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4 Lessons #EventProfs Can Learn from SXSW

Blair Pettrey

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South by Southwest, more often referred to as SXSW – had their first event in 1987 as a response to the unexpectedly popular North by Northwest event. Expecting only 150 attendees at the original North by Northwest event, over 700 attendees showed up. To say it was a hit is an understatement.

Lesson #1 – Be Prepared to Improvise

As we mentioned in the history – the original event – North by Northwest – expected only 150 attendees and had over 700 show up. Had those event professionals who planned that event choked and failed on the spot – that first event would have quickly become a flop, and there would be no need for South by Southwest. Instead, they did with what they had, and quickly realized it wasn’t going to be the ‘end of the world’.

Lesson #2 – Stop Fearing Event Execution

So often we hear so many event professionals and event planners complain about the cost of events, and how this is one of the biggest reasons event professionals choose to not plan future events or repeated events. In fact, did you know that the event planning industry is one of the most growing industries – and yet one what U.S. News defined as one of the riskiest fields to enter?

But the truth is – with the right team behind you – with the proper techniques and with the right motivation and determination, there’s no reason to fear event planning or execution! In fact, MeetingPlay's custom mobile event apps can help event planners draw attendee engagement, increase sponsorships and exhibitor ROI, and so much more. There’s no need to fear failure or burnout with the right team and event app here to help you succeed – whether it’s attendee engagement before, during or after – or pre-conference registration, or post conference analytics and events. MeetingPlay has your back. Learn more here.

Lesson #3 – Learn to Flip Negativity

Of course there are going to be moments and attendees who garner appropriate negative feelings. Whether they are concerned with how your (non) MeetingPlay app failed them, or they didn’t like the type of soda pop you chose to put on the table. There are going to be complaints. But you’re also going to have the ‘OTT’s. We are MeetingPlay refer to OTT’s as ‘Over the Tops’ – the attendee that just could not be pleased no matter what you did, or how much you went out of your way. And unfortunately, it’s usually those ‘OTT’’s that are the ones to yell the loudest. They run to social media – they call your higher ups – they complain to anyone and everyone, because that’s just who they are.

The ‘Alamo Drafthouse’, a theatre that opened in 1997 – screened a film for an SXSW event where they experienced an ‘OTT’. Despite having strict rules about texting policy in their theatre – one customer was not happy when her actions lead her to being kicked out, and left quite the angry voicemail:

Did they fail because of this one angry ‘OTT’ phone message? Nope. Today they have 4 locations – where they still don’t let you text message in the theatre. J

Lesson #4 Don’t Be Afraid of Evolution

If you read the SXSW history on their website – one of the most important lessons every event professional needs is plain in text.

“The event has changed in many surprising and meaningful ways since 1987, but at its core, SXSW remains a tool for creative people to develop their careers by bringing together people from around the globe to meet, learn and share ideas. (And maybe have a few once-in-a-lifetime experiences.)”

While the event has developed and evolved in many ways – expanding, adding and taking away – the original foundation around the event remains the same. SXSW is a great example of refusing to fail (but being prepared no matter what), and executing change with the changes of technology and attendee desires and needs.

There are many great and valuable lessons event professionals and event planners can learn from SXSW - but just remember - MeetingPlay's goal is here to help support your attendee engagement, reporting and success all through our custom mobile event apps. Ready to learn more?

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