Over the past few days I’ve been attending the SXSW interactive festival in Austin, Texas for the first time in a long time. It is really interesting to see how the festival has evolved but it is also interesting to see how it hasn’t evolved at all. The biggest stress at SXSW is having to literally sprint between around downtown Austin to get to the different session you really want to attend.
The biggest stress at SXSW is having to literally sprint between around Austin to get to the different sessions that are located in the convention center and at multiple hotels all over downtown. Many times you will go flying out of your last session and rush over to a different location only to find that the session is full because you showed up too late and you have to wait in line for someone to come out so you can go it. It is maddening and means that often you have to miss the last quarter of the previous session or just skip it all together if you really want to get into the next session. It’s hard to understand how a festival dedicated to the newest ideas and technologies wouldn’t have a better solution to this problem. So instead of just complaining about the problem I wanted to put out an idea that I think might make a lot of sense for how conferences like this could evolve to a more modern and inclusive model.
I think that to find the basis of the solution you just have to look to the National Football League. The NFL has a simple rule for how they distribute content to a local audience. If a game is sold out then it will be shown locally on TV but it is not sold out then it isn’t. The logic is that they want to drive people into the stadium to see the game but when that isn’t possible because of a sell out then they don’t want to exclude anyone so its shown on TV.
So let’s apply that same basic rule to SXSW.
• If a session isn’t full then people can obviously still be admitted to see the speakers BUT if the session is full then utilize a live streaming technology like Periscope to stream the content to the people who could not get in.
• You would do the stream securely through the SXSW app so you ensure that only attendees see the content and it doesn’t devalue the price of a conference ticket. From an attendee perspective, you would end up with a more engaged and happier audience who would be more likely to return to the conference and recommend it to their friends.
• From an attendee perspective, you would end up with a more engaged and happier audience who would be more likely to return to the conference and recommend it to their friends.
• From the conference perspective, I’m sure you would be able to cover the cost the extra cameras and streaming hardware through sponsorship since there isn’t a single thing at SXSW that isn’t sponsored. It might even give them the opportunity to create even more sponsorship opportunities since you could not just find a hardware sponsor but you could run pre-roll commercials before each session starts streaming which is something totally new for that part of the festival.
It would seem like me an idea like this would only make sense since it would create an environment that would be more inclusive, would be less stressful, more attendees would be impacted by more of the content which is the point of the entire event. Only time will tell if these types of events are willing to evolve but it is clear that this space that is dedicated to trying to create innovation should look at themselves to evolve this aging format.