I made it to Austin and am all checked in for South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi)! I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to post much while I’m here, but I’m going to make an effort. To start off, read below for a few quick public relations observations from my first three hours in the state of Texas.
1. Signage is key!
The SXSW crew really gets this. There are clear signs and archways that direct you everywhere within SXSW host complexes. On top of that, there are posters (concert, film, app advertisements…) literally on every flat (on some non-flat) surface. From the airport to the city center, there is in-your-face marketing. It’s not just official SXSW signage either. There are businesses with ads (some covering entire staircases at the airport) welcoming guests, and proving they know their target audience by including QR codes, requests to “like” or “follow,” etc. The neat thing about all these ads is (and maybe this is just my dorky graphic design side coming out) it’s interesting! You actually want to look because of the way the ads are posted, arranged and styled.
2. Consider your footprint.
The SXSW crew knows that they are invading a town where people actually work and live. The team is making sure that attendees care for the city and its residents, and don’t just leave a mess. For example, all that signage I mentioned? Anyone can put it up, but all the building surfaces where you’d want to put them (pillars, benches, etc.) have been pre-wrapped in cellophane so nothing gets damaged. Genius.
3. Friendly crowd control never hurt anyone.
The check-in process is so well-run. There are dozens of lines to go through, with SXSW “traffic controllers” directing you to the shortest wait. Not only do attendees appreciate this, but I’m sure the staff love not being swamped too! The entire process took me five minutes and I had my badge and bag in hand. Granted, I did check in rather late on the night before the conference technically starts, but there were still quite a few people there. Kudos to the crew manning the lines here!
4. Keep other businesses who will be impacted by an event informed.
Okay, SXSW – you can’t win them all! Actually, maybe this is on my hotel and not the conference. Either way, the paid shuttles that run throughout the conference ran on shortened hours today, but the hotel staff didn’t know that and told people they were running until 3 a.m. One poor guy was waiting outside for almost an hour, until he overheard me say that they stopped running so I was waiting for a cab. Turns out he’s from my home state, and we had a good long chat while sharing a cab. So from my perspective it worked out, but it did point out to me how important it is to inform any businesses and/or organizations that may be impacted by one of your events of the relevant details.