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How to Maximize Your SXSW 2024 Experience as a Podcast Professional

Article by Media Bodies Media Bodies

February 20, 2024

by Edward Fuller, founder of Media Bodies.

South By Southwest is less than a month away, and the media and marketing world is gearing up for what promises to be an unparalleled experience learning from and networking with the industry’s biggest and brightest.

But while Podcasting is steadily gaining more attention in the mainstream media, it is yet to dominate the conversation at conglomerate events of this size. You might then, as someone with a niche specialisation in the Podcasting Space, find yourself evaluating the value of spending the entire week at SXSW. 

But it’s a concern I hope those struck by it will be quick to dismiss, because SXSW presents an unparalleled opportunity. As experts within the podcasting space immersed in a hub of 40,000+ attendees from across brands, agencies, creators, artists, press, production, and more, we have a unique platform to act as thought leaders outside the podcasting community, and introduce more of the marketing and media world to the untapped potential of this medium. 

And while attending the ‘Sound Summit’ event is a non-negotiable on my personal calendar and promises to be a goldmine for insights and catching up with like minded podcasting experts, proponents and enthusiasts; filling your schedule for the remainder of the days can seem intimidating for an event of this capacity.

Events like South by Southwest do involve a significant investment for teams like ours travelling all the way from the UK, but it’s not something we ever shy away from. After all, it’s an unmatched opportunity to share a platform with potential partners we would otherwise struggle to reach! 

But having attended a fair share over the years, my Media Bodies team and I recognise that getting the most value out of events like South by Southwest comes down to proactivity and adopting a strategic game-plan; and it’s an approach I hope more teams will take on so the industry collectively can benefit from improved environments to network and exchange knowledge! 

So here are some tips Marketers, Publishers, and Creators alike can use to make the most out of their experience at the Sounds Profitable x SXSW event, and SXSW as a whole.

1: Get Set up on the App and Social Registry. 

The South By Southwest App and Social Platform are impressively comprehensive.

From tracks, events, venues, and amenities; to speakers and attendees- getting set-up on the app early and getting familiar with the interface is your best bet at booking early meetings and going into the week with a plan that will help you make the most out of the event.

2: Set your Profile up for Success. 

Signing up to the app and platform isn’t enough. Information & Precision = interest, trust, and approachability. Improve your chances of success with outbound and inbound networking requests by optimising your profile for your target customer/partners and your specific objectives. 

Add in a bio and job title so people know where your expertise lies and what value you have to offer. Particularly for time-pressed professionals who make up a large proportion of these conference attendee lists, provide enough information upfront to intrigue them to either a) say yes, or b) at least invest a few more minutes to search for more information about you.

Adding a profile picture makes you seem more approachable, makes you stand out in the attendee directory, and can help create a positive first impression.

However, make sure your photo isn’t miles off from your LinkedIn profile photo (and your current look!)- faces are typically easier to remember than names so if you’re reaching out on multiple platforms, your profile will be easier to recall- and you’ll be easier to recognise at the event!

3: Leverage the Attendee Directory

Once you’re signed into the app and linked your badge to your profile, you’ll have access to a directory of your fellow attendees. The SXSW directory categorises them by industry, which makes finding relevant attendees far easier. 

As you browse, you can build a ‘leads list’ of sorts, by adding potentially interesting leads to your ‘favourites’ so they’re quickly accessible, rather than having to revise through the entire directory in search of a single person.

Conversations also get saved to your inbox the moment you click on the “chat now” function. This means you can always revisit a potential lead’s profile if you’re not quite sure about the suitability of the profile or of your messaging at the moment they’re discovered.

4: App outreach is not a One-and-done.

It’s worth noting that the attendee directory refreshes periodically as more people sign up to the app and update their profiles. Remember to account for this in your networking strategy and make time to revisit the app at regular intervals. Being active on these apps also helps rank your profile higher as a recommended connection to potential leads, which can help improve your chances at drawing inbound requests!

5: Hit them up through Multiple Touchpoints. 

Reportedly, over 50% of attendees don’t sign up, or don’t actively check the event networking app until a day prior to the event. This is where LinkedIn proves to be a great asset in networking strategies- reach out via linkedin to the same contacts you’ve contacted through the app so you can book a meeting before their schedules fill up; rather than waiting for them to check the app and leaving your own schedule in limbo. You can also discover other attendees not yet registered on the app by using the official conference hashtags- or by scouring the official event page or posts from past SXSW events.

6: Tell the World.

Add a “-> soon SXSW” tag into your name, announce you’ll be attending in a post, talk about who you’re looking to meet, and about the topics and tracks you’re most excited to explore (adding your own insights and experiences to these to emphasise your thought leadership further!) on LinkedIn. Use the event hashtags on your posts, tag the official event page – make yourself easily discoverable to other attendees to improve chances of inbound networking requests. 

7: The App is a Handy Content Library. 

Have a look through various tracks, tags, and events. Find out who the speakers are, what the agenda is, and familiarise yourself with the hot topics. The app also allows you to build a personal schedule in one handy place, that saves you from having to manually add events into your personal calendars.

Mark your interest in specific events and people relating to your expertise, experience and objectives in the app. This trains the algorithm to not only display more relevant events and people to you, but also helps make you more discoverable to potential business partners. 

The tracks and topics provide a great ice-breaker if you’re struggling with your messaging or want to avoid a hard sales pitch from the outset- if you’ve noticed a ‘lead’ mention something relating to a specific topic before, look for relevant tracks or events and reach out to your lead asking if they’ll be attending the event to kick off a conversation!

