The music, film, and now tech festival South by Southwest has taken a lot of heat lately over it’s clear mishandling of the cancelation and reinstatement of two panels for their March 2016 event.
What follows here is an (obviously) satirical step-by-step look at how to plan an event the SxSw way:
Step 1: Allow submissions for panels, talks, etc. and have a public voting system that affects what gets on the schedule.
Step 2: Only put >some< submissions up for public voting and let others be unilaterally decided internally, no explanation needed.
Step 3: Be informed that your voting system is being purposely brigaded by harassers to try to stop an anti-harassment panel.
Step 4: Wait way too long to decide to close off comments and dismiss concerns/patronize your speakers.
Step 5: Accept the anti-harassment panel but instead of addressing security concerns you schedule a panel by known harassers.
Step 6: Receive complaints, threats, and info that GG – a harassment hate group – is coordinating the one panel and protests.
Step 7: Continue to be unresponsive both privately to the panelists and publicly to all those asking questions as to what is going on.
Step 8: Surprise everyone by canceling both panels – including ironically canceling an anti-harassment panel due to being harassed.
Step 9: Use cold, generic PR speak in announcement, say you want voices from both sides despite panels being about different topics.
Step 10: Take a lot of flack from the panelists, media, and public for not only your decision but how you announced your decision.
Step 11: Scramble internally to figure out what to do while disregarding all advice given to you by external, knowledgeable folks.
Step 12: Rush to make a vaguer, colder, more generic statement citing concerns you were previously warned to prepare for.
Step 13: Gain more “press” by taking more public heat about your new statement because it effectively says and does nothing.
Step 14: Continue to be unresponsive to affected speakers wanting answers on what’s going on while scrambling to fix things.
Step 15: Decide the best thing you can do is to over course correct and create a whole new day long summit because that’ll show them!
Step 16: Decide the ‘invented due to a pr crisis’ summit theme is online harassment even though it doesn’t fit your event at all.
Step 17: Realize you’re a music/film/tech festival and have no idea how to organize an online harassment summit.
Step 18: Reach out to the harassment panel speakers you’ve been ignoring and ask them for help to curate a list of speakers/talks.
Step 19: Have your speakers do all your work for you (for free) to secure speakers/talks to help you fix your mistake.
Step 20: Prepare to announce new summit and speakers while ‘conveniently forgetting’ to tell them you added the other panel back in.
Step 21: Place “gaming journalism” talk in summit instead of gaming track because you forgot how to plan events during a PR crisis.
Step 22: Proudly announce return of panels and new day long summit with list of confirmed speakers; wait for great press to roll in.
Step 23: Have a few pieces of good press start coming in until your “confirmed” speakers start pulling out of your event.
Step 24: Watch helplessly as the media and general public point out all your glaring event planning 101 and PR 101 mistakes.
Step 25: Go back to the drawing board to once again figure out if there’s a way to salvage both the summit and your brand.
Step 26: <insert whatever future steps @sxsw takes (bungles) here to try and ‘fix things’> To Be Continued… [End]