For the 9 people listening who don’t know what SXSW is, it’s a 10-day festival about all things tech, film, and music in the middle of March in Austin, TX.
That’s the simplified answer. More than 70,000 people come down to Austin for this, and the whole city buzzes. You walk down the street, and you can feel it. I’m not kidding.
To say that SXSW is a catalyst is an understatement. From President Obama, tech CEOs, film star, music moguls, entrepreneurs, all the way to ordinary folks like me, all come together for a 10-day of non-stop exposure to speakers, product launches, marketing campaigns, concerts.
Films are launched during this time, deals are made between companies large and small, and if you thought Austin parties – it’s on a whole another level.
I sat down with Hugh Forrest, Director of SXSW, to learn about the behind the scenes management of SXSW interactive, the tech part of the festival which has showcased speakers such as President Obama, Peter Thiel, Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferriss, and more.
- How thinking long-term when it comes to relationships can pay off
- The fallacy that the value of attending an event like SXSW is that you’ll meet a rich investor by accident
- How to get feedback from a large amount of customers, and how to sustain improvement at scale
- Making the most of your SXSW experience
Where to find Hugh:
If you’re coming to SXSW this year, holla. Let’s meet.
As always, my wonderful friends, enjoy!
Moby: Hey, Hugh.
Hugh: Good morning.
Moby: How are you?
Hugh: Good. It’s Friday. Friday is always good, right?
Moby: Yes, but is it really that good for you? I mean, does it really taper off everything?
Hugh: Well, yes, because the weekend’s coming. The weekend is a time to rejuvenate, rest, relax, rebound, all that stuff.
Moby: And how many months away or weeks away are we from that?
Hugh: Well, we are doing this from my office, and if you look at the glass door there, there is a little ticker, a manual ticker of how far were away. And that says a 170 days. Actually I don’t think that’s updated since for a few days. I think we’re at a 168 days if we want to be exact about it, away from South by Southwest.
Moby: And it starts off the day it ends?
Hugh: The what?
Moby: That timer starts off the day it ends?
Hugh: No, we don’t put that up … I think we put that up about three weeks ago so we don’t have that up here in the summer, not typically. But then when we get into the fall and it’s just one more way to remind you that … to start getting more and more in the mindset, stuff like that.
Moby: So I mean, you’ve been doing this for a long time. How have you not gone bat shit insane at this point with the amount of information coming your way? The logistics that come, the planning, the pressure, all of that.
Over the years, when you started out, it wasn’t at this scale. But when did it start getting like, “Oh, my God, this is getting intense. There’s a lot of pressure coming from planning.”
Hugh: Well, to go back to the first part of your question – how do you know I haven’t already gone bat shit insane crazy? You’re taking some liberties there to say that that hasn’t happened. But I’ve been doing this for quite a while and we had the “luxury” or “luxury of growing slowly and organically”, and being really small for quite a while. I mean, at least on what was multimedia and interactive.
And so I could learn a lot, make a lot of mistakes, even more mistakes than we make now in relative obscurity. And then that’s helped.
We started growing a lot … or we started growing around 2004, we had grown a little bit during the dot-com boom, we fell down, retracted after the dot-com bust, and after 9/11. In 2004 we started growing a little bit which was interesting and strange. And then we, our growth very much parallels the growth of social media. And it was very much propelled by the growth of social media.
So we had a particularly on the tech side, the interactive side we had a kind of tenure hockey-stick of growth where we were just expanding like crazy. And that was neat, that particularly, because you work on something for many, many years and it doesn’t grow as much as you’d like. And then all of a sudden it does grow so it’s mystifying either way.
We have leveled off our growth a little more since then, that’s probably a good thing. You can’t … I mean it’s really hard to in in whatever kind of venture you’re doing or startup or you’re doing I think it’s hard to … physically hard, emotionally hard, mentally hard, logistically hard to keep growing at a very high rate for a number of years.
