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Episode 84 / January 15, 2024

Building an iconic festival experience with SXSW’s Hugh Forrest

Tune in as Hugh Forrest shares his more than three decades of experience in evolving SXSW into a globally recognized event by focusing on community, creativity, and adaptation.

In this episode, host Rachel Moore sits down with Hugh Forrest, the Co-president and Chief Programming Officer of SXSW. With roughly 35 years of experience with SXSW, Forrest explores the evolution of this monumental event and its impact on — and takeover of — Austin, Texas. 

He delves into the complexities of managing a city-wide festival, emphasizing the importance of community engagement and adapting to the changing events landscape. Forrest’s insights into fostering community, embracing creativity, and ensuring attendee satisfaction offer a compelling look into the world of large-scale event management.

Here’s what you’ll hear about in this conversation:

  • The importance of building and maintaining a strong community and how community feedback and engagement have been crucial to the evolution and success of SXSW
  • The challenges and opportunities in adapting SXSW to a changing world, including navigating the pandemic and embracing technological advancements like AI
  • Why SXSW‘s commitment to fostering a diverse range of creative industries and encouraging interdisciplinary interactions is a key aspect of its enduring appeal and success

Mentioned in This Episode

Transcript

[00:00:09] Rachel Moore: Welcome to Event Experience by Bizzabo, the podcast where we bring the best and brightest Event Experience Leaders together to share stories, tips, and lessons learned from creating some of the world’s biggest events.

I’m Rachel Moore, your podcast host. 

In this episode, travel with us to Austin, Texas where co-President and Chief Programming Officer Hugh Forrest is cooking up the city-wide and globally recognized annual event, South-by-Southwest! “South-by” is one of those experiences that literally takes over the whole town, and Hugh shares the key fundamentals that have kept the conference relevant and compelling as they prepare for the 36th SXSW this March. Ready? Set? Let’s meet up with Hugh Forrest for a healthy dose of Event Experience. 

[00:01:10] Rachel Moore: On today’s episode of Event Experience, we need to go way back in time to the origins of the event and the organization that our guest spearheads today. I am referring to SXSW. Our guest has been in the leadership of SXSW for roughly 35 years now. I’d venture to say many people listening to this podcast right now might be hard pressed to think of another event that’s had such longevity over the decades. Talk about getting some insights on how events have evolved, and especially how one particular event that everybody knows is like a household name. But I am speaking today to Hugh Forrest, who is the co-President and Chief Programming Officer of SXSW. Hugh, thank you for joining us today on Event Experience.

[00:02:01] Hugh Forrest: Rachel, it is great to be here. Thanks so much for hosting me and spending a little time talking about SXSW and the event industry and everything in between.

[00:02:11] Rachel Moore: That’s right. You’re actually a repeater, ’cause I know looking back in history and some of y’all can go back on our website, bizzabo.com/podcast. And Hugh, you were on the podcast. I think you were like guest number three or something back in 2019. Do you remember?

[00:02:28] Hugh Forrest: And that didn’t kill the podcast, episode three.

[00:02:33] Rachel Moore: Not at all. No. Anyone who’s met you knows that you are such a personable, approachable person. I guess it’s a kind of a stereotype assumption I might make where it’s like, gosh, you managed something so, gigantic with this event. How can you be available yet you do make yourself so available to myself and to event professionals. Joy to have you on. I’m gonna toss this over to you, Hugh. I just gave out your title and your length of tenure over SXSW.

[00:02:58] But can you describe for our audience a bit about what do at SXSW and manage there?

[00:03:03] Hugh Forrest: My primary responsibility is overseeing all the programming or content. I’m a little more focused on our conference content, i.e. panels, presentations, keynotes, featured speakers, meetups, things like that. But I also oversee the giant SXSW Music Festival, as well as the amazing SXSW Film Festival, SXSW Comedy Festival and SXSW EDU.

