Favorite Sessions & Key Takeaways from SXSW 2017

Favorite Sessions & Key Takeaways from SXSW 2017

Our team had a fun and jam-packed five days at SXSW 2017! Although we never get to see as much of the conference as we’d like, we learned quite a bit.

Paul  |  Ninja-Level Nerd ManagementAt SXSW

My favorite talk was definitely Ninja Level Nerd Management. There were lots of good takeaways for me to apply. Specifically, some of the stuff about dealing with legacy code bases and developing engineers was very useful.

A favorite picture for me was Brad and I building an electronic rock-paper-scissors game at the SparkFun booth.  It had been a few years since either of us had used a soldering iron. The game worked and we didn’t burn ourselves too badly!


Sarah  |  The Art of Pre-suasion

At SXSWMy favorite session this year was The Art of Pre-suasion with Bob Cialdini and Guy Kawasaki. Cialdini is the author of Influence—The Psychology of Persuasion and the newly published Pre-suasion—A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade. He was interviewed by Guy Kawasaki, the chief evangelist of Canva and author of Enchantment. He believes that framing a question correctly can put customers in the right frame of mind to buy.

To change “minds” a pre-suader must also change “states of mind.” Another piece of successful pre-suasion is to create buy-in from your team, partners, and influencers. Never ask for their opinions. Ask for their advice. Collaboration creates loyalty. When we ask for advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice. 

My favorite photo from the trip is from the Nat Geo House. I wish it had the whole group – but it has National Geographic’s iconic yellow rectangle logo.. and that’s awesome.

Tony  |  How to Give Design a Seat at the Lean Table

At SXSWOne of my favorite sessions this year was How to Give Design a Seat at the Lean Table, presented by Roshelle Ritzenthaler and Amy Lee from Design Concepts Inc. They spoke about the integration of design processes into Lean (a set of principles for achieving quality, speed & customer alignment) teams. They also spoke about how design has been out of the picture in terms of Lean thinking. We then learned how to integrate design in a meaningful and measurable way for Lean startups.

My favorite photo is of my good buddy and office squatter Chas, moments before he went surfing in a wave pool. He looks so brave and stoic! I was really proud of him for doing it.

Tori  |  Atomised News Stories for a Bite-Size Generation

At SXSWAs a content creator, I really enjoyed this year’s new journalism track. One of my favorite sessions was Atomised News Stories for a Bite-Size Generation with a panel of experienced content producers from BBC and VICE Media: Robert McKenzie, Editor of BBC News Labs; Barbara Zambrini, Senior Producer at BBC Research & Development; and Ben Jackson, Director of Mobile Apps at VICE Media.

The panelists discussed how to keep readers interested in content by making it shorter, but making it long enough to keep the integrity of the writing and information. Ben advised to add just enough context, but not too much that it bores the reader with extra information. They also suggested keeping the content shorter rather than longer. Linking to information on similar topics is important as well.

Quotes, bullet points, and photos help create bite-size and eye-catching content.

My favorite photo is our group photo from Torchy’s because it represents all the delicious tacos and BBQ we enjoyed during our trip to Austin!

Tyler  |  Keep searching

At SXSWMy key takeaway from this year’s SXSW sessions, interactions with other agencies and some of the newer university-funded start-ups is to keep searching. Keep searching for the idea that inspires you to start your dream business. Keep searching for inspiration everywhere. Our world is very organic and often the web and digital content feels forced and fabricated; look to bring outside inspiration for nature and the world around you into your work.

I learned is there is so much potential for new business with the existing tools we currently have.  If anything, I have learned to look more into my own work and why I am doing what I do.

Brad  |  User mindset

At SXSWI had two favorite sessions this year—one presented by Columbus natives, and one for its impact on my user experience mindset.

I love seeing Central Ohio represented at SXSW, and this year I saw an inspiring session presented by a brilliant neurosurgeon and his colleague from the Center for Brain Health & Performance at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Dr. Ali Rezai has more than 50 patents for brain implants and other devices, many that dramatically improve the lives of individuals living with paralysis or other potentially debilitating conditions.

One of his technologies, developed in partnership with Battelle, helped his quadriplegic patient Ian Burkhart move his hand with his thoughts using a microchip in his brain, a desktop computer, and electrodes on his arm muscles. The system is essentially an external spinal cord, processing brain signals and sending precise impulses to his arm muscles.

The session also featured panelist Jennifer French. Jennifer has an implanted musculoskeletal device that allows her paralyzed legs to stand at the push of a button. The session was moderated by Miles O’Brien of PBS News Hour and included Dr. Chelsea Kane, who leads the Center for Brain Health & Performance along with Dr. Rezai. The Center has an upcoming Brain Health & Performance Summit in Columbus at the end of April if you’re interested in learning more about other advancements in neuroscience!

Paul Duncan, a Design Technologist for Amazon Video, gave a great talk on usability. His British accent gave his punchlines an additional oomph. One of his most memorable points was about graceful degradation.

Consider escalators and elevators. A broken escalator is simply a staircase–still very functional. A broken elevator, on the other hand, is only a tiny meeting room and not useful.

For us, graceful degradation most commonly refers to making sure a user can still effectively use a website.

This has huge implications for ADA accessibility, but the same concepts can help with making a faster user interface that ranks higher in Google search results due to its speed and accessible content.

One of my favorite photos was the first one I took when we arrived at SXSW while we were waiting in line to pick up our badges. Gary Vaynerchuk was walking by on his way to his session and stopped for a couple of quick photos with our group. The best part of SXSW is the thought leadership from industry titans. I always take away a ton of lessons from those who have grown businesses.

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