South by Southwest – An Experience Unlike Any Other.

Per tradition, this past Friday marked the beginning of the invasion of Austin, as tens of thousands of tech and film fans entered the city for South by Southwest.  For those of you unfamiliar with Austin, South by Southwest is a two-week annual event that occurs in three parts: Interactive, Film and Music.  This Friday, the film and interactive portions started, bringing a collective 32,000 people into our wonderful city.  Saying the atmosphere has been chaotic is nothing, if not an understatement.  Techies and film-goers alike have been teeming the streets of downtown Austin trying to see and learn the latest in greatest in their respective industry.

And for the first time, I had the opportunity to be a part of this madness.  Thanks, to my company and several of our clients participating in the event, I received a badge for the interactive portion of the event.  What I thought  would be unrelenting work has actually transformed into fun and the opportunity to catch some fascinating panel sessions – and I’m having a blast. Despite staffing my client Gemalto’s IDEAnext Lounge and checking in on the Speaker Ready Room, hosted by INK [see picture below], I still managed to find some time this weekend to sit in on a few panel sessions and I wanted to share some key takeaways with my readers.

INK Public Relations at SXSW

The INK team enjoying a picture in the Speaker Ready Room, courtesy of Smilebooth. How much do you love the props and backdrop done by the talented Leslie Blevins of Felt and Honey blog?

The Future of Lifestyle Media: This panel session was moderated by Austin’s own Tolly Moseley (if you read her blog Austin Eavesdropper, you understand my excitement). She was joined by Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge, Camille from Camille Styles and Andrew Wagner, the creator of Krrb. It was fascinating to listen to these people whose blogs I’ve followed for quite some time discuss what’s happening online today and how new people can work their way into the space.  And honestly, listening to them speak had me dreaming that one day, my blog can be well-known enough that I am invited to speak on a SXSW panel about blogging.

Food Trucks Share Social Media Tips: As an avid fan of the Food Network, sitting in on a panel led by contestants of The Food Network’s Great American Food Truck Race was almost a no brainer, especially considering they discussed two of my favorite things – food and social media.  I found it so interesting to hear how food trucks truly rely on the content from their social media in the running of their business.  This panel also gave me so much more respect for the entrepreneurs that decide to start a food truck because they seem to have such a passion for their work and continue to stay dedicated to their base clientele even after the truck has found success.

140 Characters vs. 14000 Words: The New Long Form: This panel session discussed how our traditional view of long form is changing with the arrival of instant news sources like Twitter.  What I found particularly interesting in this session was the discussion of how long form writing needs to integrate with multimedia in order to stay relevant in today’s society.  Take The Atavist as an example. The Atavist is a digital publishing house that creates nonfictional long form narratives for electronic devices, incorporating multimedia elements.  Confused? Think of it this way: In one chapter of a story, the main character has a dream. Rather than describe the dream, The Atavist incorporates a video clip into the story. This sort of writing is truly incredible in my mind because it allows for a level of engagement not previously found in writing and not possible even in today’s social media channels.

Designing Positive Daily Addictions: I attended this panel on-the-fly, knowing nothing about it other than it dealt with health.  In this panel, the panelists look for a way to integrate healthy applications into a consumer’s life, so that that consumer can develop positive addictions rather than the negative ones predominating in our country today.  Using competition, games and convenience, panelists and their companies are working to incorporate change into a user’s daily life, rather than introduce new ideas entirely.  For example, panelist Steve Menke of BodyMedia encouraged people to wear a simple device that can track dozens of different measurements and help you set goals, allowing you to easily work towards those goals.  I look forward to seeing how these healthy lifestyle devices influence our society.

Overall, it’s been an exciting, albeit tiring, weekend.  I’ve already learned so much and with two days still remaining in the interactive portion, I look forward to seeing what else I can absorb from this experience.  Maybe I’ll even see a celebrity or two (I hear Channing Tatum is in town…)

Now I want to hear from you. Are you at this year’s South by Southwest? What panel sessions did you get to attend? What did you learn? Let me know in the comments section.

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