[00:03:30] That all sounds like I’m doing a lot, but I’ll, I’d say that word oversee can be used deliberately on a lot of those things where we have great people that are doing the day-to-day work, and I’m meeting with them but very much letting them do the empowering them to do the heavy lifting on this stuff.

[00:03:49] Rachel Moore: Yeah. I did notice a change in your title since last time, like you were on the podcast last time you and I had talked, but you are now co-president. Does that, what does that all entail? Does that add on to everything you just shared?

[00:04:02] Hugh Forrest: It does a little, it’s, it’s a little more business focus and not only tasked with overseeing the process to get great content, but also tasked with making sure that great content, that helps turn a profit at the end of the day. A little bit different, but not a whole lot.

[00:04:21] And I’m certainly enjoying the new responsibilities of co-president quite a bit.

[00:04:26] Rachel Moore: Oh, excellent. That’s always good when you can, like your job as well as, have all the titles and stuff. I’m very glad to hear that. I have a few get to know you questions. Are you ready?

[00:04:37] Hugh Forrest: I have an option not to be ready , Rachel.

[00:04:38] Rachel Moore: You are allowed to say, I don’t know. Let me just put it out there that way. 

[00:04:42] Hugh Forrest: I don’t know!

[00:04:42] Rachel Moore: I don’t know already. All right. First off can you name an item that you forgot for a work event that caused you some panic?

[00:04:51] Hugh Forrest: I think my most panic or my most concern is always gonna be where’s my brain? Where’s my computer? I rarely forget the computer. I more often forget the power for the computer and then go into stress mode of, oh my gosh, what am I gonna do when the battery runs out? So that is my, one of my panic points.

[00:05:10] Not quite the, recurring dream of going to school naked or something, but somewhere slightly down the line, 

[00:05:17] Rachel Moore: I think that’s an equivalent nowadays, that’s the, there’s the nightmare of that. And then nowadays it’s like, where’s I can, I don’t have a charger or I don’t have the connection. What are you listening to or watching or reading right now that you cannot put down?

[00:05:33] Hugh Forrest: Unfortunately at this time of the year we’re roughly three months out SXSW. I’m mainly reading emails.

[00:05:38] Rachel Moore: Yeah.

[00:05:39] Hugh Forrest: But I get a lot of enjoyment and information from just listening to all kinds of different podcasts and my drive into work and back from work. I’m a big fan of Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway who will actually both be at SXSW. They’re the combo behind Pivot and get a lot of my information there. Listen a lot to The Daily, listen a lot to All In, which is kind a bible of the tech industry. Lots of other things there. I am fully drinking this podcast revolution that we all are.

[00:06:12] And while my understanding of today’s music trends have declined, it is such a blessing to be able to absorb information this way when you’re, sitting in a car and you’re a captive audience.

[00:06:24] Rachel Moore: That’s right. Yeah. And I totally agree. And hopefully our audience is taking notes. I think I am, I’m already, it’s okay, I gotta listen to All In, ’cause that sounds really interesting. I’m always looking for great new podcast, but thanks for those recommendations. Is there a particular social post or a piece of media or even a hot take about events that you found interesting lately?

[00:06:44] Hugh Forrest: I seek out as much as possible, news accounts, blog posts of what went right and what went wrong with other events and try to learn from that. Watched some of the challenges that the Web Summit event in Portugal experienced. And certainly, thought of that in the framework with similar things that we’ve screwed up on over the years and how you deal with that as event organizers. I think ultimately they did a pretty good job of reining those problems in. But again there’s not particularly one outlet there just trying to find as many different things as possible.

[00:07:17] And often that stuff is best digested via social media.

