#DEVRIESDOESAUSTIN: ‘24 Hours’ in Austin by @RobinsonTimothy

I’m going to go ahead and put the “24 hours” part of this post in quotation marks, because I am taking some serious liberties with the timeline here. But I think it’s appropriate since the concept of time when you are at SXSW doesn’t work the same way as it does back in the rest of the world – the days slip by in a blur of tech talk and queso, and before you know it the experience is over. 

But the time that you DO have on the ground is spent meeting some amazing people from the seemingly disparate worlds of tech startups, venture capital, digital production, non-profit, and entertainment – all of whom are plugged in and constantly on the go throughout the week. Here’s a quick snapshot of what I found to be the most memorable and relevant moments from my time in Austin:

Media Plaforms and Publishers

On Monday I attended an awesome session about the shift that’s happening within media companies from simply publishing content, to serving as a community platform for crowd-sourcing info. Led by Zach Seward, Senior Editor at Quartz, the open discussion was a great reminder that we, as PR pros, need to start thinking about new “ways in” when pitching outlets. There are more and more opportunities to enlist influencers to create content on our behalf, i.e. the HuffPo model.

GIRLS!

As I mentioned, there are a million people at SXSW from different industries, and maybe attending a keynote address by Lena Dunham seems like a waste of time, but you guys – GIRLS is amazing!!! The interesting thing about her talk though was that the message truly translates. The thing I took away is that the story you are telling (whatever that story may be) needs to be authentic in order to resonate with an audience. I especially took these words to heart as our agency continues to develop social content on behalf of brands.

 

Bribery is an Effective Tool

Also, outside the media and tech conversation in Austin, SXSW is a great place to check out the latest in big branded activations and do a bit of competitive research. And I can tell you this: if you want to get people to interact with your brand, give them something more than just free product. A free ride from a branded Chevy Impala when the city is choked with people and there isn’t a cab in sight – helpful. A coupon for $1.00 that I need to go online to redeem – not interested.

 

Also, (and I know I’ve been skirting the issue a bit) there are plenty of chances to drink during SXSW. And guess what? An open bar and a Biz Markie performance is a GREAT way to get people in the door.

#DEVRIESDOESAUSTIN: From Content to Kimchi Fries, Everything is “Snackable” at SxSW @BrianaRedman

SXSW was a whirlwind of a week. One of those trips where you alternate the following: learn, eat, meet, sleep, learn, eat, meet, sleep…and you don’t even know what day of the week it is – but all along, it’s totally worth it.

Going into SXSW, I wanted to learn more about content creation, so it was key to arrive an hour early to sessions like “The Compelling Image in the Age of Social Media” and “Social Media: Strategies That Work & Future Trends.” I think most of us at DeVries would be millionaires if we had a dime for every time someone told us that “content is king.” But SXSW took that idea to a new level. According to Yahoo, 880 billion images were shared last year, so it has become even more important to have compelling content that stands out and grabs someone’s attention. After all, the attention span of the average person is 4.3 seconds. PS…I Made This recommends creating attention-grabbing content that’s “recognizable but with a twist,” whether it’s kimchi fries, neon dipped mason jars or Austin’s spicy guava pork ribs.  However, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. We’ve all seen companies blow thousands of dollars on a large-scale production which, in the end, can have a very short life span. I was shocked to learn that only true fans (less than 20% of website/social media visitors) watch exclusive, BTS content.  So next time you’re working on client planning, maybe suggest a content creation day where you can produce a year’s worth of evergreen images rather than one large-scale video production. And in terms of timing, think about when you should post it on your social channels. Post short “snackable” content during the day when people are working, but looking for a quick distraction. For videos that are longer, post them after the workday when people have more time on their hands.

 

Besides geeking out over the various content sessions, my other SXSW obsession was the various branded activations and booths. From A&E’s recreation of the Bates Motel to The Price is Right wheel, every big company was there to make an impression on these digital influencers. With SXSW attendees taking naps in corners and recharging alongside their phones, I’m convinced that Sleepys or DeVries’ fabricare clients should set up a nap station next year. Because with the whirlwind of a week, grabbing someone’s attention among all the distractions is the way to win at SXSW. 

#DEVRIESDOESAUSTIN: A SXSW Top Five “What I’ve Learned” Listicle by @ricebird

Austin is ahhh-mazing, but #hotdamn it can be stressful if you don’t walk in with some #hottips! To help give you an idea of how to tackle SXSW (and these could be applied to almost any conference) here’s my top five #keylearnings listicle. Now go forth and conquer.

