Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 10 2014

The Most Secretive Speeches Any Conference Will Secure In 2014

By David McMillin
Secret Speeches

You probably haven’t heard much about Julian Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, lately. The same rings true for Edward Snowden, the former contractor who blew the whistle on the National Security Agency’s surveillance techniques. After making plenty of headlines for exposing government secrets, both men have managed to find ways to elude the U.S. authorities who hope to prosecute them.

Now, here’s another trick to add to each of their resumes: deliver the most talked-about speeches at one of the most talked-about conferences in the U.S.

On Saturday, March 8, and Monday, March 10, Assange and Snowden appeared at SXSW in Austin, Texas during the Interactive portion of the 10-day conference to discuss issues surrounding online privacy. However, authorities did not have any chance to track them down. As Assange continues to hide in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and Snowden spends his days in Russia, the speeches were both delivered via Skype.

While the figures have stirred up plenty of controversy, the speeches reveal one area where everyone can agree. Technology is fueling conversations that otherwise might not be able to take place.

“These appearances are powerful proof points for how meeting planners can leverage virtual technology to unlock new possibilities,” Mary Reynolds Kane, senior director, experience marketing, PCMA, says. “It’s no longer simply about ‘what can we do in this physical space’, it’s about expanding your thinking to imagine how new tools can transport attendees into a more compelling experience.”

SEE ALSO: Edward Snowden’s Impact On The Convention Industry

Staying Ahead of the Tech Curve

Those new tools are constantly evolving, too. As the pace of technological transformation continues to quicken, Paul Barnes, assistant director, sales, marketing and event services, Austin Convention Center, says that SXSW provides additional fuel for the center to constantly invest in strengthening its technological infrastructure.

“Each year, our goal is to be one step ahead of what SXSW is doing with technology,” Barnes says.

As more than 65,000 attendees descend on Austin with multiple devices and demands for top-notch connectivity speeds, the ability to handle such high Wi-Fi traffic has given the convention center a reputation as one of the most tech-savvy centers in the country.

SEE ALSO: 4 Steps To Control Your Connectivity Costs

Preventing Technological Troubles

While including Assange and Snowden on the official speaker list created plenty of buzz for SXSW, any meeting planner knows that more cables, connections, signals and video feeds also create plenty of concerns. To alleviate worries of potential disruptions with video and audio feeds, Barnes says that there is a one gigabyte pipe solely used as a backup in the unlikely case of challenges.

“We’ve run these for many years without any issue even as technology continues to grow more sophisticated and attendees demand more,” Barnes says. “We always feel very well-protected. The SXSW IT team worked with our internal team to make sure that the backup is in place.”

Still, there are some potential issues that are simply out of the center’s jurisdiction.

“You do everything you can to put your failsafe plan in place,” Barnes says. “If something happens on the other end of the connection, we have less control. More often than not, though, there is a prerecorded message that can hopefully appease attendees in the event that the connection can’t be restored.”

SEE ALSO: All Tech, All The Time

Speaking From Somewhere Else

Most meeting planners won’t be looking to secure a name who has been accused of violating the Espionage Act, but the speeches at SXSW show that a speaker list is no longer confined to face-to-face. Are a speaker’s travel expenses overwhelming? Is his or her schedule too packed for an in-person appearance? While these questions used to create prohibitive stumbling blocks, planners can now evaluate whether the speaker is important enough to consider hosting a virtual presentation or discussion. 

Have you ever used technology to bring a remote voice to your meeting? How did it change the on-site experience? Go to Catalyst to share your comments on how to make a virtual speaker successful.

This educational article was brought to you by Austin, Texas where more than 65,000 official badge-holding attendees are currently exploring the future of groundbreaking technology at SXSW. Click here to submit your RFP to discover how Austin can help your next meeting reach a new level of success.

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