By Melissa Rein
SXSW Interactive is one of the best conferences for a small business owner to attend. Surprised? I was too. Here are the top seven reasons to pry your white-knuckled self away from your long day at work and give up precious time with your family to attend what was originally a hipster music festival.
1. Do this, don’t do that: Sales and marketing sessions
Do copy the email campaign techniques that Obama used to raised an additional $200 Million in campaign revenue with. Don’t use confusing, improperly configured forms on your website. Do use tested best practices E-commerce websites use to increase revenue. Don’t underestimate the power of social share buttons on your website. Make sure you’re collaborating with your IT consultants to get the most power out of your plugins. Applying just a couple of these revenue-increasing, time-saving sales and marketing tips can help turn around stagnant marketing strategies.
2. Startup village
Dedicated to sessions for start-ups, soloprenuers, small business seed stage (AKA I started a business in my garage), and successful innovators; an entire hotel is transformed into a mecca of small business learning called Startup Village. Startup Village sessions, meet ups and workshops are focused on helping you learn how to run, scale and fund your business. Almost every session speaks directly to the needs of the small business owner. Sessions included:
- Not All Growth is Created Equal: Scaling Your Biz
- Inner Game of the Start-up CEO; Stay Sane & Win
- Show me the Money: Where to Find Funding
- Start-up Opportunity Evaluation
- How to Start a Company While Staying a Couple.
Sessions like these bring home the reality and foster the knowledge it takes to build the business of your dreams.
3. Incredible speakers
Sessions from often-inaccessible world famous experts like, John Maeda, Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Kathy Savitt, the CMO of Yahoo, are worth the trip alone. They will transform the way you visualize and operate your business. The 2014 Keynote lineup of speakers included: Chelsea Clinton, Austin Kleon, Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, Anne Wojcicki and Adam Savage. Previous Keynotes at SXSW Interactive have included Elon Musk, Ray Kurzweil, Daniel Ek, Felicia Day, Bruce Sterling, Nate Silver, Mark Zuckerberg, Ev Williams, Jennifer Pahlka, Mark Cuban, Malcolm Gladwell, Richard Florida, Al Franken, Heather Armstrong, Dan Rather, Sean Parker, Al Gore, Amber Case, Stewart Brand and assorted other big-picture innovators. Need I say more? If you’re looking to get inspired, informed and maybe a little star-struck the key notes will certainly be worth your while.
4. Comrades, competitors, and just cool people
Random stranger interactions miraculously produce solutions to critical business challenges. Walking through the showroom floor can create poignant interactions with unlikely characters. As I plowed my way to my next session, a glass-hole web programmer savant named Brian Messenlehner directed me to an “off-the-shelf” website solution that I could instantly leverage to solve for a website functionality issue I’d been toiling with. He saved me thousands of dollars in website coding. (He is the Co-founder of WebDevStudios.com check out his new book.) A major film producer shared personal life lessons with me about what it was like working with her boyfriend and how they maintained a healthy relationship. The “I love to f*cking swear” creative director who created the HTML 5 brand identity told me how to say “no” to horrible ideas with “f*cking” grace and style. Often conferences recycle the same people year after year. SXSW is not one of those conferences. You never know who you’re going to run into when you get there.
5. Networking and book signings
At virtually any hour of the day, there is a networking event to attend. The day begins with optional networking runs then continues on with specialized meet-ups, ask the experts, mentoring one-on-ones, industry-related cocktail parties, and topic lounges to recharge. These events are continuous throughout the day and night. One could spend their entire time at SXSW simply networking, making connections to sell their business. In addition to building business-altering relationships, you could also meet a personal hero. The opportunities to come face to face with your favorite authors and get a book signed are unrivaled bucket list moments.
6. Team building
We work long hours with our coworkers, but frequently it is in the trenches of getting projects out and running between meetings. Traveling with coworkers creates a team inertia that is an essential social glue for any company. You get to know your comrades in ways that can turn into increased productivity and team synergy back at the office.
7. Inspiration = Innovation
Being immersed in a saturated think-tank of ideas and strategies to improve your business will turn into innovation that is hard to get elsewhere. Almost by osmosis, you will feel yourself becoming a more capable small business owner, ready to take on the challenges of tomorrow. So make plans next year to go enjoy a couple days of throwing your HLAs (high level activities) to the wind. Get inspired. Innovate. Network. Learn from people with the vista of experience and success that have been where you are and pushed beyond. Invest in your business by attending SXSW. You will be glad you did.