SXSW Interactive 2016 and Small Business: Insights from Community Director Hugh Forrest

SXSW Interactive 2016 and Small Business: Insights from Community Director Hugh Forrest

There are two kinds of people in the business world – those who have been to SXSW Interactive and those who have not. Whichever side you are on, I know you will enjoy my latest Smart Hustle Magazine interview with Hugh Forrest, the director of SXSW Interactive and a community manager who makes it all happen.

Just a little background for those new to SXSW Interactive – the event is a festival and conference for business owners, entrepreneurs and brands who want to connect with and learn from others in various industries. It features emerging technology and creative startups in just about every possible field. Attendees can participate in numerous networking events and learn in master sessions, smaller workshops, and hands-on events. Although it’s still a few months away, many of us are eagerly waiting for the 2016 SXSW Interactive, which will be held March 11-15 in Austin, Texas.

In my interview with Hugh Forrest, SXSW Interactive director, I focused on three main questions: why should small businesses attend SXSW Interactive, why should brands attend, and how would he address complaints that the event has gotten too big over the years.

This is box title
“South by Southwest Interactive is a great place to make connections that can take your career to the next level.”

Why SXSW Interactive for Small Biz?

Hugh (and myself) both think that SXSW Interactive is perfect for small business owners and entrepreneurs. I think Hugh sums it up best, “South by Southwest Interactive is a great place to make connections that can take your career to the next level.” Small business owners and entrepreneurs who attend can expect to:

  • Learn from industry leaders in big mastermind sessions as well as smaller, more intimate workshops.
  • Choose from an infinite number of verticals which are not available in other business conferences.
  • Network with other business owners, entrepreneurs and brands.
  • Connect with people in your own particular industry.
  • Expand your horizons by meeting people in other industries that you may not be directly connected with yet.

In our interview, Hugh brings up a good point. Although we like to hang out with people in our own “tribe,” we often get the most value when we force ourselves to meet new people and learn new things. At SXSW Interactive you can do both.

Why SXSW Interactive for Brands?

SXSW Interactive is also a great event for brands, who can choose to attend, participate in the trade show, or even become a sponsor to get more visibility. Hugh recommends SXSW Interactive for brands for many of the same reasons as he recommends it for individuals – the ability to meet and connect with others. The event is an amazing place to get your message out to industry leaders and innovators. If you are trying to establish your brand as a thought leader, SXSW is perfect for you.

Learn more about what Hugh has to say about SXSW Interactive for brands and small businesses by listening to the full interview below.

Is SXSW Interactive Too Congested?

With everything in life there are supporters and there are nay-sayers. One of the biggest complaints about SXSW Interactive is that it has gotten too big over time. With thousands and thousands of people there, some find it crowded, dense, and noisy.

Hugh doesn’t dispute these facts. SXSW Interactive has grown more popular over the years and with that comes crowds of people and noise that can sometimes make it harder to meet people you want to meet.

However, SXSW Interactive presents a unique opportunity to meet people all over the country and all over the world. The amount of networking you can do in the few hours it takes you to walk the trade show, for example, would take you months, years, or even a lifetime without the event. SXSW Interactive is an opportunity for people who want to grab it, and many of these small meetings can lead to big things down the line.

Hugh also points out that the churn actually helps the event. It’s sad when a friend who has attended the past couple years doesn’t come back, but there are always new people to take their place. It might get boring with the same people there every year, so churn keeps things interesting, relevant and lively.

Basically if you’re going to attend SXSW Interactive – especially if it is your first time – expect to be a little overwhelmed, but don’t let the size of the event intimidate you. Take time to appreciate and enjoy the excitement of the event.

Tips for First Time Attendees

As I mentioned earlier, the next SXSW Interactive is March 11-15 in Austin, TX and business owners, entrepreneurs and brands should all consider attending. If it’s your first time, the most important thing is to remember that you can’t do everything! People who are strategic in how they utilize the event will get the most out of it.

  • Consult the SXSW First Timer’s Guide to get some great tips about preparing for your adventure.
  • Check out the list of 2016 Confirmed Speakers and make a list of the people you’d most like to hear speak.
  • Browse the list of sessions and highlight the ones you’d like to attend. Dates and times will be posted later, but this gets you ahead of the game.
  • Plan some networking time too by looking at the Meet Up Sessions and Parties.
  • As it gets closer to the event, and the dates & times are posted, whittle down your list. You’ll have to prioritize the sessions you want to go to and the people you want to meet.

With these tips you can make a realistic yet packed schedule to get the most out of SXSW Interactive. See you in March!