But we have a big, big staff at this pointer or fairly big, about 200 people total at South by Southwest. So in terms of logistics, yes I deal with a lot, but there is a ton that are delegated to other people at this point which is a good thing.
Moby: That’s what I have been hearing for a long time, which is have a great team. You can’t do anything big alone at all.
Hugh: Yeah, I agree. I’m often the worst at doing that, the proper role or whatnot, if you want to go fast, go on your own, if you want to go far have a team. I am even as doing this for as many years as I have I still need to improve a lot in terms of delegating. But the improvements that I have made today have helped us grow I think.
Moby: So back to your hockey stick example, when you were talking about the post 9/11 post-tech bust, that growth, 2004 you said and then Twitter was 2007, and then weirdly enough I was there at meerkat at 15, I don’t know what happened. But how did the scale of your role and how you manage and the income and gross changed from about 2005 to 2010. Did they scale of like the hockey stick too?
Hugh: Yeah, during that time period we went from … At the beginning of that hockey stick we were … all our programming was contained in one venue, being the Austin Convention Center, within by probably 2010, 2011 we’ve expanded outside the convention center to these other hotels.
It used to be that the offseason here, i.e. summers were pretty slow, and …
Moby: And hot.
Hugh: Slow and hot and on one hand relaxing, but on the other hand there’s nothing worse than a job where you’re kind of bored. There is much … The summers are not so slow anymore. And that is partially by design. I mean, certainly having done this a number of years and having done this a number of years before we started to grow a lot, one of the things I learned is that lots of people want to get involved in South by Southwest in January/February when we’re just outside the event.
But logistically you just can’t. The volume of people who’re trying to get involved, the time it takes to integrate them into the event, you can’t do that in that short time period. So again if you can back that out more into the summer where start getting people involved then and that gives you again six months to plan the thing. Seven months to plan the things, seven months to integrate them, that significantly helps.
So again little cheats like that have helped us, have I think helped us to grow and stay relatively sane throughout this growth.
Hugh: Relatively, yeah. Relatively always.
Moby: Yeah, so jumping … just talking about you and then your staff, you wake up, you’re an early riser, right? Do you just wake up and go through all the incoming request or do you just take time to be with the family or do something else that’s not work related when you wake up?
Hugh: I’ve gotten in the habit in the last few years of waking up very early, yes. I don’t like it. Although I don’t like waking up at any time. I mean, I convince myself to wake up early in the morning if I tell myself, “Well, it’s just as hard to wake up now as it is to wake up three hours later.”
But I do find that if I wake up at 3:30 or 4:00, 3:00 or 5:00 I can do 2 or 3 hours of email chip away at my inbox, get it down, manage things. And then when the day begins I’m often just in meetings all day and then the inbox increases again.
When I’m really doing good, and this is not often, I am devoting part of that early morning time period to meditating and trying to clear my head or think about the day and think about it in a positive way and send good thoughts to myself and to others. Although I got to say that I am sporadic at best at that or some days I do it, and I go, “Wow, this is great. I should do this more often,” and then I don’t do it again from two or three days.
So that’s one of the ironies of … the obvious ironies of meditating is that it helps you cope, or I think it helps you cope and I think it helps you remain calm, deal with the stress. That said when I’m stressed out it’s probably the first I cut out [unclear 10:16]
Moby: I don’t have time for this.
Hugh: Exactly, so there you go.
Moby: I get it. So when I wake up, and I’m not an early riser, sometimes I am. But I wake up and I try not to turn on any lights in my house for the first 20 minutes, and then coffee and music. I have a playlist called calm the fuck down. It’s like 12 songs which are just instrumentals and I just sit there and not think about … not go crazy and not check my email, not check my Facebook that otherwise just drives me crazy.
Hugh: Yeah, well, I’m definitely not as holistic as yours …
Moby: No, no, no. I’m sporadic at best too.
Hugh: Yeah, I’m … as soon as I’m kind of like out of the immediate groggy stage I’m attacking the email and I’ve tried to … I’ll do little cheats like my inbox is 140 now, I’ll get it down to 130, and I’ll go to Reddit and play around for a few minutes. Do ten more and then you got to Reddit, and give myself those little rewards to keep going.
