Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer for South by Southwest (SXSW). Held annually in Austin, Texas, this event brings together more than 70,000 industry creatives from across the United States, around the world.
These creatives are inspired by nine days of panels, presentations, brainstorming, networking, deal-making, socializing, creating, innovating, and fun. The worlds of film, gaming, music, comedy, science and technology collide at SXSW. Year on year, the conference consistently draws big names as keynote speakers, and creates hundreds of millions of dollars of economic impact.
Hugh is responsible for listening to the feedback of 50,000 people - the attendees of each year's event - and distilling 5,000 ideas into 10 days of action. SXSW places enormous value on listening to the event attendees, sponsors, staff and the community as a whole. Hugh says without this, you lose your relevancy.
Over the course of six weeks, each year Hugh and his team sift through feedback. It gives a fuller picture of the event, as an organiser there are things that didn't go well that you had no idea about. It can be exhausting, especially when the criticisms are sharp. But it is this which helps you get better.
SXSW has a unique voting system to facilitate interaction with the community, the panel picker ensures that anyone with an internet connection can submit a speaking proposal. It also allows users to voting on topics, giving Hugh an idea of what people are really interested in.
It's not just learning and listening from the audience that is crucial - Hugh and his team initiate a dialogue with those who've provided feedback - replying to emails, having a coffee with their attendees. Some of the best advocates for the conference previously had a complaint, but were addressed by Hugh's team and made positive.
[Tweet "This bottom line, which we're so focused on, is listening to your customers. The more you listen, the more you learn - Hugh Forrest"]Tune in to Learn
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