[00:07:21] Rachel Moore: That’s right. I referenced the magnitude of SXSW and hopefully people in our audience have been able to attend. And I know we’re gonna talk about the next one coming up, Southwest, which is in just a few short months away. But SXSW, takes over whole town Austin, Texas. And I know there may be some folks listening who have created or helped craft an event of that magnitude. My guess is maybe less than more have done that. But would love to just hear from you. That is a pretty unique approach and a unique scope to an event. Where most people are confined to a conference center or an expo center or a trade show floor and things like that. Can you share a little bit with us about what it’s like to orchestrate an event where you’re involving the city it’s happening in to, the mere square footage and the businesses and everything like that.

[00:08:13] Can you share a bit about that experience? What it’s like to have to work with all these venues and vendors and businesses? 

[00:08:19] Hugh Forrest: Sure. I think the most important thing to put in context is this idea of SXSW, taking over all of Austin is fairly accurate. It has a huge footprint in Austin. But again, the important part is to understand that didn’t happen immediately.

[00:08:36] That’s happened over the course of 35 years with the event. So it’s grown a little bit every year and that makes it a little less daunting or manageable in terms of the scope and size and scale. When you have the larger footprint that we are lucky enough to have in 2024 there is a lot of logistical work, there’s a lot of organizing work. 

The complexities of working with city-wide vendors

[00:09:04] Hugh Forrest: We are constantly at this point working with the city of Austin in terms of everything from street closures to what kind of police protection we’ll have during the event to any other details we’re working with. Lots and lots of music venues.

[00:09:20] I think we’ll probably use roughly 75 in 2024. We’re working with local film theaters where we’re screening things. We’re working with hotels where we have panel content. So again, working with a lot of different parties. Sometimes that work is very pleasant. Sometimes there are differences of opinion.

[00:09:38] But you try to communicate as much as possible and work through those differences and arrive at outcomes that are win-win for everyone involved. I think one of the reasons and I think I’ve said this to you before, Rachel that I worked here for as long as I have, is that I feel like we’ve never quite gotten it right. And that, if we ever did pull off one that, wow, we just about nailed everything perfect. That would be mic drop and leave the stage. Nowhere near that yet. So I think that’s always, as with other event organizers, it’s always an aspirational goal to pull off the perfect event. One that doesn’t have flaws. That said, I think we all get better and better at hiding those flaws behind the curtain, behind the duct tape, whatever, subterfuge or mask, we can manage such that the attendees audience is blissfully unaware of any problems that are happening behind the scene.

[00:10:32] Rachel Moore: We were jokingly mentioning before we started recording how I use concealer more and more nowadays ’cause I’m getting older. I’m like it’s kinda like that you’re, it’s your concealer in the events industry. You don’t see it happening.

[00:10:41] Nothing’s going wrong. If you don’t notice it, it’s not wrong. It’s all good.

[00:10:44] Hugh Forrest: There’s a little bit of show business or a lot of show business in what we do, right?

[00:10:48] Rachel Moore: Oh, absolutely. And yeah I’d love to be a fly on the wall on your kind of retro look at the whole conference when y’all are like saying, let’s talk about how this year went. But I’m sure that’s pretty interesting.

[00:11:00] Hugh Forrest: Sometimes interesting, sometimes joyous, a lot of times painful where you talk about what went well and what didn’t go as well as you expected to go, but 

The importance of post-event evaluations

[00:11:11] Hugh Forrest: I think that with SXSW and with all event organizers and with anything we do in life, to have a honest evaluation post event, post whatever of what you did good, what you didn’t do good, what you can improve on, how you can improve on, how the process could have been better. That is incredibly valuable. It’s something we spend a fairly inordinate amount of time on in late March, April, and into early May about analyzing data, analyzing feedback, trying to communicate as much as possible with our attendees, with our venues, with our vendors, everybody to better understand the event.

[00:11:52] And that’s certainly one of the things that becomes more challenging as you have it a as your event grows, as your event is lucky enough to grow and you have a larger footprint, is there’s so many things that happen that you may not be directly aware of. They may be great things. Wow, I didn’t realize that person was here. They may be not so great things, but ultimately it’s your responsibility as an event organizer to try to pull in all that information, if not on site, afterwards, right?