Put your panel on a pedestal. If you have a session that’s a must-see, either get in line a full HOUR in advance or be a creeper and stake a seat in the room the session before. This is how I guaranteed entrance to my favorite sessions, such as “Brands Driven by Artistic Communities” where I learned that Instagram is the only major social network that isn’t banned in any country #funfact

Learn to lunch alone. And by alone I mean go somewhere solo and strategically strike up conversations with people around you. Ask them their thoughts on the conference. Find out who they are. Gain some insights from your fellow conference attendees, but always keep it genuine because who doesn’t want a new friend and potential Twitter follower #networkhard

Over-RSVP. As the official party planner for our group, the minute I found out I was headed to Austin I made the world’s longest list of parties, events and links. Planning in advance helped us cut panel lines and guarantee killer nights out.  There are some sites out there I discovered that can even auto-rsvp you to everything happening so you don’t have to #brilliantlylazy

Explore more.  It’s easy to get caught up in the panels, but there are so many creative events happening around the conference that some people argued with me that you don’t even need a badge to gain value. I definitely rounded out my experience by chowing down at Fast Company Grill for free, snuggling with puppies at a #PuppyHour and enjoying a free massage from American Express. So while I’d argue back that the panels are key and as a professional seeking value you need that darn badge, I would also say that escaping the conference center helped inspire me for future client programs #puppystrategy

Be different, yah be different. As Ann Marie mentioned in her SXSW post, we created these amazing custom anti-hangover patch handouts. Thanks to our “gimmick,” I was a total savior to the many people I met – and we even gained some Twitter traction around the #DeVriesDoesAustin hashtag. Having something cool to offer people helped me strike up conversations and make myself and the agency memorable #standupstandout

#DEVRIESDOESAUSTIN: The Great Adventure of Digital Marketers by @amalmariei

When SXSW Interactive started back in 1994, it was a couple hundred people and a few panelists. Twenty years later, it’s now 30,000 registrants and thousands of sessions and meet-ups. I can see why it’s been coined the ‘geek spring break’ as the streets fill with digital professions who have vowed to help do their part to keep Austin weird. As a first timer, the experience for me was akin to a kid visiting a theme park for the first time. So many choices, so little time - and lines that would make a wait for the ‘scream machine’ seem like child’s play.

Upon arriving at the convention center mid-day Friday, I scurried off toward my first session: ’The Secret Sauce of Real Time Marketing’. When I arrived, there was a line spanning around the corner and the room was already at capacity. I quickly realized that showing up at a session a few minutes before start time was not going to cut it. So unlike ‘Great Adventure,’ waiting in line for an hour didn’t guarantee me a spot. I needed a game plan so I sought refuge in the PayPal lounge to plot out my next few days of sessions. Sadly, a lot of the really good workshops required pre-registration, but hey, now I know for next time! I did manage to get into a few really great sessions like the talk with Humans of New York photographer, Brandon Stanton and ‘Surviving A Social Media Crisis.’

One of the best parts of SXSW was the people. Within 10 minutes of stepping foot in Austin, I was already running into friends and past colleagues; it felt like a ‘digital class reunion.’ It’s one thing to troll everyone on LinkedIn to see what they’re doing now - but running into them after 5 or more years and hearing about the new start-up they’re working on or a new book they’ve written was a great way to reconnect and gave me lots of ideas for future collaborations.

Despite my naivety as a SXSW neophyte, there was one thing I was fully prepared for while in Austin: the drinking! We created DeVries Global SXSW cards with all natural Zaca hangover patches attached. Not only did they add value to the SXSW experience for anyone who got their hands on one, but they also probably got people through a few early morning sessions. Talk about a conversation starter!

So SXSW 2015? I think I’ll start planning now…

#DEVRIESDOESAUSTIN: #MeatUps & StartUps, 24Hours in Austin with @adriannagiuls

My trip to Austin started off with a bang when my work wife Ann Marie and I pulled out of the Avis car rental. After being instructed to stop at the booth and hand in our paperwork and licenses, we escaped the parking lot labyrinth without providing our credentials. Sure, later I saw they charged my credit card but at the moment we were Thelma & Louise.

Moving right along, the afternoon was filled with checking out interesting panels and scouting brand activations. My favorite? Subway’s Mind Wars where the task was to mind battle for a slice of pizza on a screen using a wearable that measured concentration. Applause to a brand for tapping one of the most relevant trends in technology and using it in a way that was contextually relevant and valuable to the user—I got a gift certificate for a free slice of pizza when I won.

