is an annual conference that features some of the brightest minds in technology, film and music.  The two-week long festival is held in Austin, Texas.

At SXSW you can run into just about anybody at any time. From celebrities to CEOs to 18-year-old programming prodigies, people from all over the world decend on Texas to learn, share ideas, party and meet new people.

I just got back and let me tell you, it did not disappoint

Would attending SXSW benefit your staffing company?  Maybe. Is your company going to take advantage of everything that SXSW has to offer?

When attending SXSW you have to decide if your representatives are going as attendees, panel speakers or vendors.  Each option would have certain benefits, and it's up to you decide which benefit would most help your company. 

First ask yourself the following questions:

What are we trying to accomplish? 

If you want to learn more about social media and technology, send a rep to attend the sessions and parties.  You can learn by attending panels, sitting in on keynote speakers and picking someone's brain over a cold one.

If you want to increase brand awareness, you can accomplish that by handing out flyers outside of the convention.  There were many companies that introduced themselves to me outside of the Austin Convention Center.  

Another way to increase brand awareness is by having a vendor booth. A good booth will put you in front of thousands of people who are there to learn about companies just like you!  Just make sure your booth doesn't suck!

If you want to try to score a few new customers and maybe find some great talent at the same time, a vendor booth is the way to go.  I stopped by the Robert Half (The Creative Group) SXSW booth and immediately noticed a fishbowl full of business cards that were left by business owners looking for new talent. 

I spoke to Creative Group Sr. Account Manager, Heather Mendenhall, about whether or not they were achieving their goals, and she said that things were going even better than expected. According to Mendenhall, they had received 4 new job orders within the first two hours!

The three main goals they wanted to accomplish were:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Find new customers
  • Find new talent

Considering the amount of talent and influence walking the halls at SXSW, if they weren't able to accomplish those goals it's their own fault.

If you want to present your company as a specialist in a certain field, try to get one of your reps on a speaker's panel.  There's nothing like having one of your reps sit at a table with three other gurus, discussing and debating in front of 200 to 2,500 people to give people the impression your company knows what the hell is going on.

How much planning should we do?

Without a plan you will be floundering around, drowning in a sea of innovation.  You have to do something that will make your company stand out.  Your booth should be energetic and memorable.  Your reps should know exactly what they are there for.  Your flyers should be so well designed you can't seem to keep enough in your hands.

Be careful not to overplan, however.  You should leave some time open to explore the event and find the people your company needs to make a connection with.

What type of reps should we send?

Send the most outgoing, friendly and professional employees you have.  It is very easy to watch SXSW pass you by if you don't take advantage of the conversations that happen in the hallway. Don't send wallflowers!

Make sure your reps don't have a problem handling their alcohol.  Free beer is everywhere and it's up to them to make sure they know what their limits are. You wouldn't want one of your reps sporting your company t-shirt while they puke themselves silly in the alley.

Send people who have a good elevator speech down pat.  A lot of times you only get 30-45 seconds to talk to someone before they shuffle along.  Make those 45 seconds count!

Send someone who knows your products and services inside and out.  As an attendee, nothing was more frustrating than asking a few questions about a particular product, then getting told "I'm not sure, I'm a salesguy."  That's what I call Vendor Booth FAIL.

Regardless of what your goals are, you can achieve them at SXSW. It all depends on whether you come prepared, whether you've planned out your goals and whether you send the right people.

Tags: Advice, Austin, Robert Half, Conferences, Heather Mendenhall, Staffing Companies, SXSW, Texas, The Creative Group