Whether you’re a creator, publisher, agency, brand representative, or other service provider, you will already have defined at least a cursory objective or agenda. While it may seem difficult to expand your reach and relevance outside the established podcast community, identifying specific topics of interest relating to your agenda and using these as keywords to search for relevant events and people is a neat way to reel in new contacts from the broader marketing and media space. 

You may find yourself short on time to build a personal leads list, struggling to break through the clutter, or convey the value of your expertise to someone unfamiliar with nuances of podcasting- or for someone who doesn’t consider it a priority. 

Here’s where packing your schedule with various relevant events can offer opportunities for organic networking that is still underscored by strategic planning. Relevant threads from the panels, workshops, or sessions are a great way to strike up an impromptu conversation onsite.

Further from networking opportunities, exploring wider conference tracks and events beyond dedicated Podcasting tracks is also a good way to gain inspiration and adaptable insight. All forms of media and marketing are ultimately informed by deeper consumer insights and habits, and finding ways to tap into these insights from a podcasting perspective can potentially open up exciting new avenues.

There are 3 main factors we take into consideration when identifying what events outside of the dedicated Sounds Profitable x SXSW Podcasting event could be relevant to Media Bodies’ objectives:

  • The Ideal Customer/Business Partner Profile – what are their problems, interests, objectives, and who (individuals/brands) are the industry leaders
  • Wider Marketing Industry Trends – What are the latest trends, pressing issues, and objectives the marketing world is talking about 
  • Our area of expertise (& where we’re lacking) – from a networking perspective, presence at sessions we have expertise in, helps display thought leadership when discussing the session with fellow attendees; while presence at sessions relating to areas we see potential in and are aiming to develop is valuable in an insight-gathering and upskilling perspective.

These considerations help us examine agendas, panels, speakers, and moderators from a critical perspective and make the most out of our time at conferences. Here’s an example of the SXSW 2024 events I’ve got my eye on and why:

1: Social Media is Dead, Long Live Culture Media 

Placed within the Advertising and Brand Experience Track, this Fireside Chat session’s hook is exploring new ways to connect with audiences through ‘niche communities and curators’ who can tap into ‘core cultural narratives.’ 

While the chat is headlined by a senior TikTok representative, I’d argue Podcast creators have an equally strong grasp on tapping into cultural narratives and building communities. This session could present intriguing insights on what consumer habits and insights are fueling this marketing approach and how brands are identifying these ‘niche communities and curators.’ 

Drawing from these insights, we agencies, creators, and publishers within the podcasting space can then weave our narratives to make a strong case for why Podcasting presents similar opportunities to tap into culture-first entertainment to build long-term, meaningful consumer-brand relationships and open up intriguing conversations with attendees.

2: Unleash the Power of Storytelling: Think Like a Publisher

The session’s agenda suggests a deep dive into crafting compelling lifestyle narratives that harmonise cultural context with creativity and storytelling. Placed within the Advertising and Brand Experience Track, it’s likely we’ll see a fair share of brand representatives attending. This means possible networking opportunities to introduce new audiences to audio’s immense potential for creativity and storytelling, not to mention, podcasting’s role in informing cultural discourse.

From a knowledge gathering perspective, although at the outset the ‘lifestyle’ focus may appear niche; it’s always possible to draw adaptable insights and ideas, in this instance, to improve the effectiveness of ad narratives, their placement within contexts of creators’ brands, or branded podcasts as a whole. 

An insight into the strategic mindsets driving storytelling and branding approaches across other, more traditionally accepted mediums can help us mold our narratives around Podcasting’s potential for the same purposes, and help bring it into focus in the mainstream conversation!

3: Beyond the Buzz: Navigating Hype Cycles in Advertising

A major challenge we continue to face is Brands’ apprehension in adopting Podcast advertising because of outdated ideas about measurable impact- a refrain I’m sure many others have heard. That’s why this session piqued my interest.

It looks to teach marketing professionals key indicators to distinguish fads from technologies with genuine value to help meet their objectives. Although the specific use cases mentioned (AI, Web3, etc.) may seem irrelevant, the overarching thematic discussion is a great opportunity to dive into the mindset with which marketers will likely evaluate Podcasting’s potential and longevity. This can help the podcasting industry improve its pitches to appropriately address these concerns and dispel specific misconceptions; not to mention, potentially meet and present brand marketers with a promising option in their quests to leverage emerging technologies for sustainable impact. 

There’s a whole host of other events that present interesting opportunities to gather insights or meet contacts to start nurturing a relationship with. But whether you’re looking to understand the latest trends, gather best-practices insights, or meet potential business partners- it’s important to approach it strategically. 

SXSW presents an unparalleled platform for us in the business of Podcasting to not only immerse ourselves into both the creation and monetisation sides of Podcasting & the creator economy; but also make these topics a mainstay in the mainstream media and marketing conversation. 

While the ‘Sound Summit’ event on March 9th promises to be the go-to for the most comprehensive coverage of all things podcasting and for networking with the community; engaging in other events and tracks throughout the rest of the week presents a fantastic opportunity to open up new avenues not only for our individual roles and businesses, but for the podcast industry as a whole.

For those attending SXSW, I’ll be there all week advocating for more of the marketing world to recognise the potential of this medium- drop me a message (or find me on the app) if you’ll be attending too, I’m always down to talk about all things podcast advertising!