If you have been following us on social media or read our recent blog, you already know that we sent a team to the 2015 South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference in Austin, TX this past month.
Yes, it is a significant financial investment for the company. Yes, it is quite a few days away from the office. And yes, it is worth it. Why, you may ask?
- Networking. Where else will you get a chance to talk with tens of thousands like-minded professionals about your passion? Last year, more than 32,700 people attended the Interactive Conference with another 28,000 music registrants and 72,000 film festival attendees. That is a lot of people passionate about the future of their industry. After the second day, it a running joke with my team about who I would meet next… before 1:00pm of one day I met a gentleman from Dubai, woman from Norway, a team from Disney Interactive, a student from Orlando, an entrepreneur from San Francisco, and a writer from New York.
- Breakout Sessions. There were more than 1,100 sessions, for the interactive portion of the conference, within five days across multiple conference centers, hotels, theaters, businesses, and restaurants. Thankfully, most are available as podcasts following the event, so we can still listen to the sessions that we could not sit in on live. I have hundreds of hours of podcasts to get through this year.
- Brand Engagement. This was a big one – most of the major brands had a presence at this event. 3M had a tent where they were showcasing how their innovations where making life easier. Samsung opened a Blogger Lounge in order to allow attendees a space to try out their new gadgets, grab refreshments, and connect to their hosted Wi-Fi (after you registered, of course). PayPal hosted a Social Media Lounge in which they served up fresh espresso and invited attendees to utilize the PayPal app to pay for food and services via their mobile devices. PBS had a steady stream of “personalities” (including Cookie Monster) come through for a meet-and-greet throughout the conference. Forbes bought out a restaurant and hosted invitation-only events throughout the 10-day conference. Even Jimmy Kimmel moved his show to Austin for the week. This (I assume) is great for the brand, but also provides attendees direct access in order to sample and build relationships.
- Street Team Marketing. There were great examples of gorilla marketing – in and around the scheduled events. From people on stilts to chipmunks handing out swag and “men in black” offering to buy your lunch just for asking a question. The team came back with some great ideas to share with our clients and implement at our next trade show.
- Start-up Community. This event, more than any other I have been a part of, is geared to helping tech companies get started, find funding, and become successful. The kick-off event was a Start-Up Crawl, where nearly 24,000 participants were introduced to more than 80 start-up companies over the course of four hours. Beyond that, there were meet-ups, pitches, and breakout sessions specifically for this group throughout the week so that they could collaborate, commiserate, learn, and grow.
- New Technology and Ideas. There are some really cool and exciting things happening out there – here in the USA and internationally. Some of it so simple it’s a wonder it hasn’t happened before and some so complex it could have come from an episode of Big Bang Theory. My mind is still trying to process some of the new gadgets, wearable tech, and tools that will be made available in the coming months.
- Keynotes. The line-up of speakers are worth the price of admission; Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al-Saud from Alfa International. Astro Teller from Google[x]. Paola Antonelli with Museum of Modern Art. Martine Rothblatt and Lisa Miller talked about the ideas behind a life of radical innovation. Logan Green talked about how Lyft is revolutionizing the way people and communities connect to improve transportation.
- New Business Opportunities. In my humble opinion, the best way to find new business is to get out and talk with people that you would not typically meet in your daily activities. SXSW was a perfect opportunity to meet and talk with companies and marketers that are willing to invest into their brand and strategy.
- Team Building. I believe in my team and I believe in offering them opportunities for personal and professional growth. They have earned the privilege of attending conferences and events – it’s a great incentive.
- Investment in Our Future. If we are not willing to lead the way in this ever-changing world, how can we ask our clients to do the same? It is our goal to try to find and test emerging technology and digital media so that we can offer these services to our clients – when they work. The best way to find them is by immersing ourselves into the areas where the thinking/planning/testing is happening. We do this so that our clients don’t have to.
If you would like to learn more about our trip, do hesitate to send an email or give us a call, we’d love to talk about it.