Why The Formula For a High-Attendance Event Must Include Creativity, According to SXSW’s Co-President

Based in 1987 in Austin, Texas, South by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual convention that brings collectively greater than 300,000 professionals within the movie, TV, music, schooling, and tech industries.

In 2024 alone, featured audio system embrace embrace Jane Fonda, Dwyane Wade, Alex Cooper, and Daisy Ridley.

All of which is to say: It‘s an enormous occasion centered round varied artistic verticals. So who higher to talk on creativity than SXSW’s Co-President, Hugh Forrest?

As Forrest places it, “Our north star has all the time been creativity. I have been with the occasion for over 30 years, and the occasion has modified lots over that point interval … However what hasn’t modified is our deal with creativity.”

Let‘s dive into a few of Hugh’s prime ideas for injecting creativity into any occasion planning course of. All for listening to the total interview? Test it out on the Hustle Every day present.

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The best way to Inject Creativity Into Your Subsequent Excessive-Attendance Occasion

1. Permit creatives to be taught from different creatives.

One of many greatest advantages of large-scale occasions is the chance to community with professionals exterior of your vertical.

As a marketer, I‘m not all the time thinking about studying from different entrepreneurs. Typically, I’ve discovered essentially the most inspiration in conversations with script-writers, educators, or social media creators.

Hugh Forrest believes wholeheartedly within the energy of interdisciplinary networking.

He says, “Specifically, we have seen how completely different sorts of artistic folks can be taught from one another. In the event you’re a musician, you’ll be able to be taught lots from connecting with different musicians … However you’ll be able to be taught much more from connecting with an innovator within the meals house, or an athlete, or somebody who’s doing a tech startup.”

In case your occasion is overly-siloed, it is going to be troublesome to foster the kind of collaboration and creativity that your attendees crave. As a substitute, take into account the way you would possibly merge seemingly-opposite teams of pros to work together and be taught from one another.

2. Keep centered in your neighborhood and what issues to them.

Forrest says that SXSW has all the time mirrored the creativity in Austin, Texas.

When SXSW first started in 1987, they totally centered on music — after which, in 1994 when Austin grew to become a burgeoning movie scene, SXSW tailored and added movie and multimedia.

Extra just lately, when the College of Texas added a medical college, SXSW launched well being and medical expertise into their content material lineup.

As Austin expands and shifts its pursuits, so does SXSW. In the end, Forrest has found one essential part of long-term success within the occasion business: Keep on-top of what issues to your viewers, and discover methods to pivot when acceptable.

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As he places it, “I imply, if we’re related, if we’re compelling, if we’re bettering, a lot of that’s as a result of we’re very in contact with our neighborhood or the varied communities we serve—whether or not that is bands and filmmakers for the movie and TV competition, or entrepreneurs, innovators, and creators. The occasion has thrived for 35 years due to this deal with large creativity in all its many kinds.”

He provides, “If Austin continues to push into AI and turns into this world middle for AI innovation, we’ll push much more into AI at South by Southwest. If Austin turns into the sneaker capital of the world, then we’ll see much more sneaker stuff in Austin.”

Equally, when you think about testing out new content material at your subsequent occasion, hold your neighborhood on the forefront.

AI is a trending subject proper now, however are you certain your neighborhood cares about it? Or are they extra thinking about studying find out how to broaden their TikTok following? Leaning into the content material that applies to your neighborhood will likely be key to creating a satisfying and high-attended occasion.

3. AI is more and more essential … however do not under-appreciate the face-to-face part that lets creativity shine.

“One of many themes that we all the time rediscover at SXSW is on the one hand, we’re an occasion about expertise and have a good time new methods for folks to attach,” Forrest says.

He provides, “However alternatively, crucial expertise is face-to-face interplay. And that hasn’t modified. Bringing folks with various concepts collectively in a metropolis that has all the time cultivated and celebrated creativity — in a time of yr when you’ve the manifestation of rebirth and creativity (i.e. springtime) — has turned out to be a really robust formulation for good issues to occur.”

AI is all the fashion proper now. However essentially the most compelling motive folks buy tickets to conferences and occasions is the in-person providing. With 65% of staff preferring a very distant setup, face-to-face interactions are uncommon.

When given the possibility, folks need to bounce on the chance to attach in-person.

So, whereas it may be tempting (and cost-effective) to create a completely digital occasion, you would possibly need to take into account providing attendees the chance to interact in actual life — even when that simply means an elective meet-and-greet after the primary occasion.

As Forrest places it, “Creativity is what makes us human. And in 2024, as we see increasingly more machines taking up, we actually must lean into our humanity.”

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