When meeting with clients to brainstorm creative marketing ideas for events, or discuss how to make a member or client experience better, one question we hear often is: "How can we be more like SXSW?" Most of the time they can't, at least not in the way they may envision. We understand what they want: the ability to say their conference name and everyone knows what that means; to be associated with innovative ideas; and to deliver a memorable conference experience. We get it. That's the mark of a strong brand.
As an agency focused on working with associations, we know most associations have a very defined audience. Instead of trying to be like SXSW, associations should strive to be more like ... themselves! Organizations should deliver on what it is that makes their target audience fans in the first place. Setting the bar high on your event experience is important, and aiming to be like SXSW has merit. But, be true to what makes your organization relevant to your "fans" and focus on what you do best.
How to get the most out of attending a conference and what to expect at a conference
One idea that I really like–and often exists in most associations in some way, shape, or form–is a group committed to defining the attendee conference experience. This group should tackle the question "how can we design a better overall conference experience for each attendee?" Associations Now ran an interesting article on just this question and suggested the idea of introducing a conference curator. Like a museum curator, he or she selects the elements of a conference to create a tailored environment for learning and inspiration.
Whatever you do to make your event more "SXSW like", remember its unique identity has developed over a quarter century–through trial, error and knowing its relevance to the audience. Take the same approach when you develop creative marketing ideas for events and your event too will attract a fanbase of rockstars in your industry.