Question: What’s your best tip for a founder who wants to attend big events like SXSW and actually meet the right people?

The YEC gives tips for attending SXSW

Learn Who’s Attending Ahead of Time

“Check in with people you want to catch up with to see when they’ll be onsite, and get on their calendars in advance. Once the event starts, send them a quick text or email to remind them about your meeting. Large conferences are too chaotic to ensure that you’ll just casually run into people. You have to make a concerted effort to ensure that the most innocuous of gatherings actually happen.”

Inspiration at Work

Don’t Listen to the Talks

“Most speakers are covering material that can be found all over the Internet. If you want to meet people, hang out in the lobby and the hallways. Strategically position yourself in places that everybody has to walk through, which maximizes your likelihood of bumping into the right people. If you have friends attending, ask them for help with intros to the right kind of people. “


Stop With the Startup Conferences — Find Your Customers

“Quit spending valuable time and money attending startup events just because you’re a startup founder. Unless you’re selling to startup founders, get your butt to the events that your customers attend: trade shows, industry conferences and the like. Trust me, you’ll get invited to SPEAK at startup events the second you get a long list of paying customers.”

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Leave Room for Serendipity

“You’ll want to line up some meetings ahead of time, but don’t forget to leave room in your schedule for grabbing lunch with the people you just met or sitting down for an impromptu talk. The benefit of being in the same place as a bunch of interesting people is that you can get very lucky and meet someone without any planning.”

Partner With Connectors

“The best way to meet interesting people is through a warm introduction. There are two ways to find introductions at events: through individuals or through brands. Figure out how to add value to an individual so he or she will take the time to make introductions. Similarly, you can volunteer to help a brand at the event so you will be around when others contact them. “

Get Exponential Introductions

“My strategy is to always meet a few awesome people early and ask them for the best one to two people they know that I need to know. Meet new people, then repeat this process as often as possible. With the right seed connectors, this can last through the whole event.”

Book All Your Essential Meetings Ahead of Time

“When we send employees to a conference, we often have up to 25 meetings set in advance for them, along with specifically tailored agendas for each contact. By doing an aggressive email campaign before the conference, you can often confirm meetings well in advance so all you have to do once you’re there is go from appointment to appointment.”


Youth Leadership Specialist

Go Without a Schedule

“I have settled on the opposite of strategy — I just go and see what happens. If you go with a plan, you’ll struggle at SXSW because there’s no way you’ll stick to it. There’s no point in setting goals you can’t meet. SXSW is a week of serendipity. Who are the right people? You don’t know yet. Random meetings turn into meeting the right people.”


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Be a Good Date

“There is a preparation process every time you’re about to go on a date: time, place, outfit and even a prospective conversation plan! That’s true of conferences as well. See what events are happening and who will likely attend in order to plan your agenda for a big industry conference. Select a couple of key events, meet some out-of-town business prospects and let the conversations start!”

Forget Going to the Conference

“If you are seriously interested in only meeting people, forget the $600 conference badge — just go for the weekend to hang out. You don’t meet many people sitting and listening to talks, but if you know how to work the room over cocktails or know someone to get you into the right parties, then you will have accomplished your mission. “