During the week leading up to SXSW Interactive, I started to panic. How was I supposed to handle something most people described as overwhelming? I had never really liked crowds, I was unsure of my abilities to cover an event like Interactive, and with so many options, I had no idea how I was going to choose what to see. All that aside, my body was still recovering from a surgery I had two weeks prior, and with several SXSW veterans talking about how tired, hungry and dehydrated you could get, I was most worried I wouldn’t be able to physically handle the festival.
Luckily, I was wrong. Although SXSW was extremely overwhelming, it was also absolutely amazing. It was so exciting to hear from people who are passionate about the things I often think only I love. That’s not to say it wasn’t hard work. I definitely struggled to make it through a few days. But if I can do it, so can you.
I am fortunate enough to have a background in many aspects of media and technology. While I did try to branch out with some of the panels I saw at SXSW Interactive, I found myself sticking to a lot of the same themes. And even though I could have stepped out of my comfort zone more, I am happy to say I learned a lot.
For one, there is way more to life online than the content you post. From the way something is shared to how it is designed, content is no longer the key to distribution, marketing or personal branding. Yes, it’s still important and should not be taken lightly, but it’s not where all your focus should go. Now, it’s more about the what, why and how of sharing something. I heard from several authors and business leaders about this topic, and how to change or influence people’s behavior to do or share something. Ben Parr discussed how to capture an audience’s attention, Nancy Harhut provided decision science secrets for driving behavior, and Mark Schaefer talked about the importance of creating content people feel compelled to share. Our habits, behaviors and interests influence what we read and what we share, and that’s something everyone needs to consider.
— Aisling Clare (@aislingclare27) March 17, 2015
It’s also important for people to realize our constant connection to social media and the Internet has a huge impact on our lives, physically, mentally and socially. I went to several panels about the effects being online all the time has on us. The digital realm has decreased our attention spans and created problems where there weren’t any before. ADHD diagnoses are at an all-time high, and not just for children. The number of college students and young adults being diagnosed has also increased, even though ADHD symptoms can stem from a lot of other issues, like depression and OCD. This constant connection also has a big influence on how younger generations are learning and growing up. They don’t always understand the concept of online privacy, or that something posted on the Internet often lives there forever.
— Aisling Clare (@aislingclare27) March 13, 2015
I was also really excited to hear about how millennials are the future, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Our habits might seem a little unorthodox, but our work ethic is nothing to laugh at. Not to mention, millennials have a fundamental understanding of the digital world. The only problem now is that a lot of millennials aren’t receiving the kind of training needed to succeed in the jobs for which they’re applying. Jeff Fernandez, Grovo co-founder and CEO, believes the universities are to blame. Although millennials have a unique set of skills that are valuable to a lot of companies, they often need specific training to meet their employer’s standards.
— Aisling Clare (@aislingclare27) March 14, 2015
I’d also like to add that some of the technology at SXSW was mind-blowing. From 3D printers to robots, I have never seen so many amazing machines in one place. I attended SX Create and the robot petting zoo, and I could not believe how technology has evolved, and where some of these innovators see it going next.
Between the thought-provoking panels, the amazing things I saw at SX Create and the robot petting zoo, the free swag I received, and the awesome people I talked to, I’d say my first time at SXSW Interactive was a marvelous success. I can’t wait to do it again next year.