A large-scale event like SXSW Interactive is often intimidating and overwhelming for any attendee, especially for companies and organizations that are pretty old-school amongst a sea of the hippest and coolest new companies. The constantly evolving world of tech can be a daunting one and it’s easy to go unnoticed when you’re in the presence of the Googles and Samsungs of the world.
This year was my first time attending SXSW on behalf of Finn client IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for humanity. While IEEE is considerably conservative compared to the plethora of shiny new start-ups, we were able to hold our own, garnering placements in top-tier tech publications such as Mashable and Popular Science. So, how did a traditional organization like IEEE find a way stand out?
1. Focus on the hottest industry topics. It feels as though a day doesn’t pass when we don’t hear about another hack or breach of cyber security. We live in a connected world, where computers mediate our perceptions of reality, and the industry is more concerned than ever about what will happen when the world as we know it fuses with virtual reality with all the various streams of content, personal data, sensors, cameras and implantable or wearable devices. At SXSW Interactive, IEEE pulled together and hosted the Future of Identity Series, which featured a diverse roster of creative visionaries and technology innovators, and explored the impact of converging technology on our concept of self, privacy and security. In order to acquire the maximum presence possible at your clients’ panels, make sure to listen to what your industry currently cares about and capitalize on it.
2. Pick a social issue that your client can get behind. The absence of gender diversity in tech received mass attention at SXSW Interactive this year. Therefore, IEEE’s Women in Tech Summit was a perfect opportunity for IEEE to join the conversation. Attendees ranged from young female engineers to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer (and former Googler), Megan Smith, among many other notable guests from organizations such as NASA! The event was a huge success (and a blast!) and it is vital for influential organizations to make their footprint and attempt to tackle relevant social issues in their industries.
3. Bring in a celebrity or featured guest. This one may be a little more difficult, but if you have the opportunity, bring in a person of note on behalf of your company or organization. At this year’s SXSW, IEEE tapped Hugh Herr, IEEE member and head of MIT’s Biomechatronics research group, to deliver a keynote speech as part of IEEE’s Future of Identity Series. Needless to say, this garnered much attention for IEEE and really elevated the organization’s presence at SXSW.
And finally, as the last unofficial lesson from SXSW Interactive, but one of the most important of all: have fun! A lot of work goes into big events and it’s imperative to enjoy yourself and enjoy the ride – it’s over before you know it.