How To Find And Engage A-Listers Before SXSW

Editor’s note: Ben Lang is community manager at Wibiya and Conduit, which is hosting Conduit Corner at SXSW. Follow him on Twitter @benln.

Let’s face it, many of the big players in the tech scene are headed to SXSW this year. The question is, how do you connect with them? You want to leave SXSW feeling like you’ve accomplished something aside from just getting drunk. Finding the right A-listers beforehand and connecting with them at the event is a sure way to make the most of your time there.

Don’t have your eyes set on someone specific? Here are some tips and resources to get you started on scoping out the most influential tech stars making a grand appearance at SXSW.

Twitter Hashtag + Klout

Try searching #SXSW on Twitter to see who’s coming. If you want to find the most influential people tweeting about SXSW, try using HootSuite to help you filter people based on klout. There are also other tools like and Topsy, which can help you analyze hashtags.

After a quick search, I discovered that Perez Hilton, Tim O’Reilly, and, of course, Robert Scoble are all headed to SXSW. Those are definitely some “A-listers” I’d want to get in touch with before the event to make sure I meet them.

Speaker Schedule

Hundreds of influential people will be speaking at SXSW. The only problem is, they’ll probably be bombarded after their presentations. Take advantage of this list and try to connect with the people who interest you beforehand. Schedule meetings with them so that you’re guaranteed time to connect.

A friend of mine recently spent a few hours scrolling through the names of speakers, made a list of top-priority people and reached out to them, saying he was going to attend their event. That gives him a much better chance of creating a meaningful relationship with these people.


Meeteor, a networking service that does the background work for you, set up a networking platform specifically for SXSW. You can browse through it and see if you spot any A-listers you’re keen on meeting – and meet them before you even get to the event.

Through this service, I’ve already connected to plenty of interesting people, which has enabled me to network with them before the event itself.


The Plancast team may have recently announced their intention to move on to other projects, but people are still using it – especially for SXSW. Try searching SXSW on Plancast to discover just how many parties are happening that week. It’s a great idea to scroll through those attending the events and find people who interest you. With over 2,900 people signed up on the main Plancast page for SXSW, you’re sure to find some A-listers to mingle with.

An acquaintance of mine told me that he perused through hundreds of people on Plancast to find interesting SXSW attendees.


Eventbrite is another great place to scroll through lists of people attending SXSW parties. They made a page just to show all of the parties taking place at SXSW. Keep your eyes out for A-listers to connect with at these festivities.

I took a look at some parties, such as The State of Now, Tech Cocktail’s #StartupLife and Boxee Kegger and found fascinating new prospects for networking.

SX Social

SX Social is a platform that allows attendees of specific events to search for and message each other. Start messaging people before the conference to maximize your results.

SXSW Parties

This Twitter account run by Michael Gold contains tweets about influential people partying at SXSW. Following this account will greatly boost your chances of discovering people at the event.

I’ve been following @sxswp for a few days and have already learned about some hot parties and inspirational people who will be coming to Austin.

Once you’ve found the right people, get in touch with them and start engaging them in a conversation. Here are some of the top tools to help you make that first move:


Rapportive is a Gmail plugin that serves as an excellent tool to reach out to people. This powerful tool displays a person’s information such as their Twitter page, Facebook profile, CrunchBase info, approximate location and more.

You’ll only see this info once you’ve entered the person’s email into the “to” field, but what you can do is simply play a guessing game. For example, if you’re trying to reach a certain writer at The New York Times, try typing in his or her first name If the person’s picture, Twitter and Facebook info appears in the Raaportive box, you know you’ve hit the jackpot. If your guess wasn’t right the first time, don’t give up! Keep trying until you get it right by adding their last name, adding a period, or trying any other variation you can think of.

It’s not as if you’re sending this email to them through a contact form that may never be seen. It’ll reach them directly and they’ll probably think that you have a close mutual friend who has their email.

If you receive a response, engage the person, start a conversation, prove that you’re worth their time. I’ve used this strategy before plenty of conferences to set up meetings. It always pays off. Now’s your chance to do so before SXSW takes place.


Try checking out your target’s Twitter account to see if they’re active. If they are, start tweeting them about connecting at SXSW. Make sure to give them a good reason to do so. It has to be mutually beneficial for both sides.


LinkedIn is a great resource to look up people’s profiles and see if you have any mutual connections. If you do, just ask your acquaintance to give you that person’s contact details. Try and build a relationship with that person before SXSW — that way you’ll benefit more.

Any other tips?

[image via flickr/betsyweber]