SXSW signals a return to in-person events
Future. South by Southwest (SXSW) was the first major festival to shut down during the COVID closures of 2020… and now it’s roaring back to its normal in-person events. Well, not totally normal… because any event post-pandemic now has to be a hybrid event to bring in the best of IRL and virtual attendance. In this new world, every regional event may now be a global event… with exclusive benefits given to those that can trek out to the real thing. Is being there the new VIP?
SXSW, which is now running from March 11 to March 20, may prove that nothing beats a little face-time.
- The festival (the first physical version in two years) will “mainly be an in real life event,” according to SXSW chief programming officer Hugh Forrest.
- That’s because many major brands — Amazon Prime, CNN+, Porsche — have in-person activations at the festival this year.
- Brands have shown a particular interest in the music portion of the fest this year.
- Also, marketing agencies have reported a sudden uptick in attendees asking about invites to events or parties, showing how pandemic concerns are fading.
But there’s one event that won’t go back to in-person until next year: the awards show.
Best of both worlds
There’s a catch to all the in-person hype: COVID has made hybrid events a priority, so the festival will still broadcast content both live and after the initial live event. The fest’s VR experience is also up and running. A majority of industry analysts say that’s going to be the norm for all major events moving forward because people are now used to not being bound by physical limitations.
Rebecca Nunez, CEO of MRN Agency, explained that “industry thought leaders could never crack that code to make a live event live beyond the event. Now, here we are. In the next year or so, any physical event that has cultural currency will have to have a hybrid experience attached.”