[00:12:20] Rachel Moore: Oh, absolutely. I think you’re Saying what everybody knows as event professionals, you do have to have that retroactive look, but sometimes that can feel very frenetic even after, you come off an event, especially one of that size, and I’m sure everyone’s exhausted, but you’re still like, but we have to go look at that. So it’s a great encouragement to everybody listening to make sure that’s part of the process.

[00:12:40] 

[00:12:40] Hugh Forrest: What I have found over the years, and I presume that this is somewhat of a truism for all event organizers is, you generally get a lot of positive feedback on site. Where people are. Had a great time, made some great connections, learned a lot of things and people are tend to be nice face to face.

[00:12:58] And then when you do the feedback process, people are maybe a little more open on some of the things that went great and some of the things that didn’t go great and, so there’s always this arc post-event at least for me, you go from this high of, wow, that went pretty well.

[00:13:14] I’m really surprised. I’m really, we did good. And then you start typing the feedback and realize, yeah, I can’t do that mic drop yet, because there are a lot of things that we didn’t do as well as we thought. 

[00:13:25] So anyway, but this sounds too depressing. It’s not depressing, 

The fun of being in the events industry

[00:13:29] Hugh Forrest: it’s fun being in the event industry. It’s why I’ve been here as long as possible.

[00:13:33] It is an honor to provide a platform, to provide a venue where people can come together, face-to-face, share ideas, have robust discussions, make connections that lead to new opportunities. And that’s what we do at SXSW. And that’s what so many of the audience of this podcast does.

[00:13:50] And again it’s a cool thing to be involved with. 

[00:13:54] Ad Break In: We’ll be right back with more Event Experience after the break.

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Visit bizzabo.com — that’s B-I-Z-Z-A-B-O dot com — to learn more.

[00:14:36] Ad Break Out: We’re back to talk with Hugh Forrest about the pulse and power of the SXSW event community on Event Experience.

[00:14:47] Rachel Moore: You talk about the attendees and feedback and how people are doing, how they think about it on the ground and how they think about it later. But that brings us, I think, segueing very smoothly into the SXSW community. We talk about the audience for this podcast, which you can really say, yes, we have our own community here, event professionals who wanna skill up and learn and, learn about Bizzabo in the process as well.

[00:15:07] We talk often on this podcast with our guests about how community, your audience around events is a community that you need to look at, not just during the event, but for 365 days out of the year. And SXSW has that. You’re about to head into the next SXSW in 2024. But how’s your community doing? What’s the pulse like over there and how are people feeling and doing and and all their excitement around the event?

[00:15:30] Hugh Forrest: Great question and certainly one of my more favorite topics. I’m passionate about the power and the importance and the significance of community. 

The importance of the SXSW community

[00:15:42] Hugh Forrest: I think that community is one of the reasons that SXSW has been able to survive and thrive for 35 plus years.

[00:15:49] That is the real life physical community in Austin, Texas, which is incredibly creative. And it’s that creativity that started and powered SXSW or whether it’s the virtual community that, that is following the event or the community from around the world that follows the event and comes to the event.

[00:16:07] Again, these are all extremely important parts of the puzzle of what we do. And when I say important, what I mean is that I’ve gotten so many of our best ideas from people in the community as opposed to best ideas that came from me. They didn’t come from me, they came from someone else and I was lucky enough to connect with them and they suggest this and I was like, wow, that’s a great idea. Again, that’s a big part of the SXSW formula is trying to listen, trying to connect, trying to be as receptive as possible to the community.

[00:16:42] It’s one of the reasons that I’m pretty good still at responding to emails quickly. It’s something that I’ve instilled in my staff. We need to respond to emails and communications quickly because it, again, people like to know that they’re being listened to. Community is something that is the ultimate reason for the interface that we use to select most of the programming for SXSW, which is the Panel Picker.

