Quick quiz: The last time someone told you about their experience at SXSW
Interactive did they talk about how inspired they were from the panels or about the awesome parties they went to? (Cue “Jeopardy” music). Employers who have the bucks to send employees to SXSW like to think that their employees will come back inspired, more creative, full of innovative ideas to push the company forward. And that can happen. But SXSW has a big party side that’s not necessarily good news for any employer. So before you send employees to the conference you should set your SXSW ROI.
Before the craziness starts, ask yourself: “Why are they going?” Is it because you want to launch a product or have a booth? Do you want them to get ahead of the game on industry changes and learn about best practices in your industry? Do you want them to network and make connections with potential partners and clients? All of that is possible at SXSW. But if that’s what you want to happen, you need to communicate clearly with employees what your expectations are. And while you’re at it, check out last year’s blog about how to and how not-to recruit at SXSW.
How many new connections do you want them to meet, of what kind, and what do you expect to do about those connections afterward? What sessions would be most beneficial to your company or employees and do you have some kind of post-session deliverable so that they get the most out of it? If you’re going to launch a product or have a booth, what are the metrics by which you’re going to determine the success of your campaign? It’s easy just to enjoy the brilliance of the sessions, check out the newest hipster styles and then hit the parties without any concrete ROI. But, at $1,200 a badge, that’s a bad investment.
And here’s the other point of SXSW: The parties are awesome. But you don’t need employees who represent your company going out and getting tanked up, creating a boondoggle and treating it like spring break for professionals. The parties are awesome because of the fantastic people you can meet in an informal setting and make connections with. SXSW Social helps you figure out who you could most benefit by networking with and find out where they are. Or better yet, set up a meeting beforehand or during lunch…prior to alcohol.
Finally, you need to talk to them about the reasons you’re sending them, the expectations you have including the expectation that they will behave like adults at a professional gathering rather than college students on Padre Island or even Google staffers at Burning Man. They need individual goals for their time at SX. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have fun, they should. SXSW is fun, and inspiring. But this one time a year in Austin, with dozens of countries represented and some of the world’s smartest people in attendance, well you ought to get some good business out of that.
We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.