South by Southwest

“[SXSW Interactive] is arguably the most important interactive conference in the world.” – CNET

This year, I had the opportunity to attend the 2013 South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. While I have attended a social media conference before (Dallas Digital Summit 2012), South by Southwest was by far the biggest, and most compelling. South by Southwest (also referred to as SXSW) featured five days of presentations, networking events, and demonstrations of new and innovative technology. Below, you will find fun facts about the festival, as well as a recap of the most creative and inspiring things that I came across while at SXSW.


Arriving to SXSW

Fun Facts

South by Southwest started in 1987 as a music festival with a purpose of reaching out to the rest of the world, and bringing them to Austin to do business. As the festival gained immediate national interest, soon followed by international interest, the music event had a growth in registrants from 700 in 1987 to 16,000. As the city of Austin also grew and diversified, the music industry was accompanied by film and high-tech companies, which all played a major role in Austin and Texas economies. Because of this, in 1994, SXSW added a film and interactive component, which together bring about 32,000 registrants to Austin every month.

Now that you know a little history about SXSW, learn more about what went on this year! By attending a session called “Hype vs. Reality: Takeaways from SXSWi 2013,” I was able to get the “lowdown” on some of the most important, and buzz worthy events that took place at the festival as well as find out what/who was talked about most.

  • SXSW Panelists had on average about 3,000 Twitter followers and about 1,000 Facebook followers.
  • Eli Musk (Former owner of PayPal and also the CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors and CEO / CTO of SpaceX), gave a keynote speech on the 2nd day about innovation, and got 10,000 mentions in social media.
  • Hot topics were: Entrepreneurship, design and development, culture and entertainment, space, work and career building.
  • SXSW is like a time capsule. The panel picking is done about 9-10 months in advance, so people constantly have to think about whether or not topics will still be relevant/figure out how to make them relevant.
  • A common thought at SXSW was that  “People are encouraged to think big, we can achieve a lot when we work together.”
  • South by Southwest was named as a play on Hitchcock’s film “North by Northwest.”

See this info-graphic for more fun facts: SXSW BY THE NUMBERS.

SXSW Infographic


New Technology

One of the biggest trends at the SXSW Interactive Festival this year, was the idea of bringing things from the physical and digital world and connecting them together. Two examples of this, are:

  • MakerBot Digitzer – A 3d scanner and printer. “We are super excited to announce at SXSW Interactive that we are developing the MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner,” said Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot.  “It’s a natural progression for us to create a product that makes 3D printing even easier.  With the MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner, now everyone will be able to scan a physical item, digitize it, and print it in 3D – with little or no design experience.”

See this article for more information: “MakerBot Wants to Know: What Will You Digitize?

You can also watch this video (1st 30 seconds who the digitzer) for a brief overview of the prototype:

  • Leap Motion Controller – A motion interface for your computer ($79). “Imagine if you could do things on your computer just like you do them in real life. If natural movements replaced all those clicks and taps and drags and drops. Imagine if technology finally figured out people, instead of the other way around. That’s the Leap Motion Controller.”

See this article for more information: “SXSW: Leap Motion lets you control PC with a gesture.”

You can also watch this video for a demonstration of how Leap Motion works:

SXSW Recap

The South by Southwest Interactive Festival has so much going on, that it is hard to catch it all while you’re there. Some of the sessions are too full to get into, some overlap with other ones that you would like to attend, and some are too far away from your most recent location. However, the ones that you do get to go to, are amazing! I feel like I learned so much while I was there and was introduced to a variety of new things. Some of the sessions that I had the privilege to attend, include but are not limited to:

  • Contagious: Why Things Catch On – Jonah Berger, a marketing professor and author, gathered people together to explain “the 6 elements at the core of word of mouth sensations.”

Watch this video to preview his discussions on why some things get talked about more then others and why social influence works:

  • UK Demo Day  – The UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) geared up to provide the premier opportunity for UK technology companies to demo their products at SXSWi. Five of the products that stood out to me, were:
  1. CarHoots – A social car review
  2. Present.Me – Think Slideshare meets YouTube
  3. nthWire – Mobile Testing Platform
  4. Swarmly – Crowd Traffic
  5. Shareflow – Cloud-based collaboration network

Watch this video (I actually have a couple of cameo appearances) to see how the event went:

  • How to Measure Social Media – Respected expert in social media, Nichole Kelly, provides insight on how to build measurable social media strategies that are designed to deliver on your company’s business objectives. One of the things that could benefit Navigation Solutions, is to translate what we say about social media, into language that the whole company understands. For example:
  1. Instead of referring to “Twitter Followers,” we could say “people who are interested in travel stories from Hertz NeverLost.”
  2. Instead of referring to “Pinterest Followers,” we could say “people who love to share content related to traveling.”
  3. Instead of referring to “Facebook Likes,” we could say “people who think of our Hertz NeverLost fan page as a great source for travel information.”

Watch this video to view some of her tips:

As you can see, South by Southwest is a very popular social media conference that showcases some truly amazing content and new technology!

See these articles for more SXSW Interactive Creativity:

For the ultimate SXSW Interactive 2013 Wrap-Up, check out this video!

Hope you enjoyed this South by Southwest summary!

Melissa Woodring 🙂


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