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Next up #how2focus: a panel that shared insights in trends in the field of organizational psychology and design. There, panelists shared insight around our culture of interruption. One frightening stat: people spend 3 minutes on any task before being interrupted. As an antidote, an interesting trend is bubbling up where offices create “Shhh… Zones” for deep focus and concentration. I love that idea and I am sure my team is somewhere cringing.

Lastly the day encored with Mindy Kaling’s panel “Queen of Comedy.” Among a multitude of truths she shared one that resonated sharply: women are painfully compared to one another. “Women are constantly put into these pageants they don’t even want to be in,” she quipped. Wisely pointing out that while she is constantly compared to Lena and Tina, when male comedians and actors breakthrough no one ever says… “well, he’s like Steve Carrel meets Seth Rogen,” they are celebrated for their individual accomplishments. Her solution? While we can’t conquer all gender issues at once, women triumph when we support one another and show the world that being a strong professionals is not at odds with being funny, sensitive or even girly.

After a hungry afternoon it was time for a #meatup with the team. No that’s not a typo, we literally had a #meatup at Freedman’s BBQ where we ate and talked “family style” about our days’ adventure. The conversation and spare ribs were intoxicating.

Key learning of the day: #ABC (always be charging). Hat tip to Katharine Ricci for teaching me that.

A Dozen Days of DeVries…#4

Top 12 Things DeVries Staffers Will Miss About 30 E. 60th…

4. THE ELEVATORS

It’s no secret that the 30 E 60th elevators are not the speediest in Manhattan. Here are DVG staffer’s perspectives:

"Always allotting "elevator time" into your lunch runs."

"I’ll miss all the time I had to think while taking the elevator up to the 14th floor."

"Getting to know my colleagues up-close-and-personal in the elevators during lunchtime."

"The annoying people in the elevator."

"The elevators. I’ll definitely miss the elevators."

"I’ll miss the extra 12-floor workout I get when the elevators are broken."

"Piling into a 9-person elevator with 12 other people. And then stopping on every floor on the way up."

"I’ll miss those rare moments when I have the elevator all to myself and it goes directly to my floor."

"I will NOT miss the elevators."

As you can see, elevators are a big deal. Stay tuned for the rest of the countdown!

A Dozen Days of DeVries…#5

Top 12 Things DeVries Staffers Will Miss About 30 E. 60th…

5. CELEB SPOTTINGS

There are many a celebrity that call 30 E 60th the home of their doctor’s offices, dentists, manicurists, massage therapists, lawyers, optometrists, and much more. Check out who’s been spotted in our building:

"I’ll miss having the occasional celebrity run-in in the elevator; um hello, DAVID BOWIE!"

"I will miss sharing an elevator with Beauty By Judy and the uber tan doctor!"

*Note: Tough our move may have been bumped a couple months, we’ll still be sharing what we’ll miss!

Check back Monday for #4!

A Dozen Days of DeVries…#6

Top 12 Things DeVries Staffers Will Miss About 30 E. 60th…

6. CENTRAL PARK

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"I’ll miss taking walks to Central Park on nice spring days."

"I will miss being this close to Central Park."

"Walking home through Central Park."

"Two words: Central Park."

"The waffle cart in Central Park."

"Walking to the Park and sitting on a bench when I get stressed out."

"Taking a stroll over to Central Park on the occasion that I have a free 15 minutes."

"Seeing the seasons change at Central Park."

"People-watching near Central Park."

A Dozen Days of DeVries…#7

Top 12 Things DeVries Staffers Will Miss About 30 E. 60th…

7. STAIRS

"I will miss using the stairs and my key card every five minutes."

"Getting in an extra workout using the stairs to go to meetings."

"Walking up and down, and up and down, and up and down the stairs for meetings, and searching for leftover meeting food."

"Getting a leg workout in the stairwell."

"The stairs forcing me to exercise."

"Trying to figure out which stairwell I should take."image

A Dozen Days of DeVries…#8

Top 12 Things DeVries Staffers Will Miss About 30 E. 60th…

8. BUILDING STAFF

"All of the nice men who work for the building."

"I will truly miss Danny, Francisco, and Fernando. Not seeing them every day is going to very sad."

"I will miss Danny and Francisco."

"Danny and his team always have a smile on their faces, even when everyone’s annoyed about the elevators being out."

"I’ll miss the nice guys in the lobby who always hold the elevator for me."

"The smiling faces of our doormen."

The kind gentlemen in our building have definitely made a positive impact on the DeVries staff. Thanks guys!