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The Future of Meetings + Events

Skift-MIRGregory O’Dell, president & CEO of Events DC, told me at South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive in Austin last week that everyone is looking beyond the trade show floor to engage people at conferences.

Like Sweden, Japan, Germany, Oslo, and others, Washington D.C. operated a pop-up “house” in downtown Austin to create an experiential platform for panels, parties, workshops, and digital content sharing to show off the city’s technology and cultural innovators.

“We want everyone to know that all things are possible in D.C.,” said O’Dell. “We’re using this as our official branding experience, and not just a traditional booth, so we can bring all of these activations together in one spot.”

Katie Dill, head of experience design at Airbnb, presented a session at SXSW called: “Designing Experiences Offline & Online.” She talked about how sharing companies like Lyft and Airbnb have little control over the actual customer experience, other than to set the framework beforehand and anticipate challenges. So her goal is to do whatever she can to “relent control but not lose control” by building systems that celebrate and foster community engagement.

That sounds a lot like designing conferences.

“If you think about it, it’s the diversity of uniqueness of that community that really adds so much to your experience,” she said to an overflowing audience. “So you want to be able to harness the diversity and turn it into a value add. This is an extreme case of offline and online experience design.”

The community is driving the success of SXSW. For example, over 60 percent of the educational programming in the Startup Village was crowdsourced via SXSW’s online PanelPicker starting last summer. The community is building the SXSW experience online, offline, inside traditional venues, and outside. The SXSW community is defining the future of meetings and events. The conference organizers are just providing the framework and relenting control.

— Greg Oates, Senior Editor

Social Quote of the Day

“‘Millennials are the most knowledgeable generation’ says @cenkuygur during #SpeakFreeDC interview at #SXSW #WeDC

@cenkuygur on Twitter

German Haus SXSW 2016

South by Southwest 2016

Destinations Promote Tourism and Tech Culture With Pop-Up ‘Houses’ at SXSW Austin: In a super competitive market to attract high-tech talent, cities are promoting their overall livability and lifestyle attributes as much as their tech economies. At SXSW 2016, they accomplished that with expensive and experiential destination marketing strategies integrating local venues and global panels highlighting the future of business. Read more at Skift

72 Hours at SXSW: Get Ready for Some Serious FOMO: Six event profs report back on the experience, the brands, the content, and the FLOTUS. “This is a completely untapped audience that is impossible to track, and there is a huge opportunity to convert these hangers-on into official attendees in the future.” Read more at FreemanXP

At SXSW, a Shift From Apps to a Tech Lifestyle: SXSW feels like a story of how the tech ethos has escaped the bounds of hardware and software. Tech is turning into a culture and a style, one that has spread into new foods and clothing, and all other kinds of non-electronic goods. Tech has become a lifestyle brand. Read more at The New York Times

SXSW Interactive 2016: Surprising Trends And Big Changes In Technology: Governments and tourist bureaus continue to use SXSW as a soap box for telling their public relations stories. The promise of business development and attracting investment and tourism has driven these investments in prior years, and there is no sign of the trend slowing down. Read more at Forbes

Talking Product Design and the Chicago Tech Ecosystem with IDEO: Justin Masa, director of business strategy at IDEO, details the benefits of attending SXSW, including the potential for connection that doesn’t exist outside the festival and the opportunity to discover emerging trends and innovations. Read more at ChicagoInno

That’s a Wrap! Deloitte Digital at SXSW Interactive 2016: This is wild. Deloitte developed an “Audience Reactive Composition” machine out of musical instruments to challenge what it means to be interactive. Most of what is considered interactive today is actually responsive, Deloitte says, so its vision for tomorrow looks beyond that. Read more at Deloitte Digital

From Virtual Reality to Robots, Here Are SXSW’s Buzziest Topics: The top trending topics on Twitter at SXSW 2016, in order: Virtual reality, by a long shot, followed by mobile apps, robotics, 3D, and artificial intelligence. Read more at Adweek

Six Top Themes at SXSW 2016: Theme #3 states that the on-demand boom is underpinned by a shift in how consumers see value. Price is not the only factor. Time has become another commodity and people will pay more for immediacy and convenience. Read more at Future Foundation

Next Generation Event UX

Use Knowledge Hubs to Win Business, Ambassadors Told: This year’s Great Ambassador Networking Group (GANG) event, hosted by Conference Leeds and Well Met Conferencing, put a spotlight on utilizing knowledge hubs throughout a destination in order to win more association conference business. Read more at Meet Pie

Columbia University Expansion Continues With 3-Story Conference Center: I live 12 blocks from this thing and it looks amazing. Located in West Harlem, the 17-acre campus includes the Lenfest Center for the Arts and a new conference center scheduled for completion in 2018. Read more at Curbed New York


The Skift Meetings Innovation Report is curated by Skift senior editor Greg Oates [[email protected]]. The newsletter is emailed every Wednesday.

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Tags: meetingsiq, sxsw

Photo credit: Cenk Uygur, host of The Young Turks online news show, speaks at the Newseum booth inside the Washington DC House at SXSW 2016. Newseum

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