Will you be attending SXSW in Austin over the next few weeks? If so, you’ll definitely want to do the whole SXSW networking thing! But maybe you’re having doubts because you’re feeling shy? Don’t be! Most likely, everyone else is just as weary of getting out there as you are and like you, they all just want to make the most of it. There are three stages of networking: pregame, during, and after-party. Keep in mind that these are figurative, not literal, phases of networking that you need to be aware of before stepping out to your next event.
The Pregame – Time to get warmed up. I find that it helps me to call a good friend on the phone while I’m on my way to a mixer. If you’re left to your own thoughts while driving to the event, you might start thinking of all the possible encounters in your head and get nervous. But if you have a good conversation with someone like your Mom who thinks the world of you, you will get that feeling that you are “on a roll”. A positive conversation will get your confidence flowing before you make your appearance.
During the Event – If you think or talk about how uneasy you feel especially while at the event, it’s going to flow into your actual behavior. You’ll walk into the room with these things I like to call “negative tapes” in your head:
“Everyone’s smarter than me”
“I am horrible at conversation”
“People think I don’t belong here”
These are terrible things to say to yourself and are detrimental not just to how you feel at the event but for your self esteem, in general! Instead, think to yourself, “His badge says National Instruments – my dad used to work there” or “She’s got cool boots, I wonder if she’s from Austin?” or “I wonder if anyone else had trouble finding this place?” Get curious about OTHERS and notice interesting things about THEM. It’s a wonderful way to take the focus off yourself and start conversations with people you don’t know. These “positive tapes” are really as painless as ice breakers get.
Dave Michaels, Director of Business Development, whom I met from a Tech Ranch Incubator Mixer
The After Party – Now that the event is over, you need to reach out to the people you’ve met, reminding them of the conversation you had or ideas you shared. Networking is a waste of time if you don’t follow up and do this important step. To maintain relationships with people you met, invite them to other events that spark your interest since you both are at least somewhat like-minded with events. Doing so makes it much easier to maintain a natural momentum and keep in touch with people you meet instead of it being a chore. Friendly, social, smart, encouraging people who have a passion for learning will wear off on you. I promise! You can see passion in others…which brings me to my final point. I know I said there are three stages, but this one’s a bonus and probably the most important!
I know it’s cheesy but be yourself and show some passion – in all the stages of networking! Have the right mentality going in, show enthusiasm at the event and follow through to the very end. You won’t get the best experience out of it if you’re doing it halfway.
Now, off you go! Go explore SXSW and all it has to offer! From my own experience, you will meet incredible people and have an amazing time doing it.
P.S. We at Journyx are going to a few SXSW Interactive events ourselves, so stay tuned or follow us on Twitter to keep up!