Simple Routines Help Hugh Forrest and His Team Plan SXSW's Thousands of Panels in Music, Tech and Film Never underestimate the power of a quick email reply or a face-to-face meeting.

By Linda Lacina

Jon Shapley | Getty Images

How Success Happens is a podcast featuring polar explorers, authors, ultra marathoners, artists and more to better understand what connects dreaming and doing. Host Linda Lacina guides these chats so anyone can understand the traits that underpin achievement and what fuels the decisions to push us forward. Listen below or click here to read more shownotes.

Each year, thousands descend upon Austin, Texas for SXSW, a celebration of tech, movies, education and politics. They come, in part, for the more than 2,000 panels and presentations packed with thought leaders, actors, authors, astronauts and a range of buzzy personalities. Attendees have Hugh Forrest, the event's chief programming officer, to thank for the lineup.

Related: This Bestselling Author Says These 4 Simple Mistakes Are Holding You Back From Planning Your Future

Forrest has been with the festival since 1989 and hasn't just watched the festival grow -- he's actively helped it scale, learning new ways to help his team plan ahead and keep abreast of the latest trends and buzzy topics.

The SXSW of three decades ago would be "unrecognizable" to attendees now, says Forrest. "It took a long while to get where we are now. We're still growing in many ways improving, but it wasn't like we just turned on a switch and it happened."

Related: This Tech Leader Does Job Interviews Over Email and Chat -- and Maybe You Should, Too

Key to growth was letting profitable parts of the festival, like music, fund newer experiments over the years, such as multimedia. Developing the SXSW panel picker, a crowdsourcing process to get more ideas into the planning pipeline early, has also been essential for helping to scale the programming.

Related: Planning for a Library 100 Years in the Future: The Woman Behind This Massive Undertaking Explains How She Gets Things Done

But simple routines have also played a role. Forrest says that quick emails can do wonders to re-engage a staffer who could easily get lost in the slog of details that surround planning this massive festival. He's learned what to watch for when a staffer disconnects -- and how important it is to the festival's success that they get brought back into the fold.

Related: Podcast: Want to Keep Moving? This Cybersecurity Expert Says You'll Need to Start By Asking the Right Questions.

In today's podcast he'll talk about how he's learned to maximize the 10-12 month planning cycle that makes the festival come to life. He'll also share the routines he puts in place not just to make that event possible, but to keep his team connected and engaged and moving projects forward.

To subscribe to this podcast, find us on the following platforms: SoundCloud, Stitcher, iTunes, Google Play.

Linda Lacina

Entrepreneur Staff

Linda Lacina is the former managing editor at Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Smart Money, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Family Circle. Email her at Follow her at @lindalacina on Twitter. 

Editor's Pick

Related Topics


4 Ways to Bring Your Team Back From the Brink of Innovation Extinction

Innovation often seems constrained by not enough time and resources — but really, it's a lack of playfulness that prevents our best ideas from emerging.


Want Employees Back in the Office? What Leaders Are (Still!) Getting Wrong About This Ask

For leaders facing the tricky task of getting employees back to the office, here are four communications strategies to soften the blow.

Business News

Megyn Kelly Is Returning to Primetime Television

The controversial correspondent will moderate the fourth and final Republican primary debate on Wednesday.

Business News

McCormick's Prediction for 2024's Flavor of the Year Just Dropped, But It May Be Unfamiliar to Some

The spice brand has released a yearly report for Flavor of the Year since 2000.


If You Want People to Follow You, Stop Being a Boss — 8 Steps to Truly Effective Leadership

Understand the key differences and embark on the journey from boss to leader with these eight vital steps. This article unveils how to inspire and lead teams with passion and purpose.