What I Learned at SXSW

Sitting on the floor at the last panel
Sitting on the floor to the right of the stage at the last panel

This is only my 3rd South By Southwest living in Austin and I am so far, actually light years far away from having figured it all out yet. My first year, I attended, sponsored and exhibited at the Texas Style Council blogger conference during interactive and then was an exhibitor at Style X during the last weekend of the music. I saw a handful of music in the week in between and by the end of it, I had been to the emergency room for a near broken foot situation and was to the point of exhaustion. I quickly came the conclusion that it is crazy enough living in Austin for sx, but trying to partake in a seperate conference the first weekend and then exhibit at a huge trade show the next was just expecting too much of myself.

My 2nd year, I was able to visit with friends in town for the film part, had a trunk show at a boutique, went to a VIP fashion party and then Adam and I took advantage of being locals and purchased wrist bands for the music part (why are these not an option for interactive?????) which are about a third of the cost of a music badge and will get you into *most* things. We were out from about 11am-2am every single day from Tues through Sunday and had house guests for the later part of the week. Yeah, never doing that again either…I am not young enough to handle that amount of go go go anymore.

Which brings us to year 3, which we are only at the beginning of. I have been whining since September when badges went on sale that the interactive badges are so crazy expensive…and as they already cost much more than the music badge, so it really makes sense to just get one for the whole thing, but when you are shelling out that kind of cash, you’ll really feel compelled to get to as much as possible to make it worthwhile. As I have been so busy with work, I knew I couldn’t commit to 5 days of panels during interactive and decided it was not something that made sense this year.

As sx got closer though, I got caught up in the excitement of the amazing speakers coming to town and then I was invited to the Pinterest party and I was all sucked into the hype and wanted to go to EVERYTHING!!!!! Of course, events are spread out all over the city, and much of it overlaps so this is impossible, but still, there is so much to see and do!!!! Luckily last week I figured out to get my hands on a day pass for Sunday. There was a panel I really wanted to see and then the pass came along and I figured I should take full advantage of the whole day so I ran, literally ran, all over town including back and forth across the South Congress bridge (bats, I miss you) to get to a panel in every time slot.

I focused on getting to as many branding, social media, and digital retail panels as possible. I did not go to the gaming expo or hear anything about robotics…so what I learned below is all focused on what I’m into, not the conference overall.  It was amazing to hear people like the CFO of Bonobos, the e-commerce head of Rebecca Minkoff and the Director of Zappos Labs speak on panels about what is going on with their e-commerce and where innovation is taking them.

I filled a notebook with notes and today even though I am so tired from such a long weekend I am buzzing with ideas. There is no better feeling than the week or so after a great conference when you are ready to climb mountains and conquer the world! So in my current euphoric state, I thought I hold harness the thoughts that I took away from this experience. Some of these thoughts are actual quotes from speakers, some are specific actions and some are general themes that were reoccurring. There was no way I could get it down to 10, so in no particular order, here are 20 things I learned yesterday:

1.  The most import important part of your business is your story. The number one thing you can do for your business is to share your story.  *this was said in every single one of the five panels I attended.

2. If you are the designer, maker, producer of what you sell, you are selling you as much as you are selling your product.

3. Be strategic about what platforms you sell on, use for social media, do, say and write. It all should support your brand and story.

4. Sharing your story is all about human interaction and being part of a community.

5. Facebook is a party, Twitter is a newsstand and Instagram is grown up show and tell.

6. Mobile and tablet shopping is the new focus of e-commerce.

7. The future of e-commerce is about the customer experience.

8. Personalization is no longer an option, but expected.

9. Finding your niche and connecting with your customer is the most important thing you need to do.

10. Social media is not about talking, it’s about listening.

11. Think BIG, start small.

12. Make it easy for your customer to purchase, wherever they are. Why push them to the .com to order? You may loose the sale, instead shake up the traditional sales funnel…send them an invoice on FB, IG or twitter. The line between social and commerce is blurring more and more.

13. Sometimes low tech is easier and faster then creating an algorithm.

14. Don’t get caught up in trends.

15. What people do for hobbies on weekends today are what people will do for jobs in 5 years.

16. Innovation isn’t always sexy.

17. Don’t count something as done until it’s fully implemented.

18. Create relationships. With press, customers, brands it’s all about relationships.

19. Developers do not get excited about retail.

20. You know what I learned most of all? That next year I need a badge for all of Interactive.

*Written during SXSW in 2014 and it’s all still every bit as relevant today.

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