[00:17:08] That is a process where anyone in the community, quote unquote, can enter a speaking proposal for the event. That entering of proposals happens in June and July, so fully eight months before the event. But A, it’s a way to engage the community before the event. B, it’s a way to understand what they’re thinking, what they’re passionate about.

[00:17:28] And C, it’s a way to get more different people from the community involved in the event as speakers. So to your question of how this community is feeling, 

The impact of COVID on community

[00:17:38] Hugh Forrest: I think that this community was radically impacted by the pandemic. As with most businesses, as with most events, we’re still rebounding from 2020 when we didn’t have an event and all in 2021 when we had an entirely virtual event. That’s said, I think that, many of us in the event industry are keenly aware that, our community still craves that face-to-face interaction that we can provide with what we do.

[00:18:08] So in that sense, I think the community is pretty healthy, pretty thirsty for content, for connections, for great experiences at events like SXSW. 

[00:18:19] We’re not back to where we were in terms of overall attendance in 2019, but we’ll probably be pretty close to that in 2024. So really excited about that. 

SXSW community turnover means fresh energy

[00:18:31] Hugh Forrest: I think another interesting aspect of our particular community and I’m not sure if you know what the industry standard here is that, we see a ton of turnover every year where roughly 50% of our attendees are new. And the downside of that is you’re always training new people, educating new people, but the upside is that the event is new and different to half the community every year.

[00:18:54] And there’s that that feeling of awe, that feeling of of magic, of experiencing something for the first time, something that I’ve read about, watched, seen, heard before. I’m so happy to finally be here. That flows into that power of community also. But again it’s not about myself, it’s not about my staff, which is great. It is about the community. It is about listening to them, understanding them, engaging with them, letting them do a lot of the lifting in terms of spreading the gospel of the event, the word of the event, and when the event happens, sitting back and watching what happens when all these very creative people from very various different industries connect in a town that always celebrates creativity and some real magic comes out of that.

[00:19:40] Rachel Moore: Yeah. And you said two things there too. One is this is not a conference made for Hugh. This is a conference made for the community and for the attendees. And the other thing I like that you pointed out too is even with turnover, you’re taking the time, you realize there is an education and a training that needs to happen for those new attendees. That’s how, a huge part of how they can get the most out of the whole scope of your event.

[00:20:03] And of course your community can help train those newbies coming in too.

[00:20:07] Hugh Forrest: Yeah, 

Empathy for New Attendees

[00:20:07] Hugh Forrest: I think that as with all of event organizers, the longer we do this, the more we realize that we’re still not providing enough guidance, that a lot of people under a lot of our community come to the event understands what to do. But even if 10, 20, 30% doesn’t understand what they’re doing that’s unacceptable.

[00:20:25] We need to do a better job of educating those people of providing support for those people. Again, that’s an aspirational goal. You’re never gonna entirely accomplish that, but, try to put yourself in their position. Try to embrace empathy here and what it’s like to come to a really giant event.

[00:20:44] Maybe you’re coming from a different country, you barely speak the language. That can be overwhelming and intimidating. What support services can we offer that will help create more positive experience for more people?

[00:20:57] Rachel Moore: Absolutely. Let us go then into that positive experience that’s coming up in 2024. So SXSW is coming up. I it’s March, right?

[00:21:05] Hugh Forrest: We begin SXSW on March 8th, which is two important things about that day. One, it’s International Women’s Day. Two, it is the birthday of my son. 

[00:21:13] Rachel Moore: No wonder. Yeah. You’re like, I know that date by heart. Even, it was just the event. You’re like no. I know what’s going on that day. That’s a triple whammy right there. SXSW starting, your son’s birthday, International Women’s Day.

[00:21:23] Hugh Forrest: Yeah, we typically celebrate his birthday at either a week before, a week after. 

[00:21:27] Rachel Moore: Now he just gets the day of. That’s awesome. You should make the whole city sing Happy Birthday to him,

[00:21:33] Hugh Forrest: Somewhere down line. Yes.

