SXSW: From Inspiration to Meditation

“Keep Austin weird.” There is no sentence that suits the city better during this time of the year. Creative minds abound, different languages spoken on every corner and everyone coming together with one purpose: to network and celebrate emerging technologies and digital communications advancements.

As communicators, it is imperative that we keep up-to-date with the topics that influence our understanding of impactful, efficient communications (click to tweet)—and the forms they will take in the near future. And, within that paradigm, how we can adapt our working habits to ensure a high level of productivity. My experience, along with many of the panels, keynotes and workshops, revolved around three major (and pertinent) themes: storytelling & virtual reality, your mind and networking & information overload.

Storytelling & Virtual Reality
Our brains are hard-wired for stories—this is the way we learn things. With emerging virtual reality technologies there will be completely new and adventurous ways for brands to tell their story. In his panel, “The Power of Story in a Digital Age” Ed Saxon (producer of Silence of the Lambs) explained: “People will forget what you said or did, but will remember how you made them feel.” I couldn’t agree more. I had the opportunity to try VR for the first time during the conference and, after riding a roller-coaster with goggles on—I found it was exhilarating! When VR users become part of the story, they experience your product in a completely new and interactive way. The technology is still emerging, but will undoubtedly play an essential role in future brand communications.

The Most Precious Product: Your Mind
Brand marketers live in a world with lots of influences, impressions and stresses. We have to react fast, think creatively and always expect the unexpected. Sometimes we fail, sometimes we succeed, and our minds are always hard at work. I learned through a panel on “The Counterintuitive Truths About Habits” that identifying your own story, along with the stories of those around you, can make life much easier in the workplace. Are you an upholder, a questioner, an obliger or a rebel? What group does each of your closest colleagues belong to? Brené Brown (Founder & CEO The Daring Way and COURAGEworks), summed it up perfectly: “When you own your story, you get to write the ending.” I also learned during Andy Puddicombe’s keynote “Why Happiness Is Hard and How to Make it Easier” that meditation and self-reflection is crucial to personal and professional growth. Try it for yourself and see where your mind takes you when it wanders.

Networking & Information Overload
There is no better place to meet like-minded professionals than at SXSW. From the networking events on every corner of Downtown Austin, to rooms filled with new inspiration from start-ups at trade shows, to simply chatting with the person sitting beside you during a panel—there were unlimited ways of connecting and a huge diversity of professionals (CEO next to student and web designer next to communicator) to interact with. Seeing the same person twice was hard.

There were so many talks to listen to and engage in, with truly no way to participate in everything you set out to do. I will be processing the impressions I gathered from this event for a long time.