Hi everyone! We’re excited to be taking part in the Beacon Lounge and helping Beaconfire bring together non-profits as a part of SXSW Interactive.
Small World Labs provides an online community platform for non-profit organizations so I thought I’d highlight a few online community building best practices, and connect them to SXSWi to help you get the most out of your experience there.
Credibility and value can come just from listening. Everybody, organizations and people alike, want to talk about themselves. Before you begin speaking, make sure you are first listening and responding to what people are saying to you. If you want to build relationships, being a good listener helps.
Build better relationships at SXSW by being a better listener.
Lead by Example
When people get to a new place, online or offline, they often aren’t certain what to do. If you’re the host, you can tell them what to do (which can sometimes come across as shouting) or, lead by example.
In my experience, people generally go to SXSW to 1. Meet People, and 2. Learn About New Things. Be a connector and introduce the people around you. Know of a good upcoming session, a place to eat (without a long line), or a cool new product? Share it with others. On that note, did you know that while Twitter didn’t technically “launch” at SXSW, it owes much of its success to the conference?
Be Purposeful & Have a Plan
It’s easy to get caught up in building community just to get people together to start talking. However, remember why you’re there. If you’re a non-profit, you want to build a community of purpose, whether it be to engage donors, attract volunteers, or support your beneficiaries. Listen and lead, but with a planned purpose.
SXSWi has gotten so big (over 20,000 people attended last year) that it’s easy to just get caught up with the race. Take a few minutes before SXSWi starts (or in the middle of it) to think about what you want to accomplish. Are you there to network generally? Are you there to learn? Do you want to meet 5 key people? The answers to those questions will determine if you’re better off going out till 3am each night or saving your energy pellets for daytime activities.
Measure & Improve
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. You put a lot of thought into your community building efforts. You worked hard and had fun. What were the results? What should you change based on what you learned? How do you improve for the next phase? Asking and answering these questions will help you constantly improve.
You put a good amount of time, energy, and (if you paid for it) money into attending SXSWi. After it ends, take a minute to think about why you attended. How did you do? Did you learn about X number of new products? Did you meet Y number of good connections? What should you do differently next time to improve?
Aside from that, in the interest of sharing, here are a few of my SXSW lessons learned from years past:
1. The quality of sessions varies dramatically. Pay less attention to the sensationalism of the title and more to who is presenting
2. Get to the after-hours events early. Lines can be terrible (sorry)
3. Have a backup plan and be flexible (see #2). You’ll often find that some of the smaller, non-publicized events are more accessible and are an easier spot to meet people
4. Plan your sessions by location. There are tons of sessions covering lots of topics, and they are spread out over town. Consider adjusting your schedule so that you can hit your “top” sessions and not have to rush across town to hit your “maybe” ones
5. Bring cards. You’ll meet lots of people. It’s hard to network if you run out
6. Daylight Savings Time. On Saturday night, clocks move FORWARD an hour. Account for that if you want to make the early morning sessions (and hear me talk at 11am on Sunday in the Beacon Lounge)
I wish you happy and effective community building at SXSWi!