[00:21:36] Rachel Moore: Yes. SXSW is known for creativity, right? But you also really bring to the masses what are the things that people are thinking about and talking about, or should be, or will be over the next, year.

[00:21:48] And so would love to hear from you. What can we expect from SXSW for 2024?

[00:21:54] Hugh Forrest: To no one’s surprise , we’re part of this generative AI hype cycle. We’re part of this generative AI buzz. So there’ll be a ton of content. I. On AI and all the great things it can do and AI and all the things we should be worried about and all the issues in between.

[00:22:15] We’ve added a new track about AI for 2024. We also just will have content spread throughout the other 23 tracks, which is, how does AI impact music? How is AI being used to impact the film industry? How will AI change your day-to-day routine in the kitchen? How is AI changing sports?

[00:22:38] IE how is AI impacting all these verticals that we cover?

[00:22:42] Rachel Moore: Yeah.

[00:22:43] Hugh Forrest: So again, that will be a huge focus. We’ll do a little bit more coverage this year on quantum computing, which is the next big hype cycle down the down the pipe. And the downside of quantum is it’s a lot harder to understand than AI, except that it’s gonna make everything faster and more complicated. That’s a layman’s term there. Certainly a lot of, continue to do, a lot of coverage on climate change in 2024, less about, wow, this was the, 2023 was the hottest year ever. And more about what are potential solutions to mitigate the problems and impacts here.

[00:23:25] We’ll also do more on alternative energy that, that fits into that climate change perspective. The verticals that we’ve always covered will continue to be strong. All things music and music industry, all things film and film industry. We know that the film industry has had a challenge in a year with the strikes, but theoretically that’s generally resolved and, we will talk about that impact. We also continue to do a lot of focus on entrepreneurism and all its many forms: startups, tech startups, but also have the understanding that if you’re, if you got a new film , if you’re a young band, you’re an entrepreneur too and, what are the skills that people who are creating their own brand, creating their own business can use to, to get ahead. And then last thing I’ll say there, I could go on for ages and ages because we’re fortunate enough to have so much content that they’re, 50 to a hundred different themes I could talk about.

[00:24:18] But always the big picture theme at SXSW is the power of creativity. . We strongly believe that the community can come to SXSW. And if you are a social media expert, you can meet other social media experts at SXSW. And that is very beneficial.

[00:24:37] Period, exclamation point, but even more we believe that, creative industry professionals can learn and benefit from interacting with other creative industry professionals that aren’t in their direct industry. So that social media person often they get the most out of, going to listen to a chef talk, going to listen to an athlete.

[00:24:57] Hearing different people with their work processes, with their creative processes, with how they arrived at their particular breakthrough. That is one of the huge benefits of the, all the different kinds of content that we have at SXSW and all the different industry verticals that come to the event.

[00:25:13] So again I mentioned this before, but you put this in a city that has always cultivated and celebrated creativity. You do it a time of the year in March when spring is springing in Austin. The flowers are coming out. There’s this whole real life metaphor of rebirth and inspiration, and it turns out to be a really powerful combination.

[00:25:34] Gives people a lot of optimism. A lot of inspiration. Helps them make new connections, learn new things that can empower them in their jobs for the year ahead.

[00:25:43] Rachel Moore: Yeah. I’m gonna ask, it’s gonna feel like a silly question. Okay. I, having been to SXSW I think one of the things that is a huge draw are the food trucks. Do you have a favorite?

[00:25:56] Hugh Forrest: One of the interesting things about food trucks in general, and particularly in Austin, is when they become your favorite, they eventually go from a food truck to a, brick and mortar business. 

[00:26:07] Rachel Moore: Yeah.

[00:26:08] Hugh Forrest: One of the ones that’s started as a food truck several years back and now has actually a couple of brick and mortar business in Austin is Garbo Lobster Rolls.

