Over the years, I’ve collected a lot of nice bound notebooks. I have a silly fear of filling them up with “useless” notes so I tend to save them for special occasions.

So, the particular book I picked up for this year’s SXSW had my notes from the 2012 conference. In it were my notes from Jeffrey Tambor’s 2012 Acting Session. Of all the sessions over the years, this session has had the strongest professional impact on me.

I am many things, but an actor I am not. My last brush with acting ended with my 5th grade teacher swapping my role from Romeo to Tybalt after she determined it was best for the class that my character die rather than deliver emotion. I’m totally not scarred by that, btw.

Rather, this session taught me two critical skills:

1. What it means to coach and mentor young talent.

2. The importance of seeking out different perspectives at conferences.

What changed me in that room was a commitment to finding something different and then working my brain hard to take lessons from it.

So, fast-forward to 2015 and that has become my personal litmus test for panels I want to attend this year. 2012 me would have picked sessions like, “Building an Army of Brand Advocates” or “Creating Custom Branded Content.” I’m sure these were AWESOME sessions. This year, I’m fixated on finding sessions and events that aren’t necessarily work related — and then apply the insights gained from these different disciplines to my work at Ketchum.

LIFE IN THE OASIS: Emulating the 1980s in The Browser
So, I like video games but that’s not (entirely) what this panel was about. It was about history, culture and nonprofit archiving. These are certainly not topics that Facebook would use to target ads toward me. The lessons for me here …

1. “Access Drives Preservation”
I came to see Ernie Cline and he was great, but Jason Scott was equally amazing. Jason works for archive.org, which recently released 1000s of games online for free. But, some rights holders didn’t want stuff to be released and that mindset hurts us. There is no point in having things archived if they aren’t accessible. Think of all you can learn by seeing something (or someone’s) work. Especially with software. Always be a student of the past and find ways to apply that foundational knowledge to new and exciting ideas. Look back to the future (click to tweet).

2. “Archiving The Conversation”
Art is better when you can talk about it. Think of how great it is to watch TV while following along on Twitter. Ernie Cline shared a memory of the first time he played DOOM with friends and how they would just scream at each other. This got me thinking … should we archive in-game conversations? They are so important to the video game experience now and arguably part of the game itself. Of course, many bad things have been said about my mother while playing online games … but what if doing this could help put an END to online bullying or, as Jason said in a follow up tweet, help us understand it? Never stop expanding your view on how creativity and technology can merge to form a solution, especially when it serves the greater good.

Check out Ketchum.com’s SXSW social hub for the latest from the conference and join the conversation with #KetchumSXSW.

Ben Foster is SVP Digital Strategist in Chicago and an adjunct faculty member at DePaul University. He loves surfacing technology news and geek culture on Twitter @benphoster. He has seen 67 Phish shows, caught three foul balls at baseball games, and plays a frost mage named Killosaurus in World of Warcraft.