SXSW Interactive: One Month Later

SXSWFive weeks ago, I attended SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas. It was one of the best experiences of my professional life, and I’m still feeling so energized by it. I listened to some of the greatest leaders in the industry. I learned about new technologies and different ways to approach my work. I chatted with people who do what I do…on the other side of the world. I ate some fantastic BBQ. And I learned that only newbies say “South by Southwest.” (The cool kids just say “South By.”)

On the flight home, I pulled out my notes and excitedly tried to write a recap of everything I had learned. That quickly proved to be a daunting task as I looked for a place to start in my 42 pages worth of notes.

It’s now been one month since I got back and I’ve had time to let all of that new knowledge soak in, think about it, and even apply quite a bit of it. So here are my own personal Cliff Notes from South by Southwest that have really stuck with me:

Learn how to fail faster.
One of my favorite keynotes from the entire conference was delivered by Astro Teller — the Captain of Moonshots at GoogleX (and also the holder of the most fantastic job title in the world). He shared several stories about the successes and failures of many known (and not-so-known) GoogleX projects, including the self-driving cars, weather balloons serving as aerial cell phone towers, and an incredible new model for wind power. His message with all of these stories? Learn to fail faster. “The only way to make progress is to make a ton of mistakes — to go out and find, and even create, negative experiences that help us learn and get better.” I’ve already begun employing this philosophy in my daily work by forcing myself to charge headfirst at the most challenging part of any project. The sooner I can fail, the sooner I can learn from it, iterate, push forward and succeed. The sooner I can share an idea – even its roughest form – the sooner I can see how others will positively or negatively react to it. “If you’re not failing, you’re not learning fast enough.”

Perfect your craft in imperfection.
Social media is forcing us to do things more often and with less perfection. On one hand, as a designer, this is a difficult reality for me to come to terms with. (It has to be beautiful!) However, on the flip-side, there’s also a certain authenticity that raw, unpolished content offers over highly-produced content. And people buy authenticity.

Social broadcasting is here to stay.
Meerkat was being hailed as the next big thing on the first day of SXSW. But then Twitter bought Periscope on the second day of SXSW. And it appears to be a losing battle for Meerkat ever since. Over the past month, we’ve seen a lot of brands using both platforms in some really creative and effective ways, and it’s exciting to think about the impact that this will all have on traditional broadcasting, and how we consume media on a daily basis.

Social networks are going vertical.
As recruiters continue to ruin LinkedIn, professionals are migrating to more vertical social networks — networks that help them do their job better, versus helping them network better. Teachers are using Edmodo to collaborate with other teachers, share resources, and save time developing lesson plans for their students. Physicians are taking advantage of Doximity to securely collaborate on patient treatments and grow their practices. IT professionals are helping one another through SpiceWorks, web developers are collaborating within GitHub, and home designers are flocking to Houzz. These are just a handful of emerging, vertical social networks. The good news for us is that all of these networks receive most of their funding from advertisers, which opens the door for some highly targeted marketing opportunities.

Don’t be annoying.
Wearable technology, beacon technology, mesh beacon technology and the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s all great. It’s all exciting. And I could write an entire blog on each one of these things. But they all have one potential downfall in common if not approached correctly: Being annoying. I don’t need push notification coming from my phone, my watch, and my coffeemaker; in my home, in Publix and in my car. As soon as we start viewing all of these shiny new things as “a new channel to push content” versus a means to help the user, we’ll see our audiences opt-out quicker than we can blink. The keys to success in this entire arena lie within two words: Personalize. Contextualize.

Playing nicely with others.
We already have a collaborative environment at ChappellRoberts, but there’s always room for improvement – especially when it comes to UX design. Several sessions I attended offered valuable new ideas and technologies to help improve the way our teams work with one another. Speakers from Adobe shared some new tools – Extract and Brackets – that help developers spend less time in Photoshop and translate graphic elements from Photoshop layers directly into CSS. They also shared a prototyping tool called InVision that helps designers quickly and easily articulate ideas for user interaction. We’ve already started taking advantage of these tools on some current web projects, and they’re proving to be invaluable.

Make people feel something.
Procter & Gamble has invested heavily in neuroscience and highlighted the effectiveness of emotional advertising. People are nine times more likely to remember your brand if you evoke any emotion (happiness, sadness, pride, discomfort) versus indifference. “Indifference is the killer. So make people feel something. Once you’ve created equity in the reputation of your brand, it’s very difficult for your competitors to take that away from you.”

Democratize your brand.
“Building a great brand starts with elevating others.” And today’s best brands are doing just that – making consumers feel like they are a part of the brand vs. just a customer of the brand. When the Seattle Sounders observed a small group of fans marching into the stadium before games, singing team chants, they hired local high school marching bands to lead them – to enhance a piece of the team’s brand that was organically created by their fans. Now, thousands participate in this pre-game march. Beta Brand in Boulder, Colorado doesn’t use models to showcase their clothing – they ask their customers to send in photos of themselves wearing Beta Brand clothes. “When your brand elevates others, you build trust. And trust breeds loyalty.”

If you have some time to spare, I highly recommend watching the featured keynotes from each day of SXSW. You can view them all here:

Moonshots & Reality (Fail Faster)
Astro Teller (Captain of Moonshots, GoogleX)

Artificial Intelligence, Immortality and the Future of Ourselves
Martine Rothblatt (United Therapeutics Corporation)

Princess Reema’s Mission to Empower Saudi Women
Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud (CEO, Alfa International)

Curious Bridges: How Designers Grow the Future
Paola Antonelli (Senior Curator, MoMA)

Fixing Transportation with Humanity & Technology
Logan Green (CEO & Co-Founder, Lyft)

view all blogs