This year's South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) Festival saw more than 30,000 attendees converging on Austin, Texas. Each left with a different take on the experience, as you'd expect from attendees at an event with more than 1,000 sessions.
Presentations included keynotes, book readings, mentor sessions, and more, but some of the best moments for marketers this year weren't in the sessions at all.
Here are the takeaways for marketers, each with lessons for growing your business.
1. Content shock is a thing
Author and marketing expert Mark Schaefer's session was a late addition to the roster, but that did not hinder attendance. Some 500 people packed Schaefer's 9:30 AM session on "content shock," the phrase he uses to describe what will happen when the unstoppable force of content marketing meets the immovable object of limited consumer attention.
To keep and grow your audience as the noise rises, remember to get your content RITE (revelant, interesting, timely, entertaining), Schaefer said.
Schaefer's recommendation for marketers hoping to make an impact with their content is to: "be first, and be outstanding."
2. Create unforgettable experiences
Along the lines of Schaefer's advice, Pennzoil partnered with Nintendo to create Mario Karting Reimagined, a first-of-its-kind experience at SXSW designed to promote Pennzoil's new motor oil.
The brand took elements from a popular video game and brought them to life on a race track outside the Gaming Expo at SXSW. Participants drove Mario Karts on a track loaded with game icons that either gave drivers more speed or slowed them down. Each racer got a link immediately after racing to a video that intermixed GoPro footage from each Kart with camera footage from around the track, so they could review their performance. (I placed last, so I personally don't need to relieve that experience.)
Pennzoil used the hashtags #Pennzoil and #MotorOilReimagined to track social conversations, and the company facilitated social sharing of each user's race video directly from the email itself. Smart marketing! I had the opportunity to talk with Pennzoil Global Brand Director Chris Hayek at the track.
HBO also thrilled Game of Thrones fans with its interactive exhibit. The ever-popular Iron Throne had been at SXSW 2013, but this year, HBO included props from the TV show and an immersive virtual reality experience using Oculus Rift called "Ascend the Wall."
3. Pimp your presentations
Nancy Duarte, TED speaker and CEO, led a 2.5 hour workshop on visual storytelling, with her top-notch team from Duarte, Inc. The team covered ways to bring your slides and presentation skills to the next level by defining your one Big Idea or core message, your audience's "Move From" and "Move To," and establishing your call to action (even if you're not permitted to articulate it from the stage).
In situations where presenters cannot directly solicit volunteers, donations, or business, Duarte advises focusing on the "New Bliss" that could be, contrasting that with the dire state of "What Is," and asking how the audience can help. She said that once you wrap up your presentation, your audience will find you and ask what you need, provided you've inspired them to take action.
4. Every business idea can benefit from a Shark Tank-style assessment
In addition to entrepreneur Mark Cuban's SXSW session, he gave a press conference in which he made it clear that no business proposal should go unchallenged.
Cuban recommends that every aspiring entrepreneur ask herself four questions:
- Has anybody else done this?
- Is there something compelling about this?
- Can I sell it?
- Can I execute on this idea?
Currently, the business concept Cuban has vetted is the Cyber Dust app, which deletes messages seconds after receipt, without storing them on any server. In the video below, Cuban explains why the app makes business sense and goes on to clarify that absolutely no one is exempt from the Shark Tank when they pitch a business idea.
5. Crowdfunding campaigns have revolutionized show business (and business in general)
The potential investors on the Shark Tank TV show are a tough crowd. If they turn down your business proposal, you can always try to find a more receptive crowd through a site like FundAnything or Kickstarter. Comedian and podcasting legend Adam Carolla spoke at length about how crowdfunding has changed the face of business, making it possible to fund ideas even without studio support.
Carolla is using crowdfunding to fund his legal defense in a patent infringement suit that could profoundly impact podcasting as an industry. Not only can crowdfunding create viable businesses, it can keep entire industries viable.
* * *
Did you miss SXSW Interactive this year? Don't worry... Even when you go to SXSW, it's impossible to attend every session and event. The important thing is that you take something away from the experience.
Hope to see you in Austin next year!