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  • feedwordpress 22:51:28 on 2015/03/21 Permalink
    Tags: Crowd Company, Edelman, , , , SXSW,   

    It’s Not The Size of SXSW, It’s How You Use It 

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    Before SXSW Interactive had even gotten a chance to take its first breath, media outlets like Mashable were already asking if it had jumped the Shark? The sentiment is understandable. After all these years, SXSW is still kind of enigma. Some call it a conference and others say its more of a festival. Some say this year's SXSW felt "somber" while others asserted that fresh break through technology such as MeerKat, reasserted its relevance as a place where new startups can get their footing and enchant early adopters in the process. Other's still question its value for marketers and agencies (tell that to senior ad execs like Tony Weisman and Bob Greenberg who mingled amongst the geeks).

    The truth is, SXSW is what you make of it. If you want to go there and party all day and all night, you can do that. If you want to spend your time going from session to session to find golden nuggets of insights, you can do that too. If you want to network and explore business opportunities—you can also do that. It's not the size of SXSW that matters, it's how you make it work for you. In that vein, here are some of the ways I made SXSW work for me this year. 

    Finding Opportunities To Collaborate
    SXSW has no shortage of tech companies, platforms or niche players that can make for interesting collaborators. This year I had great meetings with Hootsuite and Spredfast and MeerKat to plant seeds in some cases and in others explore specific opportunities. The face time you can get at SXSW is high quality and the casual setting makes relationship building easy. 

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    Hosting An Intimate Business Function
    Because SXSW can be so overwhelming—it's a great opportunity to create an intimate business environment where professionals can share thoughts and ideas in a salon like setting. This year, we teamed up with Jeremiah Owyang and Crowd Companies and hosted a combination of his council members and some of our clients for an insightful panel featuring executives from Whole Foods, Hallmark and Verizon. Business can be done at SXSW—you just have to plan for it. 

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    Connecting With Colleagues, Clients & Friends

    I'm cognizant that we have all three groups present at SXSW and I make it a point to distribute my time wisely during my few days. Several of our Edelman clients had activations this year and it was great to see how they were doing in real time, while building new client relationships in some cases and reinforcing existing ones. Likewise, many of our colleagues go, and it's a great way to bond with them outside of a formal session. And lastly, there are industry friends I get to see their once a year—a great way to catch up and compare notes. 

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    Attending Panels
    For me personally, it's difficult to squeeze in panels with everything else but I usually manage to get a couple in. This year's highlight for me was Google's offsite "Fire Starters" panel which featured several speakers from the UX, creative and planning sides of the house. I finally got to see Russell Davies speak which was a treat, and in a setting where "new ideas" are prized, his take on "no new ideas" was a good reminder that brands need to work harder at getting the basics right. 

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    Blowing Off Some Steam

    I'm not going to lie—there are some great parties and activities at SXSW. This year I found myself on a dance floor listening to NAZ and in a stadium watching the Flaming Lips do what they do. I also went Spinning with a friend (first time I've ever done that). But the reality is that SXSW is not the only show in town when it comes to parties and entertainment—it goes with the territory and can be fun if you don't overdo it. 

  • feedwordpress 01:52:51 on 2014/03/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , SXSW,   

    SXSW Interactive Is Big Business And That’s A Good Thing 

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    It's been exactly a week since I returned from SXSW. I would have written something sooner, but this delayed post is a great representation of where things stand in life for me these days. Writing for "personal" purpose takes a second seat to direct business building and running which is ironic because that was kind of the vibe at SXSW Interactive and that's not a bad thing. 

    Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of parties at SXSW and a lot of late nights and some blowing off steam. As always, the panels are hit and miss, but even the misses can still be good for business. I attended a session that was essentially an ad for the mobile start-up whose CEO was giving a talk. However, his start-up was solid in premise and I'd heard about it before. And it's on my radar and now I'll be looking for strategic partnership opportunities around it. 

    It's been my sixth year going to SXSW. Here's how I spent my time:

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    Client Meetings & Events
    Regardless of your business (platform, brand or agency side) SXSW is a great way to connect and engage with clients. In addition to dinners and One-on-ones, this year I co-hosted an intimate salon with Jeremiah Owyang in Edelman's Austin office where brands such as Samsung, PayPal, Kellogg's and others traded case studies and engaged in meaningful dialogue around the work they were doing and the challenges/opportunities they were engaging with. And we weren't the only ones hosting private client events—a quick chat with an Adweek reporter verified that it was kind of a "thing" this year. 

    One On Ones
    In order to make SXSW productive in any sense, you shouldn't go there without scheduling one-on-ones in advance. I had some great conversations with industry peers, some who were running really cool activations at SXSW, to emerging start-ups and the occasional conversation that turned into a more in depth meeting. SXSW is noisy, so finding some quiet places to talk shop is a great use of time. 

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    Brand Activations
    There's a lot of brand activity going on at SXSW and it's impossible to catch it all but worth seeing what the brands are doing. Oreo's 3-D printed cookies were hard to miss and Mastercard's partnership with the Mashable house was an interesting tactic compared to American Express who paid for a more traditional sponsorship. Meanwhile PayPal (client) hosted web celebrities and celebrities alike at their blogger lounge. 

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    Yes, these still happen too. But like I said, this is my sixth year at SXSW—so parties are now part fun and a whole lot of networking, meeting and greeting and re-connecting with industry friends and colleagues. Parties are great for informal recruiting and in more simple terms—putting faces to names. 

    For what it's worth—this year SXSW seemed a little smaller (confirmed)—but I noticed that the trend of more senior people attending is still on the rise. During one lunch with an editor of a large publication, I looked over and saw a table full of top executives from a leading digital agency—right up to the CEO. And this wasn't an isolated case. SXSW = big business now, so if you haven't yet gone you might want to adjust your expectations and book on time because it's not getting any easier to attend. 

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