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Louis PrattMar 10, 20238 min read

How to prepare for Showcase Festivals like SXSW

Put concisely by the Innovation Network of European Showcases, a “Showcase Festival” can be defined as “ which combines public performances with music industry conferences and trade events.”

Over several days of live events and conference programming, fans, artists, and professionals alike will see tons of chances to grow, connect, and challenge themselves… that is, if they’re ready for it all! Talk about the best of both worlds!

SXSW Photo by Holly JeeOur very own Lou Pratt, Senior Marketing Manager for Linkfire, will be live on the scene in Austin, Texas, taking part in the upcoming globe-spanning SXSW Showcase Festival! As he anxiously awaits the kick-off of all the festivities, he’s got some tips to streamline and de-stress your preparations for Showcase Festivals just like SXSW, so you’re ready to make the most of all the action:

Get your story straight!

One of the biggest opportunities Showcase Festivals have to offer is access to a concentrated mass of interesting people, more-than-likely to be aware of and invested in the same types of things you are! People that live and breathe music, technology, culture, and more, will be around in droves for you to touch base and connect with.

Much like an interview or a first date, you can walk and talk with more confidence when you’ve already prepared yourself with your basic story:

1. Who are you? (No, not in the deepest, philosophical sense)

Can you concisely wrap up who you are, where you currently are in your journey, and where you are headed within your own vision? An artist may call this their “short bio,” an entrepreneur may call this their “elevator pitch,” but us regular folks just call it “knowing what’s up.” Like writing a great song, finding simplicity, rhythm, and grace in our packaging and delivery of these little stories can take time and energy to uncover, so don’t assume you’ll just be able to improvise eloquently without some forethought!

2.  What are you about?

What subjects and circumstances get you the most energized? What are you an expert at, and how can you show that to the world? What are you most curious about, and how can you get closer to that curiosity to further expand your horizons? 

Some people thrive when talking about work, but don’t let your professional aspirations limit you in connecting with genuine individuals. Be ready to rap about various topics, and have any anchor points front-of-mind to help cement your perspective with new acquaintances. This will make conversations flow that much easier in your various “small talk” opportunities.

3. What are you looking to accomplish?

What are some honest, actionable, achievable goals you can set for your time at a Showcase Festival? Use these goals to help prioritize where and when to invest your time. For example, if you’re an aspiring music journalist, perhaps hanging around showcases with more developing artists makes sense.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to switch careers and need to acquire some context to choose your next step more securely, attending more knowledge and experience-heavy panel discussions could be the move for you. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s realistic to accomplish and helpful along the way.

SXSW Photo by Brandon Navarro

Photo by Brandon Navarro

Do your homework

When the spotlight is on and the time is now, will you be ready to sing your song, and sing it proudly? Don’t make an important Showcase Festival activation feel more like a pop-quiz than a playground. Take time to invest in your opportunity to make the most of a Showcase Festival by digging into the data ahead of time.

1. Scout out the schedule and make some notes

Choice paralysis is real. When you land on two feet at Showcase Festivals like SXSW, there will be never-ending opportunities and distractions. Keynote speakers and panel discussions running from morning to evening will provide libraries worth of knowledge for your absorption. Pop-up performances, international artist showcases and industry parties, and multimedia-heavy interactive experiences will also pepper the convention center floor and the streets between the venues. 

Taking an hour or two to scope out the calendar of events, download any official event App or photo of the schedule, and physically or mentally note your priority events will help narrow down your action plan. We want to avoid feeling lost in the lights when we get into the mix.

2. Check out the locations of your events on the map

There will be times at a Showcase Festival when it feels like you just want to be in multiple places at the same time. At events like SXSW, the programming of panels, showcases, networking events, and more, will be spread out across various venues and locations in their host city. By using a tool like Google Maps or something similar, and pinning the various locations of important events for your timeline, you may uncover that hanging around certain areas or neighborhoods will give you the most streamlined access to the people and places you care about. This will also save you time and energy when traveling back and forth from event to event. 

