SXSW Austin TXThis time next week I’ll be in the barbeque-eating, music-loving city of Austin, TX for the annual interactive conference, SXSWi. It’s my first time and I’ve followed the conversation since 2004, when I first learned about it from a fellow coworker at HUGE. This year is my turn to join and even lead the SXSW conversation and if you’re experiencing the conference for the first time like me, here are some approaches I’m taking starting now.

Reach Out to Your Community

Let your social media connections know that you’ll be at SXSW weeks before you head out. This can be specific @mentions on Twitter, a broad status update on Facebook, even pictures of your badge on Instagram. Use your social channels for sharing this information. This is an exciting opportunity to meet your online connections in real life, which can deepen relationships, enable you to meet their friends and put your mind at ease knowing there are friends at the conference waiting for you to say hello.

Sign Up for Sessions and Parties

SXSW is all about the sessions and parties. It’s a huge networking opportunity, educational playground and content-creation experience. To get into these events, you should register ahead of time or many of them won’t be available. Luckily, there are plenty of platforms for finding and signing up for these events including these websites and free apps:

Know How to Spend Your Time

There are tons of sessions and many happening at the exact same time. How do you pick the best sessions and parties to make the most of your short time in Austin? While I haven’t figured that out yet, I can tell you that based on the advice of SXSW veterans and my love for content marketing, it’s all about content and networking. What sessions can result in great content for you and even the company you work for? Content can be blog posts, Instagram pictures, Vine videos or even ebooks and webinars. What parties can you go to that will enable you to meet the people you admire on Twitter? Be goal-oriented and you’ll choose the best path.

What other advice and ideas can you share for me? Have you attended SXSW and used some of these ideas? Let’s start the conversation before we step foot in Austin.