Moby: How good are you … I imagine, because I don’t know if I have the skill for this, but how good have you become at saying no to people who asked for freebies or just want to get involved, but you have to control a scope of everything or have your staff do it?
Hugh: I’m definitely not as good as I wish I was at saying no. For a variety of reasons, but not least of which is that I am a firm believer that we’re a community event and that everyone in the community has something to contribute. And often it’s not the request that they ask, but that if you or if I think about it long enough I can figure out something that will add value to what we’re doing and help this person get what they want and everyone wins out of a scenario like that.
So again, I mean, I would probably be more efficient if I was just … if I was better at just saying yes, no, move on. I’m unfortunately not as good as I’d like to be there.
Moby: But that’s one of the values of South by Southwest you’re as inclusive as you can be.
Hugh: I think so. I mean, I think I am particularly from the tech standpoint, I’m a strong believer in kind of the tenants of open source that again that as a community that if you share your best work that that will … you ultimately get shared on things that will make you better too.
And I feel … I strongly believe that the power of community and that the power of community thought is stronger and brighter than anyone single person in the community. The community is certainly not without significant downsides, but I am a firm believer the upsides far outweigh those downsides.
Moby: All right, so shifting away from your … you managing South by to kind of a bigger picture. It’s April 2018 and South by is over, and now in April do you get everyone together, do a post-mortem, how do you gather feedback and look at all that through? Because I mean South by is a festival, but it’s also a company, it’s a business, and businesses need to understand their customers really, really well. How do you gather all that feedback and say, “Okay, this thing, if we can change it 10% every year we can improve the experience a lot for that segment of our customers.”
Hugh: Yeah, that is a great question and it leads to a fairly involved answer. I mean, my part of the South by Southwest, I head the programming staff, probably takes an inordinately long amount of time to review what went right and what went wrong.
We start that off with just our own perceptions and typically having a day-long meeting where everyone gives a presentation about – this was the thing that I like most, this was the thing that I like least. We can learn a lot about the event from hearing other people because everyone has their own experience, plus it’s just part of the kind of closure process.
After that we dive into attendee registrant feedback, and that is always very valuable to read through this stuff where we send out an email survey to everybody who’s attended. But it also is incredibly sobering and/or humbling and/or depressing, because we typically have one understanding of how the event went from our perspective, and then we read the feedback from attendees and learn of problems that we didn’t know existed.
Moby: And the pissed ones always review.
Moby: And the pissed ones always …
Hugh: Yeah, I mean … yes, there is the dynamic that people who are annoyed tend to respond more than people who aren’t. That’s not always the case, we certainly get plenty of feedback saying this was wonderful and all this stuff. But you get lots of feedback of again, “Wow, I didn’t know that happened. How did that happen?”
One of the things that we’ve done for the last decade or so, and it’s certainly inspired or stolen or remixed from like the teachings of Gary Vee, is that each staff member is assigned, randomly assigned like 300 surveys to read through. And again it can be fairly exhausting to read through these things, because when you read one that had a great experience – great, when you read one that said I was really disappointed in this, I was really disappointed in that – it takes a toll out of you.
But the specific assignment is that each person has to respond to it to a number of these … a number of people who send in feedback, and particularly I have to respond to people who had a negative experience.
Sometimes they respond … or sometimes our staff people respond and they don’t get any response back. Other times they respond and the person writes back – you still suck, sorry. But best-case scenario is you’re responding and the person responds back, “Wow, I’m really excited about this.” I actually read my feedback and that whole concept that you can turn your detractors into cheerleaders by simply engaging them. And it’s typically … I try to give the staff people some kind of guidance in this, “Wow, I didn’t realize that that was a problem. Tell me more about that. How do you think we could have fixed that.”
And again that creates a sense of engagement, it validates the person’s challenges or problems, it gets them involved with the process. And again, it often helps improve that sense of community.
