5 Reasons Not to Hold an Event During SXSW

5 Reasons Not to Hold an Event During SXSW

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Close your eyes and listen closely. Do you hear that sound? That… rumble? It sounds like a herd of elephants in a race against a fleet of helicopters, doesn’t it? Well, that’s not what it is. It’s South By Southwest, and it’s bringing the noise, the crowds, the spectacle, the buzz of all buzzes, and a whole lot of other things with it. Over the years, it’s become something of an expectation that tech brands looking to launch something will automatically launch it at South By, and that it’s where everyone makes their mark. But… is that really true? For all the buzz and synchronicity the mega-festival provides, are there maybe — just maybe — a few sound reasons not to hold your event during SXSW, but rather, utilize Austin for your launch, bash or celebration some other time of year? Let’s investigate.

You save money by the pound.

It’s true: while the global phenomenon that is SXSW can be a fantastic time and place to plant your brand’s flag in the ground and declare that it’s doing something noteworthy, celebrating a milestone or making its big debut, it’s also incredibly expensive to do so. Mileage may vary, but it’s not uncommon for prices to skyrocket on everything from catering and bar service to the venue where you’d like to host your event. You can spend, say, $50,000 to take over an event space amid the hustle and bustle of all the March madness, or you can spend a fraction (we’re talking as little as one-fifth here) pretty much any other time of year. Yes, the Big Top will have left town and taken plenty of influencers with it, but with all the money you’ll save, you can spend it instead on targeted marketing, amazing experiential installations onsite, or, heck… fly those influencers in and keep them captivated the entire time they’re in town with all eyes on you.Which brings us to…

You get people’s full attention.

Yes, South By is exciting. Yes, celebrities are in town. Yes, hashtags are a-plenty and connections are made every minute of every day and night. But there’s a downside to all that hubbub: it’s easy to get lost in all that noise. When you’re competing with the largest brands in the world, the hottest shows, the most exclusive parties, and every marketing trick in the book, it can seem next to impossible to truly make an impression amid so much distraction. If you want to get and hold your audience’s attention, it’s difficult to do it when there’s a three-ring circus happening all around you. From digital coverage to impressions made in person on your guests, what happens during SXSW is, for many brands, ephemeral and largely out of their control, especially when there’s so much competition taking place literally on all sides at the same time.

You attract the crowd you want.

The festival is a lot of things to a lot of people. It’s a fantastic place to make professional connections, learn new things and see what the competition is up to. What it isn’t, is an opportunity for a brand to execute any meaningful level of control over who it interacts with. Your marketing team can send exclusive invitations to the most important journalists, influencers, celebs, customers and stakeholders out there, but guaranteeing or even assuming that they’ll show up is a tremendous gamble. If you step away from the fray and wait for the smoke to clear, though, you can exert far more authority over who ends up spending some quality time experiencing your brand and its message. That’s no small thing. Would you rather spend a chunk of your marketing budget on something that might work, or something that will?

You can choose your venue, not just take what’s left.

Every year, it’s a scramble for brands to pick the right spot — one that suits their budget, accommodates the crowd size they want, and is close enough to the flame (i.e., the convention center) to benefit from its heat. Even as prices spike, spaces are snapped up months in advance, and if you’ve waited until the beginning of the year to snag one, you’ve waited far too long. Austin is filled with dynamic venues to suit every need, but with so many companies flocking to the same ZIP code for a few short days, demand outpaces supply, and brands that haven’t planned several quarters in advance and allotted beaucoup bucks to the cause are left sifting through spaces that are out of budget, out of scope or practically off the map. Host your event another time of year, however, and the choice is yours: a famous state-of-the-art theater in the heart of downtown? No problem. A honky tonk, mansion or racetrack? Done.

You can fit the timeline to suit you, not vice-versa.

Pop quiz: How fun is it promoting a prototype before it’s been tested, sacrificing quality for the ability to push something out the door quickly, or otherwise hustling to meet an arbitrary deadline? It’s no fun at all, and not good for your bottom line, either. Scurrying to catch up to the cool kids may feel like the thing to do when you want your work to get noticed on a global scale, but it can be antithetical to your success and longevity. If you plan it right and keep your focus where it ought to be, you can curate a guest list filled with people whose time and attention spans won’t be split into razor-thin shards with little left over for what you’re trying to present to them. In the end, on your own timeline and your own terms, you can get the cool kids to come to you.

Interested in learning how to absolutely nail your launch event after the circus leaves town? Get in touch with Kennedy and we’ll show you what we can do. 

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