Each year, members of the Native team carve out some time to attend festivals and conferences, both to help develop key professional connections and to draw inspiration for our work. From March’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference & Festivals in Austin, Texas, to this week’s Tom Tom Founders Festival in Charlottesville, Virginia, we find these events invaluable in keeping us on top of new trends and technologies may help us better serve our clients. As hubs for innovation across a variety of industries, these gatherings are perfect opportunities to meet good people doing exciting things.
Here are our top 5 tips for taking your festival experience to next level:
- If you are a smaller firm, coordinate and go with others! We attended SXSW with our friends from the University of Virginia Data Science Institute, which allowed us to multiply our networking opportunities in an organic way.
- Don’t over commit. Review the schedule and choose one can’t-miss event per day, but be sure to allow space for impromptu conversations and programming surprises. At this year’s SXSW, maintaining some flexibility in our schedule allowed us to catch a festival highlight—a surprise visit by Elon Musk!
- Share your experience on social media. This is a great way to connect with others who share your passions as well as to discover new thought leaders to follow. Being active on social media will also help maintain those newly formed connections once the festival comes to a close.
- Check out interesting panels even in fields that may initially seem unrelated to your own. You might discover a development in another industry that has the potential to revolutionize your own work. Years ago, we met the team behind Google’s Project Shield at the Oslo Freedom Forum, and we later used their service to bolster website security for a human rights–focused client. In addition to catching up with Project Shield at this year’s SXSW, we were thrilled to connect with rewardStyle co-founders Amber Venz and Baxter Box, whose work we’ve long admired!
- Be yourself! These environments can sometimes breed an atmosphere where attendees feel a need to impress or seek approval. The key is to remain authentic—by gravitating toward the things that most inspire and interest you, you increase your chances of connecting with like-minded firms and colleagues.