We were involved with an event in Germany last weekend, this was this thing called the Me Convention, which was done with Mercedes Benz. But I was walking through the hallway on Saturday and this woman came up to me, and said, “Hugh, it’s great to see you.” I was like, “Who’s this person.” And she said, “Do you remember me? You emailed me in April.” And I said, “Oh, yeah.” “And I had a problem and you emailed me and we exchanged 10 emails.”
Moby: Oh, wow.
Hugh: So she remembered me, I remembered her after we began talking. But again obviously it seemed to create some kind of … it created a positive outcome with her and we talked more on site last weekend, again this is a good thing.
I think in this age of social media, which certainly has its ups and it’s downs, one of the ups is being able to create these kind of consumer advocates, brand advocates that can help you with things like that, and certainly the more that we can do the better.
Moby: True, I think, and going off what you said and talking about the guy and everything, when you email a company saying, “I’m pissed off about this or this doesn’t break,” then sending a replacement is the same thing as you texting kind of a person like, “Screw you, why did you do this. I’m really hurt.” And they taking the effort to call back and say, “I’m sorry, how can I make this better for you?” It makes you have a stronger relationship with that company. And we as humans can still have emotional ties to brands and all of that, so that really helps.
Hugh: I think so, again there have been plenty of instances where it hasn’t quite worked out that well where the person has emailed back and says, “Screw you still.” But I think there have been more positive outcomes than negative. And, again I mentioned Gary Vee, I also am a firm believer in that book that’s about 15 years old at this point published about 2000 I guess, Cluetrain Manifesto. And one of the tenants of that book was markets are conversations. Markets are conversations, markets are conversations.
Converse with your audience, your potential audience, your potential customers. The more you can converse with them the more you can communicate with them, the more you can engage with them, the more likely they are going to come back or they’re going to say good things about you to their friends, say good things about you to their friends, their social network. So these are all good things.
Moby: Absolutely, and a much smaller example that that I’ve seen is even when you take it down to the miniscule is like there’s this … there’s a few people on Facebook that I follow, and there’s probably 300 comments under their posts, but they go and like every single one of them.
And even that which takes like five minutes has an impact over time when I see anything I post at least that person sees it, and that has an impact. What was I going to say? So yes, how do you cut through the noise when it comes to … Actually not the noise, but how do you figure out what feedback is something we can act on and something that is so prevalent that if we act on that we can impact the experience of a hundred people versus the impact for two people?
Hugh: That is a great question, and that is always a huge question that we have to deal with in the spring post event. There are lots of things that … I mean, I firmly believe that all ideas are good ideas, that they’re no bad ideas. Some ideas are better than others, but again just the process of ideation is good.
We’ll get some ideas or some suggestions or feedback that are less worthy than others or just simply not implementable, I mean, just, “No, that’s a great idea but we can’t do that.” But we also just tend to try to quantify this stuff that, “Hey, in my feedback said I get ten comments about this venue that we used being a bad venue. Did anyone else get that?” Everyone else in the room raised their hand. Okay, well that seems to be a universal thing. We thought the venue was great, the audience thought it was bad, let’s try to move away from that.
And so our process here is not like any other organization or individual, I think you work most or most attention to fixing the things that are most easily fixed. The things that are harder to fix, try to make small steps towards chipping away at improvements. You may not accomplish it all in one year, two years, three years. But again if you have that on your radar for a while you can get better at that.
And I’m also a strong believer that as much as I’d like a lot of things, a lot of things at South by Southwest that improve overnight, I believe that we take small steps, and small steps eventually lead to big things.
Moby: One last thing about just that feedback and improvement process, so hypothetically if you have one event and a small thing is off a little bit which is – hey, the beers isn’t cold, right? So you have a small …
Hugh: That’s a big thing.