[00:26:19] Which seems like a weird thing for Texas, right? But really good. And they recently opened a spot pretty close to our new office, very close to our old office, so that’s one of my favorites. But I think that, to, to what you said, Austin has been lucky enough to evolve into a very dynamic food scene over the last 10, 15, 20 years.

[00:26:42] And it’s one of the things that people love about coming to events in Austin and coming to SXSW in Austin is partaking of all the different kinds of food . 

[00:26:53] Rachel Moore: And I had another reason to ask you that too, because as someone who is pretty much overseeing all of these aspects of SXSW is it very likely that if we go, would we see you walking out and about or are you going into hermit mode? Whereabouts would you be during a normal day on SXSW?

[00:27:10] Hugh Forrest: Somewhere in between. I I think as with a lot of event organizers you experience a lot of what you’re doing from behind a computer simply ’cause that’s the best way to communicate at scale and understand at scale what’s going on. I’m more skilled at doing that. Behind a computer as opposed to on my mobile phone.

[00:27:29] Others are better on their mobile phone, so I tend to, that’s my go-to of being I. behind a computer, but I also, try to walk the floor, walk the floors two or three times a day and kind of judge the vibe that way. And that’s that’s always fun because I will see people that I’ve communicated with via email for the, for 12 months, haven’t seen since last SXSW, or haven’t seen since the SXSW a couple of years ago. I am a little bit on the tall side, so I’m easy for ’em to find. So that can sometimes be a detriment. But I think that again, with with my experiences of SXSW and so many of the the experience with event organizers around the US and around the world, 

Dopamine of bringing people together

[00:28:19] Hugh Forrest: you work really hard on this thing for x number of months.

[00:28:23] And at times it can be overwhelming and daunting and all those things. But when you bring people together, when you feel that sense of energy, that’s really . That’s dopamine, right? So like when you’re, oh my gosh, I need to, I, I can’t have another cup of coffee.

[00:28:37] Go out and walk into the crowd, and that will energize you and make you enthusiastic and remind you why you do this. Right? 

[00:28:44] Rachel Moore: That’s right. I have the easiest question of all to wrap us up. Where can our listeners find and follow you in SXSW Online?

[00:28:52] Hugh Forrest: SXSW is strangely enough, sxsw.com. For myself I’m fairly limited on social media. I have certainly cut down a lot on or cut down very much on Twitter and or X since some of the challenges there in the last year. That said, I have become much more active on LinkedIn and try to post there two or three times a week about content at SXSW. So you can find me there. And I’ll also say that back to, to something I mentioned a little bit earlier in the interview: your listeners can always connect with me at [email protected]. That’s my email address and I’m generally fairly quick at responding to emails and love to hear from the community.

[00:29:46] Rachel Moore: After 35 years in his role at SXSW, Hugh gives us his guiding principle for event excellence in this episode’s Skill Up segment.

Skill Up with SXSW’s Hugh Forrest

[00:29:33] Hugh Forrest: One of my favorite quotes of all time and it’s a favorite because it’s simple and easy to remember. From a book that came out about 2005 called the Cluetrain Manifesto, which was this early internet guide bible, a lot of which is still very accurate, some of which less but this quote , three words, ” markets are conversations.” That’s all about communication.

[00:29:56] Again, the more you can communicate with your audience the stronger you are and that is difficult at times. Or time consuming at times. Answering emails, being available for phone calls, going to meetups, that type thing. But again, creating a person behind the event that cares or thinks that looks like they care, or tries to care or tries to listen and take your suggestions to heart. That is in my experience, gold.​

[00:30:44] Rachel Moore: Thanks again to Hugh Forrest for joining us on Event Experience, and thank YOU for listening. 

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You can find transcripts of each episode and key takeaways on bizzabo.com/podcasts.

On behalf of the team, thank you. We’ll gather again soon for a new episode of Event Experience.

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