SxSW 2013 recap

Feels so good to be back here again. Last year I was able to meet so many inspiring people here and I even ended up working with some of them on very special and fun projects.More than that I was able to listen to many entrepreneurs talking about what made them start a business and (much more interesting) what made them pull through.

First impression back at the Convention Center in Austin was the huge line at the badge pick-up but unlike other conference teams, theSxSW team managed to improve the process a lot compared to last year- resulting in superspeed pick up time.

Pretty soon after the registration lines opened one could already feel the energy of thousands of people filling up the convention center looking for inspiration, the next big thing, a free breakfast taco (that is actually a thing here) or – same as every year – a power outlet to recharge the phones and laptops.

The program is packed and once again I find myself a little overwhelmed with the various options. Thankfully the SxSW app is just perfect to find the panels one is interested in. But before I start with that I had the chance to meet-up with some Austrians who were also here in Texas – at theBBCAmerica Roadhouse. It’s a small, small world….

First session I went to was called “Disaster: The Future of Crisis Communication”. The really interesting aspect were the people on the panel, like Captain John Visneski, who is the Cyberspace Control Officer in the United States Air Force. In my job I have the luxury of connecting “Crisis Communication” mostly with something like +10 customers complaining on facebook about some company – but listening to CAPT. Visneski reminded me once again, that there are actual crisis happening out there where social media can be a useful tool to both inform and also console people in need and not just protecting a brand’s image.

Spliting my time here between what I can take back for clients both of Digital Juicery and The Coolinary Society the next thing on my schedule was the RSVP “SxSW Food&Tech Cocktail” event at the El Naranjo restaurant. This event was organized by “The Harvard Common Press” and  “Food&Tech Connect” and I am so glad I registered to go there. Not just to find several inspiring ideas for the next Vienna FoodCamp but also to find myself in so many engaging conversations with food bloggers, publishers and travel lovers.

THIS is what SxSW is for me – meeting people and listening to their stories, engaging and getting inspired. You will not find too many new things or products, but not an hour passes without at least one new thought comming to my head. And that’s the perfect ROI these days.

I am a lover of all things digital, but during SxSW the tools and apps that grab my attention are not the ones I find online but the ones that I spot on flyers, posters and business cards. Case-in-point: Hater app (described as: “a mobile app that allows you to share the things you HATE with the people you LOVE.”). There were posters of Hater app all over the SxSW venues and there was no way to miss the simple design and the unlike button with an uncanny resemblance. And the name – well one pretty much had to at least look it up, right?

But not just posters, also business cards and little flyers are more than welcome when you are listening to people all day  or writing or tweeting or texting,… Having a nice flyer feels comforting because you don’t feel like you need to respond instantly. It is just there for whenever you feel like you want to engage with the content written on it. Despite being at an interactive conference I ended up spending much more time looking at the magazines, flyers and folders I took back home  - like some of these from Jakprints.

Another paper-awesomeness was gifted to me at the 3M booth during the trade show > the Big Pad (or as I prefer to call them GIANT Post-its). The minute I spotted them I was inspired to draw and write. I cant wait to use them in the office. And buy them in bulk…because there is no way I can get creative without post-its, paper and a Sharpie.

Lesson: Make sure your web/app or whatever product is up and running but don’t forget to spend some money on paper materials as people will have the chance to get back to you even after they left. Plus if the stuff is cute they might take pictures of it and share them as well. And seriously who does not love some good stationary (mine are from the great people atMoo who have a great marketing team and were in Austin as well with an custom SxSW offer for business cards).

Storytelling is definately having a major moment at SxSW this year. Not a single topic was as hot as this one (ok, apart from the Keynote by The Oatmeal). There were numerous Storytelling panels, workshops and discussions offered but I was not able to see a single one of them because every event was totally overcrowded with a huge chunk of the 40.000 interactive visitors.

If one is following the development of communication and advertising this does not come as a surprise since most companies are struggeling with all the communication channels they have opened up (social media, websites, blogs, you tube channels,….) and are desperate to find content to fill them up. Plus sooner or later facebook and co should be directly contributing to a companies revenue and not just image and branding – a goal that is much easier to achieve at the end of  a “good story”.

Storytelling is the pretty twin of social CRM – together they will be the next step companies and agencies need to focus on once the current “fan-getting” and “like-o-mania” has reached a peak. Storytelling replaced “social” on this year agenda – 2013 SxSW was all about content. And I really liked that.

By the way – if you thought you need to go to Austin to find out about trends: Here in AustriaStorytelling has been around for years – thanks to Sabrina Oswald and also the Whatchado team who have all built a business around it. So there – not everything you see at SxSW is new(s).


After a full week full of inspiration at my favorite conference/festival and several longer postshere some closing tiny thought bits:


  • Austin – you are awesome! The perfect host city for this event.


  • Once again I noticed how great Eventbrite is – listening to CEO Julia Hartz last year was a highlight and this year it was so convenient to add all the Eventbrite invitations & tickets to Apples Passbook app (paper freeeee).
  • Most fun session I went to: Muppets to Mastery – UX Principles from Jim Henson. And since then I find myself wondering WWJHD – what would Jim Henson do? If you love his work as much as I do you will not ask why :) Comparing Henson’s figures to project team members was priceless. You can listen to it on Soundcloud.
  • Oddest session I went to: Things I Learned from Kim Jong Il to make an Interactive Doc. And it was good. Listen to it here.
  • If I would have a start-up I would pitch there – too many good opportunities to miss out. From funding pitches to coaching sessions with great founders and CEOs – there are so many chances to leverage your company.
  • No updates around QR codes, RFID etc. Pretty much nada. Mobile payment solutions were not really present either.
  • Foursquare was present but not as strong as the last years which was disappointing.
  • Loved the fact that were so many food blogger events around as well. More on that soon onThe Coolinary Society.
  • Thank you SxSW Team – you not only organized a great festival but also managed to provide Wi-Fi pretty much all the time.
  • See you next year -no maybes!