Moby: Yeah, for 20 people, right? And that’s … Look, now the beer, that’s super important in Austin. The food is too spicy for one event for 20 people. You or anyone can actually just ignore that and be like, “Okay, sorry about that. We’ll fix that next time.” When you have that small 2% off in 20 of a hundred events, how do you as someone who’s directing and say, “We tried our best. Something’s off, it’s not going to be perfect. But we’re going to let it just go. Like there’s not much we can do beyond that. We’ve tried our best.” It won’t ruin the experience, but just the magnitude of what you see slightly off that it can drive you insane, like – oh, that small thing.
Hugh: Yeah, well, I think you have to be honest with your community and say, “We’re trying to fix that. We may not be able to fix that for next year, but we understand that that was a pain point and we’ll chip away it small steps. It may take a couple years to fix that.” But again, I think any kind of … and do as I say not as I do. Any kind of communication that you’re trying, that you understand that this was a problem, that it’s on your radar, short term, medium term, long term is better than simply ignoring. Again acknowledgement of a problem is the first step, even if you can’t fix it.
Moby: That’s what I asked the ND from Wright Austin which is … Okay, South by happen I think this was last year when people came and realized, “Oh, no, there’s no Uber and Lyft.” But when Wright Austin actually crashed for [unclear 26:38], how do you deal with that kind of pressure which is, “Wow, in two hours your entire business just kind of stalled and hundreds or thousands of people are going to left without a ride.” How do you handle that as someone on top of the chain? And he said the same exact thing, which was you be honest first that, hey, realize this is happening and we’re trying to fix it. But you have to be open, we screwed up.
Hugh: A little bit. Yeah, well, I think Andy and Wright Austin have done a phenomenal job of …
Moby: It’s great, yeah.
Hugh: … being as open as possible with the community of releasing their stats at the event of acknowledging where their problems are, where their pain points are. Certainly they’ve got a big challenge and big ongoing challenge now that Uber and Lyft are back in the market, and Uber and Lyft just have so much brand recognition particularly for people coming in from out of town for big events like football games, ACL, South by Southwest.
But in terms of how to communicate correctly, efficiently, effectively with your audience, how to be open about your strengths and your weaknesses, props to what they’ve done in terms of setting an example for a lot of us to follow.
Moby: So these questions are really … Well, thank you for the answers. These are super important to like just the startup realm, when people who are driving any kind of mission whether that’s through a startup, established business, a festival, or co-working space.
Shifting to just the experience of South by, and I’m going to admit something, this is the first year I’m buying a ticket. Last year I was like, “Ugh, I don’t have any holidays from work.” And this year I’m like I’m getting a ticket. If you were … like next year you don’t have to do South by, like you don’t have to work on it, if you were to just jump in and I’m curious and just do it for the hell of it, just go in and go to any session. How would you … not advice to me, but how … well, how would you enjoy South by the most?
Hugh: Well, I think the most important thing with South by Southwest or with any other event is to particularly if you have invested your hard-earned money in terms of buying a badge, you owe it to yourself to take 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour before the event to kind of not quite meditate, but figure out what your goals are with this thing.
Study the schedule and have some kind of game plan on how best to achieve those goals. And again that applies to I think almost anything in life, but particularly with something that is as intense, as experience rich, as sensory overloading as South by Southwest. Because I know that if you just show up at the event it is easy to get completely overwhelmed by the scale. I mean, it’s easy for staffers to get completely overwhelmed by the scale.
If you have kind of a vision of what you’re going to do, I think you have a much better chance of having or much more likely to have a positive experience.
I do think that it is extremely important to retain the kind of flexibility to abandon that game plan at any time when a better opportunity comes up. But I also think that better to have game plan that you abandon when serendipity happens than just going in and thinking that serendipity is going to …
Moby: It’s just going to happen, yeah.
Hugh: Yeah, going to fall on your shoulders and everything’s going to work perfectly. So again, that’s one of the the biggest points and that applies to smaller events, smaller situations as well. It’s just do a little prep work and you’re likely to have a better experience.
Moby: Know why you’re going and kind of plan to be spontaneous.
