anna kranzthor Operations Manager

events + education

SXSW Roundup: Tips for Crushing Your Next Conference

MAy 17, 2017

It’s been a busy spring for Brandcast, with the highlight being the launch of our highly anticipated Brandcast Design Studio™ at South by Southwest (SXSW) in March.

We wanted to have a presence at SXSW to showcase our product and engage with the local design community. After going over our various options, we settled on sponsoring a lounge where we could host our own programming and have complete control over the space—which for a company focused on design, is key.

As with any daunting task, the hardest part is starting. I’ve been planning corporate events for half of my career, so I knew I needed to enlist a production partner in order to pull off a large scale multi-day event in a city where I didn’t already know the vendors firsthand. Thankfully, in one of my initial conversations with SXSW, I got an incredible recommendation: Hadley Media.

 

The Hadley Dream Team

Hadley Media is an experiential media company we brought on board as our event producer. As long time SXSW veterans, the Hadley team provided invaluable logistical support and were pivotal in helping us every step of the way; from planning environmental assets like custom window wrap treatments and finding an artist who specializes in custom installations, to on-site operation executions, such acting as IT and managing catering orders.

Once we had a partner in place who could help us execute our vision, we could begin brainstorming. We broke our strategy down into three parts:

  • Design
  • Experience
  • Community

Design

Custom designed window clings brought life to the space

With design always on the forefront of our brains, we wanted to transform the space and really wow people the moment they walked into the lounge. We started with a blank canvas, in the form of a meeting room. Our goal was to turn a standard hotel conference room into an immersive, inspiring space—and do it without touching the carpet or attaching anything to the walls.

Our Creative Director, Ashley Rocha, outdid herself designing gorgeous, gradient inspired window clings that constantly changed colors as the sun moved across the Austin sky. Our multidimensional plexiglass art installation by Laura Stewart brought in droves of people who couldn’t wait to pose in front of the 5,000 multifaceted tiles which formed the Brandcast logo. We also wanted to bring in some greenery, in a way that felt authentic to the Southwest—so we brought in succulents and giant cacti. Finally, we had an amazingly talented artist, Adam Vicarel, paint a live mural throughout the conference.

Experience

Demo stations in action

The key to ensuring that our guests’ lounge experience was a great one was to make all elements purposeful, functional, and tie them back to our product. We separated the space into different areas which served distinct purposes: an area for demos and account creation, a coffee and tea corner (because everybody knows brilliant design doesn’t come without a caffeine boost), couches with charging stations, and a stage with audience seating for the programming.

The other experience element we wanted to make sure we got right was the giveaway. Branded swag is a nagging given at conferences; most giveaways tend to be tchotchkes that get thrown away (who needs ANOTHER branded beer coozie or cheap sunglasses?) so the last thing we wanted to do was waste money on something gimmicky or wasteful. Our product is catered to the design community, so we wanted our giveaway to evoke creativity. We landed on packs of colored pencils, and judging by the fact that people visited us specifically to score them and even plugged them on Twitter, I’d say the choice resonated.

Community

Fireside Chat with our friends at Dos Mundos Creative and the Workers Defense Project

We wanted to incorporate as many design influencers as possible, with a focus on the local community in Austin. We ended up teaming up with some amazingly talented people and companies, including several creative agencies.

Every morning started with a jolt of java and Brandcast Bootcamp, a crash course in how to build websites taught by the geniuses behind the Design Studio. The afternoons were packed with Fireside Chats with industry leaders such as Armin Vit, the man behind the Under Consideration blog, and leadership from Austin creative agencies Dos Mundos, Merrygood, and Greatest Common Factory, to name a few.

Finally, since SXSW is basically one big party masquerading as a conference, we made sure to sneak in a few happy hours in our lounge. Nothing gets creative juices flowing quite like a lovingly crafted cocktail or beer!

Thanks to all who visited the Brandcast Design Lounge at SXSW! If you missed the chance to see us in person, check out the full videos of all our fireside chats and photo highlights from our launch party. Cheers!

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