Extra pro tip: Don’t over plan! Many of the most fruitful opportunities and rewarding discoveries over the years at SXSW have come during planned blocks of wandering, adventuring, and engaging without a particular agenda.

SXSW tips

3. Research the brands, bands, and people that make the event possible

It’s always easiest to spot things we are actively aware of and looking for. This is especially true for sniffing out opportunities at Showcase Festivals. Have a rough understanding of the sponsors that made the Showcase Festival possible, the artists bringing their passion and souls to their performances, and the host city that the event can call home. With this foundation you can then spend more time connecting the dots you uncover on-site, rather than trying to completely break down and digest new ideas and players in motion. 

Many events offer unique opportunities to streamline this research ahead of the main events. For example, SXSW offers SXSW Social, “...a tool that allows SXSW registrants to search for other conference attendees” and the ability to connect with them directly. Don’t be afraid to speak up and touch base with folks ahead of time, it could be the difference between a wave in passing or a sit-down introduction!

Get your hand-off's ready to go

Imagine a future where you’ve done the hard part and chatted up someone new… are you ready for the next step? Don’t let magical moments end with a friendly nod and a “See you when I see you.” Let’s plan for success and be ready to stick the landing. 

1. Update your Linkfire bio link & social media presence

As trustworthy and as credible as we can come off in conversations, it’s natural for new contacts to check us out and search our profiles across the web. Make sure you know where you’re sending people, and what it looks like where you’re sending them! We would recommend using our latest bio link feature to create a flexible and trackable experience unique to you and your brand, that you can also use to highlight a handful of the important moments, messages, or products you may have to offer. 

No matter where you send people, make sure that your branding is on point, your products are accessible, and your smart links are live and working as intended!

2. Print fresh business cards (or something comparable)

Even in 2023 business cards are still a valuable resource to have on hand for your networking efforts. It will be natural for conversations to end with a request for your card, and asking others to give theirs up is an easy fall back to wrap up a dialogue that is tailing off. 

In place of a physical card some people may be interested in digital exchanges, so prep your materials accordingly! One recommendation is to wrap up your info via a QR Code to include on your cards or digital equivalents, for a quick scan or send on the go.

The amount of time, resources, and intention you invest in producing your business card, whether physically or digitally, is completely up to you! Use the exercise as a chance to impress some of your unique creative vision, professional self, and personal values on those eager to get to know you better.

SXSW QR code

3. Settle on your "ask"

It would be a shame if every new relationship ended after the first conversation concluded. People aren’t mind-readers, so make clear your hopes for reconnecting or following up with next-steps. This will assure your new acquaintance that you’d like to continue developing your relationship further! 

Deciding ahead of time what is most important to you, and how you’d prefer to reconnect with new people post-event, will prepare you to identify the right time to make that particular request. 

Is collecting a social media tag enough for you, so that you may follow along with someone’s journey without pressure? Or would you prefer to ask for a follow up call or meeting in the days or weeks to follow? Maybe you’d love to schedule a jam session and work on some new material with fresh faces?

Regardless of your goals, work out what your next-step asks will be ahead of time, and be ready to make it happen when you get the “yes” responses you’re looking for!

Get ready to have fun!

SXSW Photo by Keira Lindgren

Photo by Keira Lindgren

Above all, Showcase Festivals like SXSW unlock a chance to enrich ourselves, our networks, and our knowledge bases in a timely and concentrated manner…and have a ton of fun doing it!

If you’re preparing to make the most of an event like this, don’t fret. Heed Lou’s advice to “Get your story straight,” “Do your homework,” and “Prepare your hand-offs” and you’ll be ready to navigate these seas of exciting opportunities swimmingly.

If you’re ready to up your game and simplify some of the promotional and marketing elements you’ll need ready for your activation, be sure to sign up for a free 14-day trial to explore the ways Linkfire can empower your marketing and messaging efforts for SXSW and beyond!

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Louis Pratt

Louis is Linkfire's Senior Marketing Manager