Social Conference – South by Southwest SXSW 2013 Highlights & Reactions

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SXSW 2013 - Social Conference, The Myndset Digital Marketing Brand Strategy Herewith some feedback about my experience at the pinnacle “social conference” South by Southwest (SXSW) 2013. Clearly, there is a sense among some of the high powered digerati that SXSW is now “overdone” and so they have decided it’s no longer worth attending.  I would disagree.  If you’ve never heard of it, “South by” is a conference/festival, featuring a unique blend of interactive (digital), film and music.  From my point of view, after attending 3 out of the 4 days of the interactive portion of the event, it was a very worthwhile trip and I got a lot out of it.  With some 26,000 attendees, it’s a big crowd and it’s hard not to find people of interest and to enter into highly engaging conversations.  Moreover, since it’s a combination of people from different industries and geographies, the flavor and dynamics of the congregation is extremely stimulating.   What did I get out of it?  I met some great new people in all sorts of different domains.  I found some pearls of how business and mindsets are evolving.  I witnessed the latest efforts in  guerilla marketing.  I came away with a host of new ideas to blog about.  On top of that, for conferences in Europe (France, in particular), I see opportunities for how conferences can be better run over here.

The High Value of Serendipity

social conference sxsw Social Conference, The Myndset Digital Marketing Brand Strategy While I had grand intentions to attend many sessions, I ended up letting myself go with some spontaneous and/or random encounters.  Some of these came after being “spotted” by acquaintances or friends via one or other social network (Twitter, Foursquare…).  Others were entirely unintended,  talking with people in lines (eg the folks at nu.nl), sitting next to someone in a restaurant or a bar (eMarketer, @CocktailDiva), or introducing yourself randomly at a party (NYT, @NowThisNews).  Those serendipitous encounters were very much a scintillating part of the SXSW experience.

Attendance is not obligatory

With the twitterati out in force, enhanced by the occasional Storify summary, you can literally “get” a conference by following the hashtag from afar. {Click to tweet if you like this}.  Some sessions I chose to follow from outside the room.  Sometimes, the Twitter stream is ample to get the main gist of a conference! {Click to tweet}.

Social Conference & Applications

Applications that help organize your conference, facilitate networking and improve interactivity continue to surface and improve.  For this SXSW, I used Lanyrd and the specific SXSW schedule (on their site).  Using two services simultaneously was definitely confusing, although neither alone was fully satisfactory.  I specifically liked the fact that Lanyrd let you share your schedule with great ease.  There’s bound to be many more new developments in this space.  The key is having everyone converging on the generally accepted (and best) one!

I did come across two fun apps that were worthwhile, especially in a conference setting.

  • The first is Good Karma, “the first social hotspot.”  Good Karma is a pay as you go pocket-sized wifi that does not require a contract and, when you let others connect via your hot spot, your price goes down.  I connected and enjoyed the kind karma of a Dutchman while in Austin.
  • The second one is called Highlight (see below), an app that helps you identify friends and people of interest around you.
Highlight App Social Conference, The Myndset Digital Marketing Brand Strategy

Highlight App

Geolocalization and Street marketing

The level of Commercialness was evident… The going deal was a tweet (despite not knowing which account or klout anyone had….).  Example: Get a refresher kit freebie for a tweet. In addition, I started to “feel” the efforts of geolocalized interaction.  Specifically, during my stay in Texas, two locations at which I dined connected with me shortly after an initial check-in or tweet: the Gaylord Hotel (Dallas) and the Kerbey Lane Cafe (Austin).  I still don’t see much of that in Paris.  I say, let’s do more geolocalized interaction in Paris!  {Please click to Tweet if you agree!}

Highlight sessions at SXSW

I attended roughly 12 sessions over the three days.  Predictably, it was a bit hit or miss.  Although I did get turned away from a few sessions that I had targeted, I attended three great sessions that I captured in a Storify recap:

Storify Work Life Balance Social Conference, The Myndset Digital Marketing Brand Strategy

Austin – the pearl of Texas

keep austin weird social conference, The Myndset Digital Marketing Brand StrategyAs my friend, Stan (from Dallas) says, Austin is the best city in the state.  And, I must say that the town has great flavor.  Carrying the informal motto Keep Austin Weird, it’s a town with a distinctly bohemian flair, a most entertaining bar-filled (East) Sixth Street and a very welcoming local population.  Certainly wish my town’s motto included the word Weird  {Click to Tweet if you agree!}

My interest this year was focused on the interactive side of SxSW.  By all accounts, the music side of SxSW is evidently ANOTHER event… With another level of intensity… Maybe I’ll get a chance to discover the other facets of this gloriously social conference next year.