Nonstop Networking, SXSW-Style


Rob Schlissel is a Senior Producer at Empire Entertainment, where he helps clients bring their brands and missions to life. He has produced a wide variety of projects including The CLASSY Awards, charity: water's annual fundraising gala, and the viral video sensation A PSA Not Approved by AJWS, just to name a few.

This past spring, I headed down south for the coveted SXSW Festival in order to heed the age-old mantra, "it's not what you know, but who you know." For those who have been living under a rock for the past decade, SXSW is a week-long festival focused on Music, Film and Interactive. It brings together people from various industries ranging from hi-tech start-ups to well-established corporations, providing the perfect platform for me to take advantage of ROI's "Go Network" Micro Grant.

And that's exactly what I did. Anyone who describes SXSW as a whirlwind of events, lectures, and partying is seriously downplaying what happens in Austin, TX that week. The "Go Network" grant provided me the much-needed funds to afford the rather expensive gold badge that accesses both the Film and the Interactive elements of the festival. This badge granted me access to more panels than I could dream of attending, and enough people to meet to fill an antique rolodex.

Upon landing Thursday night, March 6, I headed straight to the ROI house to settle in (did I mention ROI was also gracious enough to host the whole ROI contingency in two houses?). As I connected with old and new ROIers alike, we all started sharing strategies to approach the week. Friday morning brought the official start to SXSW. With a pocket full of business cards and a portable charging device, I was ready to meet the masses.

The next few hours, turned days, were a blur. I sat through interesting panels, heard some great keynotes from industry leaders, and bounced around between both official and unofficial events. I ran into work acquaintances and old friends, who in turn introduced me to new acquaintances and new friends. I sought out sessions that featured people with whom I wanted to connect, and events hosted by companies with which I hoped to do business. Everywhere I turned I found what I was looking for, and everywhere I turned were people doing the same as me.

Over the course of my week at SXSW I was able to network with dozens of new contacts and potential leads. But now, the real work starts—expanding on those leads and developing meaningful relationships. It can be a long road, but as long as I remain open to opportunity—it will be fruitful. The fun part is that it’s never ending and you never know where it will lead, so…know anyone I should meet?