One could argue that SXSW Interactive is as much about online innovation as the ability to connect and find meaning in relationships. Community building, for profit or goodwill, was a sentiment echoed in many of the presentations held during the 2010 conference.
In “Self Promotion Will Save the World” HARO (http://helpareporter.com ) founder Peter Shankman said the best marketing comes from having other people WANT to promote you. How? By being helpful. Sound obvious? Think of those industry contacts you trust most. Chances are, there is a sense of reciprocity, of help, and of cross-promotion in that relationship. He also urged people to use transparency, brevity and relevance to be a top of mind resource. If every tweet or posting begins with “I”, he suggested a rewrite to be less inward, more inclusive and less dictatorial. He encouraged the audience to find value in what you love. Fun is contagious, he notes, and so is smiling. Interactive in the humanistic sense. Viral results via kindness.
Sara Summers of UX Array (http://www.uxarray.com ) explored design process, innovation and inspiration through a playful, interactive exercise where attendees worked in small groups to launch bad start up ideas. The bad ideas ranged from challenging to hilarious, and forced us to get out of our comfort zones and look for interesting solutions. We started with individual ideation, followed by group building and generation. But most importantly: We had fun. Summers is committed to the idea of design democracy – happy, healthy designers and developers working and playing together to create beautiful, inspirational products. Her panel, again truly interactive, illustrated that ideology in an inspired fashion.
Zoic Studios (www.zoicstudios.com ) Loni Peristere’s talk The Future Is Now: Immersive Advertising as Gameplay provided context to today’s best acts of engagement by drawing parallels between other needs-based innovations that were assisted by newly available technology such as the use of steel to build modern cities. Today, he says, the path to audiences is through interactive experiences that allow people to be immersed in worlds real or imagined where the individual dictates the narrative direction. The presentation went to the next level (gamespeak intended) when Loni moved from the stage to the audience for a Q&A and was able to really engage people on a deeper level by building on their highly informed comments and questions.
This is not to say that SXSW was one big lovefest; there were plenty of attendees who chose to spend the majority of time facing the screens of their handhelds. Walking and tweeting, these technology engrossed souls missed a key reason to attend and interactive conference: the opportunity to experience the crowd and meet like-minded people. Learning - in person - about ways we can live, more deeply, online.