Exhibition World Issue 2 - 2022 | Page 13

Stateside with Stephanie

Thoughts from a SXSW first timer

Stephanie Selesnick reports from Austin , Texas on SXSW , which ran 11-20 March
ounded in 1987

F in Austin , Texas , US , SXSW ® ( South by Southwest ) is best known for its conference and festivals celebrating the convergence of tech , film , music , education , and culture . The event takes over much of Downtown Austin and its audience is made up of people in creative industries from all over the world .

Beginning as a small music festival , SXSW expanded into film and tech / interactive . In past years , both Obamas spoke . Twitter launched there , as did Uber and Foursquare . This year ’ s event had 99 films and over 1,400 bands scheduled to play , along with art installations and activations , numerous educational sessions , and keynotes . ( For more of SXSW ’ s history , visit their website : www . sxsw . com / about / history /# timeline ). 2022 marked the return to an in-person event and a concurrent digital component . Even though Texas has no Covid mandates , inperson attendees were required to provide proof of Covid vaccines or recent negative test for entry . Masks were required at the indoor events .
The Neal Kocurek Memorial Austin Convention Center is the centre of all activities , hosting the Creative Industries Expo and many other events . The show floor had good traffic , and exhibitors were a solid mix of internationals , established brands , alongside startups and local mom & pop outfits .
On the interactive / tech side , the Metaverse and NFTs had their day with companies on the show floor and in hotel ballrooms touting products , solutions , and platforms for each . Space travel and tourism was also popular .
Besides the Expo at the Convention Center , brand activations , lounges , and ‘ Houses ’ were held throughout the city . For example , the UK House ( a venue that was taken over and branded for the 10-day event ) held educational sessions during the day , featured British bands in the evening , and served with UKinspired food and beverages .
Although I didn ’ t get to visit all the activations , here are some Activation and Experience Tips :
1 . Capture all leads . Greeters were at all entrances , electronically capturing the information from all entrants .
2 . Have a point to the activation . Work with your clients to make it easy and intuitive for visitors to understand what the brand is selling and / or promoting . Most , but not all did .
3 Keep activations / activities short . Under five minutes – and 2-3 minutes if you want to optimise the number of visitors enjoying the experience , particularly if using VR goggles / headsets .
4 . Immersive experiences are awesome – with and without VR goggles / headsets . The XR Experience held in dimmed ballrooms at the Fairmont Hotel , showcased ( mostly ) independent film makers . VR goggles and headphones were cleaned consistently between users and experiences engaging .
Another activation was held on a converted parking lot ,
Below : A VR activation at SXSW which included domed tents with carpeting , comfortable couches , and chairs to view visuals on the tent ceilings with accompanying music . They also had a music stage with seating , a couple of bars , BBQ , and a separate VIP area .
More tips : Make your event easy to get around . Some 16 + venues ( not including music stages ) were spread around Downtown Austin , most within a reasonable walk . Free shuttles were also provided , along with pay-as-you-go Razers and pedicabs . There were paper maps , links on the app to get walking instructions and good signage .
There is no such thing as hybrid ( my emphasis ). There are two concurrent events running at the same time . One in person and one online . Plan for both . Staff for both . Spend for both .
Work with the city . The city of Austin has been a great partner in the success of SXSW . Know the value you bring to cities ( publicity reach , visitor and exhibitor spend ) where your events are held .
From a small music festival to a world-renowned convergence of all things creative , SXSW has much to offer those of us in the B2B events business . Pay attention to trends in your industries , promote and embrace them , and keep it fun .
www . exhibitionworld . co . uk Issue 2 2022 13