One of the best things about launching a new company at SXSW is the ability to throw an epic launch party. While there is a lot of competition for attention there are also over 30,000 attendees at SXSW Interactive who are all excited to network and find out about new companies and products. We had a blast producing StockUnlimited's launch party and trade show presence this year and here is what we would recommend when launching your brand at SXSW 2016.
There are four key elements needed to throw a epic SXSW party:
1. Location: You need to pick a venue that is close to the hotels and convention center but is also easily visible. We chose the fantastic Hanger Lounge due to its proximity and 3rd floor deck which overlooks one of the busiest corners in downtown Austin.
2. Branding: You can hand out as many flyers, postcards and tweet all you want but if potential guests can't figure out which venue is hosting your event they will walk right by. It is hard to describe how bustling downtown Austin becomes during SXSW but let's just say it gets really really busy and it's easy to lose guests to the first party they come to that seems open.
Make sure your venue has a spot that can accommodate window clings, banners, or custom fabricated signage. This will go a long way to making your space stand out amongst the crowd. Huge thanks to DSN X MFG for making our custom fabricated sign!
Side note: There are many city ordinances regarding outside signage so make sure to your plan approved by the Special Events Office.
3. Entertainment: This is Austin and music is everything. There are so many fantastic acts local to Austin or coming to town for the music festival. Tap into this and make sure you have great band or DJ who can set the tone for your event.
In addition to music add an activity or two if you have have the room and budget. This means an interactive technology station, GIF Booth, game area or whatever creative option you have that can connect with your brand.
For StockUnlimited we veered away from the high tech option and instead went old school and had had 3 graphic artists on hand to draw portraits of guests while they waited. This was a huge hit on the night with our guests because everyone loves a free personalized giveaway. But we found many of our guests tweeted out selfies with their portraits to the event hashtag which built up StockUnlimited's SXSW social media profile.
4. Catering and Bar: Not everyone serves food at their SXSW event but for smaller parties where networking is the key draw it's a no brainer. For StockUnlimited we stepped it up a notch and served gourmet passed nibbles (Catering with a Twist) including Crispy Blackened Tilapia Street Tacos with spicy corn slaw, Charred Pepper Quesadillas with fruit salsa and Bacon Wrapped Smoked Chicken Bites with Big Red BBQ Dipping Sauce. Combine that with the great mixology selection from Hanger Lounge and you have very happy guests.
Check out the pictures below from our StockUnlimited SXSW Launch Party to see how we implemented the above tips to great effect. * Photos from Waterloo Studio.