Another SXSW come and gone. Leaving Austin is always bittersweet, given how exciting it is to be around so many inspiring people and innovative ideas. I experienced a lot this year, and I could probably write endlessly about the things I saw and heard, but for brevity’s sake, here’s the cream of the crop – my Top 5 Takeaways from the 2015 South by Southwest Interactive Festival:
The core of the SXSW Interactive experience is built around the panels, keynotes, workshops, and discussions you gain access to by buying a badge. These things can be very hit and miss, depending largely on the speaker, so it’s not uncommon for people to get up and leave mid-discussion if they aren’t getting the value they want out of it. There’s always something else to go see.
However, you always manage to find something worthwhile. The following are the sessions that kept me glued to my seat:
Use Your Words: Optimizing Content For Growth – By far my favorite panel of SXSW 2015. Evany Thomas, brand writer and content strategist at Pinterest, was the best presenter I’ve seen and shared some insights about how small wording changes can result in huge growth. You can read more about it here.
Advocates vs Agitators: the Social Influence – A panel that featured Chevrolet and Southwest Airline’s social media leads. They shared fascinating case studies about how they leveraged online conversation, positive and negative, to boost their brand.
Bill Gurley and Malcolm Gladwell in Conversation – The author of The Tipping Point interviewed Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Bill Gurley. They covered everything from health care reform to the future of transportation.
A Conversation with Senator Rand Paul – It was interesting to see Senator Paul approach the tech-oriented crowd at SXSW. Any time he mentioned the word “privacy,” which was often, he received thunderous applause.
Society Is One Big Cult: The Science of Movements – A Manhattan marketer discussed how cults form using psychological manipulation and how those tricks translate over into societal movements. Bonus points for creative use of Stairway to Heaven as an illustration.
Amazing New Products
This year’s SXSW gave me my best show floor experience yet, which I owe in part to my coworker, Sarah. My usual convention show floor practice is to cover the entire area looking for things that interest me, then go back later and visit those booths. Sarah’s much more methodical, and stops at many booths to engage with the vendors, even if the product isn’t interesting at first. We discovered many new products, ideas, and tools thanks to her thirst for what’s new and exciting.
Here are the standouts from the show floor:
Roost – Push Notifications for your web browser
GigSalad – Need entertainment for an event? GigSalad connects you with high-quality, local talent
iqMedia – One of the most advanced digital listening tools I’ve ever seen
LinkReader – Taking QR codes where they should have been years ago
One of the best parts about SXSW is meeting new people at any of the numerous sessions, parties, meetups, booths, or Starbucks lines scattered throughout downtown Austin.
Shoutouts to a few of the awesome people I met this year:
Caleigh Ripp, Illinois Policy Institute
Jen Knoedl, JenKnoedl.com
Trina Garnett, IMP Media
Caroline Henley, Falcon Social
Joey Esquibel, GigSalad
Any time you work in a specific industry, or a specific role within a company, it can be easy to get tunnel vision on techniques, attitude, and methods. This year was refreshing and inspirational for me because it got me out of the bubble that I operate in day-to-day and encouraged me to look at our business, client relationships, services, and approach in new ways. There’s no one thing I can point to that caused that; rather it was the combination of panels, discussions over dinner, shared experiences at parties, and new relationships that forced me to think differently and decide to create new habits when I got home.
As usual, Austin food is amazing. Here’s what you have to check out the next time you are in town:
Gourdoughs – the single best doughnut, and possibly dessert, you will ever eat in your lifetime
Jackalope – Amazing burgers and beer, although our service was…interesting
Piranha – Great sushi located right next to the convention center