Fine-Tune Your Digital Strategy With Lessons From SXSW

Author: David McMillin       

Tens of thousands of tech enthusiasts, music fans, and film-industry professionals are currently exploring Austin, Texas during the annual SXSW Conference, but you don’t have to navigate the crowds or spend a dime to be part of the conversation. Instead, you can tune in to the SXSW Live Studio for exclusive interviews with cryptocurrency experts, movie directors, award-winning chefs, and a number of other voices who are part of this year’s program. If you are working to leverage on-site content in your digital strategy, SXSW’s nine-day, 50-hour broadcast schedule provides a case-study example of how to connect with a remote audience. Here are my observations from the beginning of the programming:

1) A Script Can Feel Kind of Awkward. 

The SXSW host, Douglas Caballero, is engaging and fun, but the very first note of the programming was less than a strong start. Because he had to read from a pile of index cards with specific call-outs about what was in store for the program, he had less opportunity to be extemporaneous. The concept was strong — a camera crew followed Caballero as he walked the streets of Austin — but the execution felt a bit forced. Luckily, the first full day of programming felt more authentic. Caballero conducted casual, unscripted interviews in the SXSW Live Studio, and they felt like real conversations.

2) Put Your Content in Multiple Places. 

In addition to streaming on the official SXSW website, the programming also runs on the conference’s Facebook page. With more than 570,000 fans and the ability to pay to promote videos, the engagement strategy expands each video’s reach to connect with the massive audience on social media. Facebook also offers an interactive bonus: The live-stream team invites fans to submit questions for interview subjects.

3) Perfection Can Take a Backseat. 

SXSW applies a key lesson from the era of lo-fi smartphone videos: People don’t mind mistakes. Many of the broadcasts include count-ins and production-team members giving the go-ahead signal. Caballero reminds viewers that the broadcast is live, too. For many organizations, giving attendees a glimpse of an unvarnished performance might feel uncomfortable, but SXSW’s live-stream reinforces that imperfection is part of authenticity.

4) Take a Step Out of the Studio.

SXSW’s studio is an ideal environment with all the tech requirements to avoid potential broadcast issues, but staying in one location for nine days would start to feel monotonous — especially with so many activities happening around Austin. The schedule borrows from major awards shows with plans for red-carpet coverage at film screenings, and Caballero will also tour innovative activations of new technologies.

The coverage continues through Saturday, March 17. Click here for the complete schedule, and check out some of the programming to see how you can apply it to your next digital event.

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