Is SXSW even worth attending? Or has it, like so many tech events before it, primarily become a playground for expense account parkour by disengaged Fortune 500 vice presidents?
Happily, with SquadUP, an event-planning platform with a relatively large presence at SXSW, we didn't have to go too far to look at the data. To sate our curiosity, we evaluated attendee and event data from thousands of events hosted on our platform over the last two years, juxtaposing "event performance KPIs" from standard networking events in New York and San Francisco with those from SXSW events.
Here's what we found:
Attendee quality at SXSW events is consistently higher than other events.
Investments in program development and a relatively democratic selection process continue to attract higher levels of management at both start-ups and larger companies, relative to similar events.
Intent to network and buy is consistently higher than at other events.
Polling pre-and post-events at SXSW revealed that attendees were roughly 46 percent more likely to be seriously seeking new vendors or partners.
Attendee intent is more complementary at SXSW than at other events.
Often, events with low reported attendee satisfaction feature divergent interests; it can be hard to talk business with thronging masses of engineering interns grinding on the dance floor (and vice versa). While SXSW features both entertainment-based and networking-focused events, the happy reality for attendees is that events tend to come "as advertised".
Attendees are more engaged with media around SXSW events than at other events.
A combination of data from Google Analytics, Crashalyitics and Locallytics from our platform and post-event polling shows that attendees at SXSW events are much more engaged.
People at SXSW events are better connected.
The average SXSW event attendee has 28 percent more friends on Facebook than a standard event attendee.
Age and success are inversely correlated at SXSW.
Younger attendees at SXSW tend to be more successful relative to their peers than older attendees, at least based on the attributes that we can measure (title, income, etc) - so ignore that awkward looking 25-year-old in the corner at your own peril.
While there can be no doubt that all events have a lifecycle (and a correspondingly tragic point at which they become a parody of themselves), the data rather demonstrably shows that SXSW's "event fundamentals" are very much intact. We will be watching very closely this year to see if these trends hold or shift; we are also very interested to hear if your anecdotal experiences match what our data has shown.
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