Thursday Buzz: How SXSW Convinced the Obamas to Speak

The premier technology, film, and music festival in Austin, Texas, convinces the first couple to headline this year's edition of SXSW. Plus: Check up on your expert speaker.

It took years to pull off, but it all came together this year: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will show up at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, later this month.

Barack Obama will headline the Interactive on March 11, while Michelle Obama will be the opening keynote speaker for SXSW Music on March 16. Both will be sitting down for interviews.

“This marks the first time in the 30-year history of SXSW that a sitting president and the first lady have participated in the event,” the SXSW news release said.

SXSW Interactive Director Hugh Forrest told Adweek that the process wasn’t easy.

The conference had previously hosted senior Obama administration officials in the past few years, and it decided to make a speaker request for President Obama in late fall. It was entirely about building a relationship with the White House, taking a chance, and then following through.

Eventually, the conference got a response, which was a bit of a surprise: The White House made both the president and first lady available.

“I had been holding my breath on this for quite a while because we’d been down this path before, and then something would happen,” Forrest said.

“We’ve had contact in previous years about whether this would work for ‘senior officials’ to come down to Austin, and there was interest—but the timing wasn’t ever quite right,” he shared about their relationship with the administration. “Fortunately, the timing has worked out for 2016, and we are excited about this.”

He says SXSW will work with the Secret Service at the venue and will soon release information on a live-stream feed for the event.

Meetings Tip Of The Day

Are experts really expert speakers? Experts may have industry know-how, but are they going to connect with the audience?

Dianne Goodman, president and founder of the Goodman Speakers Bureau and GSB Speaker Management, writes at MeetingsNet about the tedious search and steps needed to verify that experts will be effective and entertaining speakers at your event.

Links for Your Day

Watch out for stealth protesters at events. A man dressed as a mechanic walked onstage during a speech by a Volkswagen board member to protest the automaker’s recent emissions scandal. No kidding.

How to best leverage conferences. Callie Walker at MemberClicks shares a handy infographic to help you maximize your conference lineup.

Try standing up at your next meeting. Lifehacker’s Alan Henry shares an In59Seconds video showcasing how productive it is to stand through a meeting.

(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Patrick deHahn

By Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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