Maximizing Your Marketing Spend at SXSW

The holidays have come to an end, and we’ve got our sights set on the spring. Why? Because during this time, another season starts to ramp up: Conference Season. One of the big ones on the horizon is SXSW, and whether you’re a SXSW conference veteran or rookie, it’s important to plan ahead and develop an effective strategy that can help make the most of your experience. Without proper planning, you could end up missing out on some key panels and networking events. But most importantly, you might miss out on valuable connections that can maximize your conference Return on Investment (ROI).

Aerospace and Defense Leaders: Here are Six Ways to Elevate Your SXSW Experience

SXSW is a very large event and requires both logistical and strategic planning to ensure you are able to maximize your time there. At any given time, there may be over 40 events running concurrently, so planning is no easy feat! Here are five ways you can maximize your ROI.


  1. Start with the end in mind: Your organization’s goals

When planning conference strategy and attendance for our clients at Distinctive Edge, we always start with the end in mind.

  • We consider an organization’s goals, often defined by what clients would like to accomplish in a given year. While a focus on customers is generally always the priority for most organizations, we examine all major organizational goals.
    • Are they seeking target companies or technology to acquire?
    • Are they looking for talent?
    • JV partnerships or teaming partners?
    • Are they seeking new technology vendors?
    • Are they hoping to attract investors?

When building executives’ schedules and booking prospecting meetings, we suggest approaching things holistically – looking beyond specific marketing tactics, and focusing on larger organizational goals. The way our firm does this is to have an event kick-off where we bring in key executives and gather information about their business goals. We then use this information to build their conference strategy.


  1. Plan panel and event attendance strategically

Attending events can be expensive and time-consuming, and not every event at a conference will be equally useful for you. Reviewing the conference schedule and events with your organization’s goals in mind will help you narrow down your options and zero in on the panels and events that best achieve your desired outcomes. It’s helpful to think of attending conferences and events as one communication tactic in your arsenal, much like developing a brochure or writing a thought leadership piece to share with your network. You can add or subtract your investment of time and resources in a conference relative to how it helps you meet your priorities.


  1. Consider speaking opportunities

Do you consider yourself an expert in your industry, or does your company offer an innovative product that others would be interested in learning about? Then consider taking part in one of the many panel discussions or speaking opportunities offered at conferences. The conference setting is the perfect place to garner attention and demonstrate your credibility as a subject matter expert. As soon as you see a “Call for Speakers” announcement for a conference you plan to attend, start developing a compelling proposal to submit for consideration. Be sure to keep your audience in mind and create objectives that attendees will achieve by attending your presentation. Remember to be creative – for example, a concise and catchy presentation title will be more likely to stand out and grab attention than one that is wordy and straightforward. (While it is too late to submit a panel for SXSW at this time, a number of private events take place during the conference in which executives can sponsor panels. Distinctive Edge has insights into these opportunities – please connect with us to learn more!)


  1. Maximize your time and presence

The conference website is a valuable place to find events you may want to attend; however, to find all of the aerospace and defense events, you may need to look outside of the normal channels. Consider doing a search for aerospace and defense round-ups of parties, panels and events. Distinctive Edge plans to put one of these out in early February, so be on the lookout!
Once you have targeted all of your events:

  • Identify the right sphere. To ensure you are able to connect with a range of people focused in your industry, consider teaming up with a non-competing partner, or hosting an industry-specific event or gathering. At such an event, you can curate the right mix of leaders, subject matter experts and attendees who are your target audience, all in the same location, to help you meet your business goals in a concentrated way. For example, in 2023, Distinctive Edge has made it easy to connect with the right people in the space and defense community via the highly-curated Space, Defense and Innovation Reception held on March 11 at SXSW. If you are seeking an event to assist you in networking with colleagues in the space and defense industries, this may be the right event for you.


  • Identify the right people. You can get a head start on networking by reaching out to other attendees or speakers via LinkedIn to start building a relationship before the conference begins. This will set you apart and give you a chance to schedule meetings with these contacts well in advance. High value targets can be identified through an event’s speaker list. You can search for industry-relevant speakers at SXSW by searching useful keywords on the SXSW website. Attendees can also be found on the SXSWSocial app. In addition, some conferences like SXSW, AUSA and RSA have a host of private panels and events that are not on the official schedule. To find these, do a search for your industry sector and the conference name.


  1. Strategize with your colleagues

Most companies send more than one person to an industry conference. If this is the case for your organization, find out who else will be attending so you can meet ahead of time to get your plans in sync. One effective strategy is to implement a “divide and conquer” approach to the conference. Review your lists of seminars, presentations and after-hour events, then determine which team members will attend so you can maximize your company’s presence. By collaborating with your coworkers, you will be able to share more information and potential contacts with one another once the show ends. This also ensures you are able to attend as many events as possible and cover maximum ground.


  1. Team up with a partner who knows the event

Specializing in aerospace and defense, the team at Distinctive Edge Partners brings significant industry connections and expertise to help our clients make the right connections. At SXSW, for example, we help our clients navigate the vast amount of programming and build customized event schedules most likely to make the biggest impact. We additionally help clients by identifying the most meaningful connections, pre-booking meetings, and building briefing books to ensure executives maximize their time on the ground with a full schedule of targeted meetings. Want to learn more about this service? Book a meeting with us here for a free consultation to learn how we can help.

A conference strategy is a must in order to take advantage of all the available opportunities an event has to offer. The more planning you do ahead of time, the better your overall experience will be. Don’t wait until the last minute to create your plan – or worse, try to play it by ear. A well-designed conference plan before the event starts is a smart and effective approach that will result in a positive ROI for your company long after the event ends.


The Distinctive Edge team is composed of business-builders with unique communications expertise and industry specialization. We help leaders solve business problems, thrive through transition, and achieve growth and engagement goals. The tools of our trade are strategic storytelling, investor and public relations, communications, and marketing. To learn more about our services, visit or book a free 30-minute consultation here.