Starting this week, well over 100,000 people will be picking up their laminated badges, concert tickets and drink tokens to take part in the annual SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.
On a related note, in Grand Rapids, Mich., where I live, more than one thousand people will come out in the next few weeks for Gilda’s LaughFest (don’t make fun, I’m super excited about it).
LaughFest and SXSW really don’t have anything in common, except that they both represent how cities can create economic development through events. In Grand Rapids, this idea has become a bit of a thing, with LaughFest in the Spring, and ArtPrize in the fall.
Events like this may start small, but they can have a big economic impact. SXSW is estimated to have a $167 million impact on Austin. ArtPrize, in only its third year, had an estimated $15 million impact. The numbers for these events aren’t nearly as big as they are for the Super Bowl, or maybe even the G-8 and NATO summits, but those events move from place to place (even at the last minute).
The real problem is that lots of cities have events. How do you take yours to the next level, where you get national attention and big money? We’ve put together some tips.