SXSW 2015: A diary

· Trends, Tricks of the trade

A big theme across the conference this year was disruption, and the challenge this creates for businesses that know they need to change but struggle with the idea of “eating themselves.”  This slide particularly resonated with me as it’s a conversation we may have to have with ourselves at some point as well as our clients.

While the learning experience was outstanding from an ideas point of view, from a logistics point of view there was a lot of schlepping across town.  I literally must have walked over this bridge 20 times.  When time didn’t permit the bike taxis were pretty handy.  It’s inconvenient but worth going to different hotels as the different streams on offer provide diversity.

The technology expo was pretty cool too.  Lots of new technologies being showcased, many of them still seeking funding.  I saw drones, lots of apps and sensors that food manufacturers can use to protect their supply chain.  This robotic limb was impressive, as was its handshake!

As you can imagine with so many influential people and brands in town there was lots of great brand activation going on.  The clear standout was Nat Geo’s promotion for their upcoming TV show ‘Life Below Zero’, starting shortly.  You could sign up to spend 20 minutes below zero in one of these tents with a series of challenges to complete to secure your quick exit.

This Bates Motel activation was pretty great too, for a new program coming up with the same name.  But perhaps this activation was so clever that people missed the point?  While this was a temporary structure set up to promote the show by giving people the opportunity to sign up to win a night in the pop-up motel, a lot of people though it was just a weird old Texan joint.  Too realistic, perhaps?

After five days of intense talks, your brain truly does hurt so it was a welcome relief when interactive finished and music & film started.  The pace changes, as does the crowd.  Essentially the geeks go home and the cool kids roll in!  I was only in town for one day of music & film but it was pretty amazing and a nice treat after the boot camp that is interactive.

My understanding is a lot of the bands perform for free hoping to secure a record deal or a gig at one of the big shows coming up around the world.  This guy from the UK was AMAZING.  Jack Barrett was his name I think…

The food is interesting.  At first it’s a novelty to be surrounded by every possible permeation of TexMex and Southern BBQ that wafts through the air from early morning (hangover food?), but pretty quickly we were searching for green vegetable and salad.  So much meat, potatoes and white bread isn’t good for you.  Oh, and the coffee is pretty terrible everywhere as well.

And check out the size of this turkey leg my husband got his paws on…  Grose.

Last but not least, one of the highlights from me was seeing the one and only Hulk Hogan give a talk about this 30 year career.  In reflecting on the fact that some of his biggest fans right now are 12 year old kids that weren’t even born when he was wrestling Andre the Giant, Hulk said, “Without the internet and social media, I’d have been forgotten.”  Not sure if that’s the case Hulk, but it’s an interesting thought?!?

Some tips for anyone planning to attend next year:

  1. You cannot ace it, don’t even try: There is too much on and it is too big.  You need to be okay with not getting to everything and if you’re not, MAJOR FOMO WILL KICK IN!  Choose the things you really want to do and be okay with everything else.
  2. Mix it up: There might be one stream that particularly speaks to you, but mix it up and try different things.  Ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere.  For me, Hulk Hogan was a must and paid off in spades.
  3. There’s a trick to getting into parties: Even if you have a Platinum Badge, that won’t guarantee you entry into all venues for all things.  It took us a few days to work it out but you need to get SXSpress passes to be able to join the VIP queues and for gigs, you’ll also need wristbands to ensure entry.  The app will let you know where to get the wristbands and then you need to HUSTLE!  It’s a case of first in best dressed.
  4. Network digitally: You can’t possibly meet everyone and hook-up can be difficult to coordinate across a big town. I found lots of value from following interesting speakers I met on Twitter.  Instantly this opened up new veins of information, ideas and connections.
Written by Caroline Catterall · · Trends, Tricks of the trade
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