Moby: I think last year what I did was … For some reason it’s always like cloudy doing South by, and that’s my favorite kind of weather. Maybe just because I was born in Pakistan, I just like rain and all that. But last year I did this four days in a row which just go to 2nd Street bar and kitchen, shout out on congress. And sit there and people watch and then be like, “Okay, I’m just going to follow these people.”
Hugh: But that’s a strategy. That’s good. I mean, that you had a strategy in terms of I’m going to do this as opposed to walking down congress and wondering – do I go to 2nd Street bar or do I go to JW Marriott or do I go to Cooper’s barbecue? I mean, any kind of strategy is better than none.
And one of the neat things about South by Southwest in its current form is that it’s by hanging out at 2nd Street or by hanging out at any other number of bars, restaurants, coffee spots downtown there’s at minimum great people-watching, at maximum great opportunities to connect with really interesting folks from around the US and around the world. It’s one of the few times that you hear different languages spoken on the street in Austin, and that’s pretty neat.
Moby: It’s true. This is coming from a very naive place, but I started going to conferences or like events about three or four years ago. And I didn’t realize the value of just those relationships and how they can help, but I would not be in front of you without meeting you at a place that I’ve volunteered at because someone else did a really good job of setting that up. And I think this year is the first time I realize people don’t mean just talking or having random conversations, it’s learning or having those opportunities to help each other in some way. And I’m just learning this, that’s why it’s coming from that place.
Hugh: Well, I mean that’s something that we all I think need to learn and need to be reminded of. There is a fantasy at events like South by Southwest, other events as well, that you’re going to go to the restroom and run into Mark Cuban there and say I’ve got this new startup and he’s going to give you his business card and say, “Call me on Monday morning. I’ll write you a check for a million dollars.”
Again, that’s a fantasy. It probably has happened once, maybe happened once, who knows. But for much more of us it’s more likely that you’re at a panel, you’re at a party, or at a networking event, you meet someone from Mark Cuban’s team, you talked to him about what you’re doing, he says, “That sounds pretty cool, man. My boss will be interested in that.”
You exchanged emails with him or her for a while after the event, somewhere down the line you get introduced to Mark Cuban, maybe something happens. I mean, again, it’s small steps lead to big things. That is a strong, strong mantra of mine. If you can hit … if you get lucky enough to hit home run, great, but a bunt single gets you on base lead to good things also.
And always … the … probably most succinct and most impressive example of that is one of our biggest wins. One of our proudest moments at South by Southwest was in 2006 when President Obama spoke here. That happened for a lot of different reasons, not least of which is that he likes Austin and he’s got a strong interest in technology.
But even more directly his chief digital officer was someone I met at South by Southwest ten years ago who was on the early Twitter team. We’d always kind of stayed in touch, it was again a small relationship made that paid off big time ten years later.
And I know that that’s not quite as glamorous as some of the stories that we hear or that we can imagine, but that’s real-world too that make as many connections that you can, treat people was with respect they’ll treat you back with respect, and see what happens in the coming months, in coming years.
Moby: And I heard somewhere you mentioned … So a lot of people look at that roadmap of success at South by and compared themselves to Twitter. And I read somewhere in that you said that Evan Williams had been coming to South by for the last five years, those small steps, relationship, relationship, relationship, relationship, “Oh, wow, finally something worked.”
Hugh: Pretty much so, I would … but I also think that in 2007 when Twitter was at South by Southwest he was a big hit immediately, because it helped people navigate South by Southwest. And a lot of people thought … there are a lot of forward thinking people thought well, and it has applications outside of South by Southwest. But a lot of other people thought, “Oh, come on. No one else have ever use this outside of South by Southwest.
So it wasn’t like … I think that it’s easy, always easy to go back and look at “history” and, wow, that was a turning point. But certainly at the time it’s hard to know what are turning points, and what are simply things that happen that may not be quite as impactful long-term.
And again the Twitter stuff was great for us, it was great in 2007, but we certainly had no idea how big Twitter would grow in positive and not so positive ways.
