Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 10, 2014
SXSW 6.1: TechMunch is like a mini-conference within a conference. During SXSW, it attracted some 100 food bloggers to the Plaza Level of the Whole Foods Market headquarters on West Sixth Street. There, bloggers honed their skills in photography, design, social media, etc. My challenge was to refine a practical “pitching the media” workshop down to 30 minutes. Ten minutes went into explaining the four base words: Align goals; Attune personalities. Pitchers and catchers almost never share the same goals, but they can be aligned. Harder is harmonizing the personalities of the two sides. Basic rule: Treat each other as human beings with minds, hearts and souls. Ten minutes went to creating two teams of four pitchers, who came up with company names, a subject to pitch, and four pitches revised for social media, email, phone and in-person. Ten minutes were devoted to role playing. (Both teams did superbly.)
SXSW 6.2: Couldn’t pass up GoBank’s Puppy House at the Pet Relocation Center. Clearly, some SXSW guests lingered there for the quickly drained keg of beer. I came for the canines. Sometimes in the middle of a hectic fest you need a puppy break. The Austin Pets Alive adoption nominees were mobbed. I couldn’t get close enough to count them. Did chat with, among others, Indianapolis Colt Kyle Killion. As the weather improved, festival guests were joined on Austin streets by locals and non-SXSW tourists. Various street closures helped keep the foot traffic smooth and friendly. A reminder that Austinites care about more than just commuting to work by car. They come downtown for fun and, while there, they get around on foot. Thus, our acknowledged or unacknowledged appreciation for wider sidewalks, separate bike and bus lanes and “pinched” intersections. (Thanks again, Austin.)
SXSW 6.3. Don’t skip the Expo. Stratospheric celebrity speakers, spectacular rates of attendance and an ever-expanding range of subjects mark the latest phase of South by Southwest, along with every sort of lifestyle marketing theater. Another change can be detected at the Expo. Years ago, the trade show at the Austin Convention Center was split up according to genre — movies, music, tech — and focused on low-end services or charismatic, but not very useful inventions. No longer. At the combined Expo, I found one lonely table at the end of an aisle marketing Florida as a movie destination. Otherwise, almost all the other exhibitors were attached to tech, education, nonprofits, or all three combined. Thought it was clever that big, colorful Austin and Chicago booths faced off, since they are the two big draws for the creative class in the middle of the country.
Among the shiny objects that caught my eye were Henge Docks, which provides clean, solid docking solutions for Apple products, Piktochart, a lovely app for infographics, Tableau, one of many data analytics offers, Seagate, which allows you to stay connected on airplanes, and Wolfram, which uses enormous computing power to answer questions that Google, Wikipedia and others can’t. (Remember that name!) Yet the phrase that stuck all day was “audience journey mapping” and no booth made that more attractive — or scary — than IBM’s social business engagement center. Yikes! So this year, a lot fewer booth babes, lame freebies and dubious geographic shills — do we mention that Tyler is pushing itself as a tech center? Good grief. No ill will to my native East Texas, but have you been there lately? (I could go to the Expo second time.)