CATEGORY: Conferences

Vegas Rules and Going Mobile: More Takeaways from SXSW 2013

Welcome to my dream

Welcome to my dream

Another year, another transformation for the city of Austin and the hungry creatives that attend SXSW 2013.  The buzz surrounding the parties, the comedy, the surprise guests during music sets, will be its legacy.  Of course we’ll use Vegas rules.  What happened on 6th street remains… Did you skip the event this year? Allow me to summarize the experience.

Robot Comedienne

Robot Comedienne

If your only involvements during SXSW are within the blocks of sponsored events, then you’re truly missing out on the flavor of Austin. Austin has a lot to offer, from the quintessential neighborhoods that spring southwestern culture to the pride of Texan sports, The University of Texas. Take a tour of the surroundings and you’ll discover that you need a minimum of 3 weeks to enjoy it all. Don’t worry, you can venture back in October for the Austin City Limits music festival.

Dancing in the streets

Dancing in the streets

As for the actual SXSW program, you should ask yourself, “Why am I here?” Although I was on assignment to capture content for Name.com I knew this conference required more engagement to bring back the necessary nuggets to move our company to the next level. SXSW is about consuming information, experiencing content, and making connections. There were plenty of lectures that fell flat and didn’t challenge me; at times because it wasn’t well thought out, or because I recently dove deep into the topic and was full. But then there were those gems that made it worth darting out of one talk and flying across the Convention Center to catch the last 2/3rds of a discourse that filled me with inspiration and pumped me “execution” fuel. Now go forth and transfer that energy to my compadres.

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Party in the pop-up

To summarize the over arching theme in one word – “Mobile.” If you aren’t thinking mobile first then you’ve already lost. This isn’t exactly a new vibe pulsing through the tech community but it is amazing to see how many companies have grabbed hold of it and have their mobile act together. Jump in, the water is just fine and there’s still time to run with the pack.

Hangin' with my Dawgs

Hangin’ with my Dawgs

In this post-digital world that seems to move at the speed of thought, getting people to slow down and experience your product was a welcomed change of pace. The back massages at the American Airlines lounge helped me embrace the AA brand. The hands on innovation at the 3M lounge tickled my tech side. The ATT mobile charge lockers were perfectly placed. Also shout outs to the Chevy, Roku, and Samsung lounges.

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Single point of light @ 3M Lounge

The coup de grâce was the trade floor featuring hundreds of companies pitching their products and services with fervor. The best were displays that demanded to be picked up and played.  Again shout outs to .ME, Amazon, Pond5 and way too many more to mention.

Improv Genius

Improv Genius

My words don’t do justice to an experiential event. At the very least I hope I’ve encouraged you to go out and live, learn, and share the creativity of our world. SXSW 2014 would be a great start.

SXSW 2013: I don’t want to hear any more about SXSW 2013

That’s not true, really. It actually is an amazing time with (often free) alcohol nearly sweating from the walls of every bar–and I think Austin has more bars than houses. Actually, some of the houses are bars. But the whole “SXSW” hashtag and buzz can get a little old. Or at least I felt like I was beginning to burden humankind with one too many Tweets. You know when you get that feeling that you’ve just overstepped? Like even your friends are about to unfollow? Well, I’m sxsw singssorry, but #SXSW has bands and promotions and startups throwing crazy parties. And it’s all huge and nuts and impossible not to talk about.

But the core of the event seems very much a simple notion of basic human contact. It’s people reaching out in all directions to learn and live a little. It’s also a lot of hipsters; almost like someone cloned Mumford and Sons about a million times and then scattered them about central Texas. But it’s just weird how everyone can be their own unique individual, yet we’re all out for about the same thing: to maybe come away a little better than we arrived, even if that means a fierce hangover.

And you do improve when you meet people. You’re honestly bettered by a simple handshake and a quick conversation. Now SXSW convos can quickly turn into a one-sided startup pitch, but many of them are truly intriguing…and then there’s this thing where you realize you’re talking to someone who’s doing what we all talk about doing: cutting away the crap and focusing on one big thing. Focusing like a laser with a speed habit on a huge task to get their WWW to improve some lives. (That may sound a little idealistic but if you’re not improving lives I can’t see how you can succeed.)

We went down there hoping to get some video. We did that. I even got sick on the first day and kept the video master Baxter awake with some pretty awesome snoring. But from our tight yet freakishly expensive confines, we were able to edit together some interviews with some amazing people including, but not limited to, Scumbag Steve.

What’s the one piece of advice I bring back? I’m echoing about a hundred people when I say PLAN one daytime event and one nighttime event. You may not even need to plan the nighttime as that just unfolds like a three sheets to the wind. But keep it simple and know where you’re going because if you’re like me and ADD SQUIRREL! then you just get distracted and lost. Although…SXSW isn’t a bad place to wander. Just make sure you have a camera. And a charged phone.

Here, a police officer helps me find where I’m going because my phone died.

sxsw cop smaller

Austin really isn’t that difficult to get around. It’s just that a guy can get a little taxed toting camera equipment whilst incubating several free drinks. The good news is that with your SXSW badge you’re allowed into some swanky parties. Samsung KILLED it with blogger lounges, afterparties and a big, sexy presence that almost made you forget your phone is an Apple.

samsung sxsw

And then there’s this overall freakiness; a pleasant freakiness that makes you feel pretty good about all those inhibitions you lost the night before.

sxsw 6th street freak

This girl probably regrets making this face at me, but I love the light.

sxsw freaky girl

And I love that the entire town is disrupted by drinking and rock n’ roll, and this guy is still delivering the mail. (A reminder that people do actually live and work there so limit out-of-towner douchiness.)

sxsw austin mail guy

Finally, try to make sure this happens to you:

sxsw margaritas

I’m pretty sure we’ll make it back next year. It’s expensive, but we learned some valuable lessons about planning, simplifying and not breaking our good microphone on the second day. When you know who you want to see during the seminars, who you want to talk to throughout the day, and have some idea about where to go once the sun sets, you’ll easily make up for your investment with the amazing connections you make.