Natural networking at SXSW

As you saw on our Facebook I recently attended the South By South West (SXSW) Festival and had a blast. I saw some awesome bands, movies and got to use some amazing technology (even something that was purchased recently by my favorite company, Facebook). But what is the true value of going to an event of this nature? Networking. It’s gigantic and you meet so many people and I have found that meeting them in a more natural setting (rather than during a product demo or a scheduled event) equates to a stronger connection.

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Why do we network?

  • Meet new clients
  • Expand our influence
  • Learn new tools and ideas
  • Develop our authority

I found myself pondering the question of “why do I feel so uncomfortable during events where I am supposed to be networking?” And the conclusion I have arrived at is – I feel like it’s A-B and if I divert from the topics from the evening or the day that I’m wasting the person’s (who I am talking to) time. But if I’m going to build a relationship with this person’s brand I want to really know them as a function of their brand and a person, and at a giant event such as SXSW it’s much easier to do. When we are down to earth and don’t put on airs and are just able to be ourselves in an “out of work” setting and not “performing” – it makes networking so much more fun and easier.

So here is what I do at giant events to Network, TALK TO EVERYONE. I know that seems a bit difficult for some people but while you’re waiting is line at a food truck just stop and talk to the person standing next to you, or waiting in line for a movie, or waiting for a band to start. This has gotten me some of my most amazing contacts (I think I may just have good luck). I spoke with the Owner of Newsweek over tacos (after I met him in line at a food truck) and had a three-hour conversation about venture capitalism, social media and bitcoin; this built a better rapport than any other situation could have. I met the owner of a large tequila company while waiting in line for a movie and ended up talking sports with him for about an hour and we are still conversing today through texting.

When we build a network through personal interactions it becomes less about business and more about personal relationships – the connection is not just about you it’s about both of you. Help others. Find ways to be of service. Follow up the very next day. Be a resource and connect others with resources. Focus on connecting not selling them as a client show how you can be an asset without being phony. It’s these words of wisdom that made my SXSW experience both fun and rewarding. Until next year…..!!

Ben,
The Social Media Guy

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