel on Monday night offsite. Radian 6 reps were present at both events. The key was, guys like Richard Binhammer, David Alston, John Pope, and Marcel LeBrun were out and mingling with SXSW attendees, instead of waiting for them to come find them. In fact, the very first person that greeted me when I arrived at the Austin Convention Center on Sat night to get my badge, was Dell's Lionel Menchaca. And being around the guys from Radian 6 often gave me the chance to get David to demo their monitoring service for me. If they had been set up in a booth, I probably wouldn't have had time to come find them. And being around the Dell guys, I got to see their mini notebooks, which would have been much easier to lug around than the Vostro I had ;)
Now if your company came to Austin and set up a booth, I still think that was a great move. But next year, don't focus your efforts solely on your booth, also make time to get out and mingle with the guests. Don't assume that people will come find you. I had every intention of finding the companies that had invited me to come see their setup, but I just never had time.
What about you? Did you get to interact with company reps at SXSW? If so, where did you talk to them? Their booth? Hallways? Sessions?
Pic via Flickr user David Alston