SCREEN TIME: Two popular features at SXSW Interactive were the AOL Studio (above and right), which pre- sented interviews and performances in the lobby of the Austin Conven- tion Center, and the SXSW Hiring Hub (left), powered by Monster.com, on the trade-show floor.
continue along to the press room. On my way, I get distracted by plasma screens and lights and find myself visiting the AOL Studio. Very high-tech and high-touch, but I’ve got work to do, so off I go to find the press suite. Once inside, I pull out my SXSW Interactive
Pocket Guide — a 3" x 5" conference program with a pullout map of the convention center and surrounding hotels. The sessions are organized by topic track, including “Greater Good,” “Future 15,” and “Emerging.” All in all, there are 22 dif- ferent tracks to choose from, and that’s just for the interactive portion of the conference. Within these topic tracks are 90-minute ses- sions, consisting mostly of panel discussions, but also including many solo presentations and keynote speakers. My favorite session titles are “My Kindergartner Markets Better Than You” and “Your Mom Has an iPad: Designing for Boomers.” I decide that I love it here.
Thirsty for Ideas — I settle on a session titled “Is Crowdsourcing the Enemy of In- novation?” It’s a panel discussion featuring a number of executives, including Michelle Gass, president of Seattle’s Best Coffee. Walking into the theater-style session room, I again notice that nothing is fancy, with the panel seated at a plain head table at the front. But while the room-set is simple, the presentation itself is terrific — well-moderated, with tons of Q&A
From tech geeks, to film students and indie movie directors, to famous and up-and-coming musicians, there is a mix
of people unlike anything I’ve seen. They’re all here to connect
with one another.
at the end. My biggest takeaway is that organizations need to have a sense of who they are and what they stand for. Asking customers or constituents for their input and ideas via crowdsourcing is a good thing as long as you have the courage to course- correct when necessary. After the session, I check out the Sam-
sung Blogger Lounge, which, as expected, is packed with bloggers typing away. The new Samsung Galaxy tablet is on display, and I play with that for a bit. On my way out, I get ap- proached to do a sound bite for a Milwaukee radio station covering SXSW Interactive, and gladly oblige. All of this is way too much fun. And while I expected SXSW to be fun,
I didn’t realize how much serious learning takes place. So many sessions to choose from could make your head spin. But mostly, it’s the networking and casual learning from others that I’m most taken with. None of these opportunities to interact were forced or contrived, they just happened. Energy was everywhere — from all types of people thirsty for ideas and the next big thing. Everything SXSW does encourages this type of engagement, but without a lot of fuss. It is casual, it is honest, and it is in- novative. Perhaps a few things we could all inject into our face-to-face meetings. n —Kelly Peacy, CAE, CMP