5 Ways South by Southwest Can Help Your Business

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South by Southwest (SXSW) is a unique event that combines music, film, and digital media into one massive, 4-day series of events. Each of the three South by Southwest event categories have their own conferences, festivals, and trade shows, so participants need to register for one of three themes.

This year, SXSW takes place in mid-March, and will probably see more than 10,000 attendees. In 2008, the event made the city more than $110 million in revenues. That’s a lot of people spending a lot of money–and looking for a lot of opportunities. There are many ways you can make that $400 wristband pay off.

But scale is only one of the things that makes South by Southwest a must-do for anyone with a business related to film, music, or the Internet. Gurus, conferences, tradeshows, talks, parties, and shows offer unbeatable opportunities to advance your network, company, and internal creativity. Here are 5 ways that attending South by Southwest can help your business:

1. Be Seen

Last year, South by Southwest (SXSW) saw more than 10,000 attendees from around the world. That many people in one place–most of whom have clearly defined interest niches–are a marketer’s dream. Setting up a trade booth at SXSW is a key way to make yourself visible in the industry, find customers, make new contacts, and scope the competition. SXSW organizers also offer marketing, sponsorship and advertising opportunities, which anyone with a budget should not pass up.

Hundreds of panel discussions also take place, enabling you to present your product or service to leaders in your industry. In the evenings, South by Southwest participants host an enormous number of concerts, networking events, and parties. It would be amazing if you don’t come out of SXSW with a promising number of new contacts and prospects.

2. Network

Working your social skills at SXSW can pay off handsomely. The sheer number of events, talks, concerts, and parties at South by Southwest means that making contacts is more than inevitable. Take a big stack of business cards and/or have your PDA ready for a healthy expansion of your network. People find business partners, clients, industry contacts, and new friends at breakneck speed here. You can cover every level of your businesses in one place.

3. Spur creativity

Not only does South by Southwest encourages, coalesces, and catalyzes cutting-edge ideas and concepts. When you cram 10,000 creative people into one happening city, great things can happen. Be inspired by industry leaders, discuss new services, products, and concepts with your peers, or get ideas from the items people display in the trade show. The energy and excitement of SXSW can rev your business out of a holding pattern and inspire something completely new. In times of recession, when motivation hits a lull, this kind of environment can save you.

4. Get to Know Your Industry Intimately

If you’re in the music, film, or generally-defined interactive online category (read: you have anything to do with the Internet), you will find unparalleled opportunities at South by Southwest. SXSW offers firsthand exposure to cutting-edge trends, innovations, experts, and competition. By the end of SXSW, you’ll have what amounts to an education on every aspect of you industry. You’ll be able to rattle off the who’s who, what’s what, and where’s it happening in your industry. The many panels, parties, and other networking opportunities at SXSW will ensure that you are personally with acquainted industry players, too. Your business can benefit greatly from this new information. For example, you can find areas to expand into. You can see where it’s time move your focus. You’ll become a smarter competitor.

5. Get on the Cutting Edge

Companies have a habit of unveiling their latest and greatest creations at South by Southwest. Twitter, for example, launched here in 2007. Everyone from startups to major players wow audiences with the latest products. Attending SXSW is witnessing digital evolution as it happens—you can’t get more cutting-edge than that. South by Southwest puts you ahead of the curve, which is exactly where you want to be as a business.

Dates for this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW), which takes place in Austin, TX:

SXSW Interactive: March 13-17, 2009
SXSW Film: March 13-21
SXSW Music: March 18-22