It's notoriously difficult to cut through the noise at the South by Southwest Interactive festival. Amidst all the massive marketing stunts, appearances by industry leaders, and day drinking, how do you collect something of real value to take home with you? We asked the pros for their best tips for networking that you can apply in Austin, or really at any crowded conference.
Pick your posse wisely.
"At events like this, I pick a small group of people that I'm going to maximize doing things with. If you kind of roll out with that group of people every night, there are always new people they know who you meet. That base is your foundation. It's a very effective way of broadening your circle." --Tony Conrad, partner at True Ventures and founder of about.me and Sphere
Take advantage of the weather.
"I think it's all about location. You have to navigate based on what the weather brings you. So this South by Southwest, everybody is cold and looking for shelter, so you navigate the places most people are going to be. Hotel lobbies, like the Four Seasons lobby bar, or the Driskill, are places everyone moves through, so they're great to use as your base." --Brooke Hammerling, founder of Brew PR
"You just have to be shameless and fearless. It's really hard to go up and strike up a conversation with someone you've not been introduced to, but you have to realize this is your opportunity, and you never know who that person is going to be. Everyone here is here to meet people, so that makes it a lot easier to interrupt someone than it would be on a normal day." --Rosario Dawson, actress and philanthropist
Don't just aim for A-listers.
"My best tip for networking is that you always think you want to network with people who can add value--the important person in the room. But what I have found from personal experience is that it's often the people who don't seem important at the time who can actually be the most valuable. Don't judge people. Just network with everyone." --Randi Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media
It's not all about you.
"You have to have courage and just go up to them and be interested. Ask questions about who they are before you start telling them about yourself." --David Preiss, director of user experience and founding partner at Launch Interactive
Think long term.
"It's not about what happens here at South by Southwest. It's what happens in the future with the people you meet here. So just set the foundations of relationships here for future professional opportunities for years to come." --Walter Driver, founder and CEO of Scopely
Keep an eye out for taco trucks.
"The best way is to be open to the spontaneous and unexpected. I met someone recently who got someone a job just from bumming a cigarette. This is why I stop at every single taco truck on my way home." --Jamie Wong, founder and CEO of Vayable