Moby: Yeah, so what would you … would you tell startup … Okay, no, that’s a broad statement. But what would you say to people who are saying, “I’m launching my book startup or product at South by.”
Hugh: (a) we love to have things launched at South by Southwest, but (b) I think that my strong, strong advice would be launch the thing two, three, four weeks ahead of South by Southwest. Get some of the bugs out, if there are bugs, particularly if it’s an app. There’s nothing that says that you can’t or there’s no rules written anywhere that even though you turn the on switch … flip the switch-on on February 15th you can’t say that it launched … that prevents you from saying it launched at South by Southwest. And that was the Twitter thing, they had launched actually in the summer.
So six months, seven months ahead of time, ahead of the event, they still said they launched at South by Southwest, and that’s become the history or the narrative that helped us in a lot of ways.
But the challenge for a startup for particularly if it’s an app or product is that if you launch at South by Southwest and you’re successful, get massive traffic, it could pull you down. If you launch and you’re not quite as successful, you could be finished within two days because press has judged you, written you off already. So much better to have a little bit of momentum heading into the event, leverage that momentum on site, push from there.
But all that said certainly South by Southwest is a very, very strong platform to reach traditional media, to reach social media, to reach influencers, all kinds of people from all across the US and all over the world that can help push your product, service company app forward.
Moby: Anything that you’re working on. Last section, and I just made this up in the spot, rapid-fire questions on South by Southwest, like survival, what would you say to people in order that they stay awake all day long and still stay energized? Is that possible?
Hugh: I think you’ve got adrenaline going during the event, or most people have adrenaline going. And that will generally keep you awake. We certainly hear a lot of stories of people getting sick immediately after South by Southwest, because they’ve stayed awake for so long or exhausted.
That makes sense also because you’ve got adrenaline running for quite a while and fending off germs and whatnot, and then you go back, and the adrenaline … go back to your hometown or whatnot, and the adrenaline runs out you’re a little more susceptible.
Moby: This might be how you train your staff, what would you do to tell people if they say, “I want to take a 15-minute break. I’m in downtown Austin, I’m not from Austin and South by is fantastic, but I need 15 minutes to shut down.” What would be techniques for that?
Hugh: Well, one of the things we implemented in 2017, we hope to do even better in 2018, is we had a Zen den at the JW Marriott. And the idea was that it was kind of a quiet zone for that very reason that there is so much going on during the event. That’s generally a good thing, but if you don’t have a hotel room downtown it’s really hard to find just a quiet spot to relax, to regroup, to re-energize.
And one of the things behind this Zen den was having that kind of spot. It’s something that many people in the community have talked about for a long while. It was finally something that we were able to implement last year and I’m excited to make it more so this year.
And there’s some other … there have been other companies or sponsors that have that kind of activation or kind of space, but again I think as much sensory overload is there is during South by Southwest it’s also positive, good healthy to walk away for a few minutes, regroup, re-energize, rethink, re-strategies all these things. And that will help you from burning out too quickly on the stuff.
Moby: Yeah, and people do burn out.
Hugh: It is, yeah. It is a experience intense environment, lots of handshaking and lots of parties, lots of food, lots of drinks, lots of things to do. You’ve got to pace yourself, that’s certainly something that we talked to or I talk to a lot about to my staff, pace yourself, it’s a marathon not a sprint. If you’re going to a party, great, have fun, but watch what you drink because if you drink too much and you have a hangover tomorrow morning it’s going to be really hard to recover.
Sometimes they take that advice, sometimes they don’t.
Moby: Sometimes … depends on how they feel that night.
Moby: Oh, yeah, sounds good. Hugh, you thank you so much for taking time out to do this. I really appreciate it.
Hugh: Thank you. It’s an honor always to be invited to talk about things and to pretend that I have some kind of knowledge that I can impart to others. It’s all good.
Moby: Wow, it was great pretending. We learned a lot.
Hugh: Pretend is always good.
Moby: Thanks, Hugh.
Hugh: Awesome. Thank you.