"SXSW" Posts

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The Insider’s Guide to SXSW Interactive: Dedicated to First-Timers

The other day while surfing around on search.twitter.com for #sxsw content I came across and a tweet by Jay Wilkinson regarding his request for Insider Tips for first-timers at South by Southwest. I love SXSW; I love sharing my past experiences and my passion for the city of Austin, Texas. Jay – sorry I’m a day or so late, but hopefully these will help you out. Please share with other first-timers and let them know, we are so happy you are here.

In no particular order, here are my recommendations:

  • Don’t be put off if when you get here you feel like it’s your first day of school in a new town. SXSW is an occasion when many good friends re-connect. Sometimes to an newcomer it feels clique-y at first. Just remember that these are the friendliest bunch of digital marketers out there and do not be shy to strike up a conversation. Connect – that is the golden rule of SXSW.
  • Hang out in the (3rd Annual) Blogger’s Lounge. Ok, full disclosure here, I manage the Blogger’s Lounge, which is sponsored by our client, Windows Phone. I will be there for a good chunk of the day (and I’d greatly appreciate you coming by and introducing yourself).  But, besides meeting me and my TechSet business partner Brian Solis, I promise you will learn something; meet someone who can help you grow your business; and/or find out about some happening or event that ends up being very meaningful to you.We have Tweet Ups scheduled for every day from 4 – 6 pm (with beer and wine). Did I mention that we provide refreshments as well? Also featured: a Rock Band set up, a content creation corner and the Bing Photo Booth.  That’s all great fun but ultimately it’s about the people.  They will make a difference in your experience at this show and most likely make a difference in your life.  Trust me.

SXSW Lounge

  • There are a lot of parties every night.  Sometimes you’ll have to stand on line, but you can usually find one that is less crowded. Since you’re the inspiration for my post, I hereby officially put Jay on the TechSet Party VIP list). DM me and I’ll give you instructions on whom to email for details. Remember – it’s all about stamina this week, so pace yourself.
  • Spend time in the Exhibit Hall this year: I’m going to.  Yes, Porter Novelli has a booth, but I am super impressed by the growth of this area of the show. In previous years, it’s hasn’t really been a big draw but this year it’s hot.  In the last week, I’ve found out the my good pal Hugh Macleod will have a booth there. So will UK Trade and Investment (a delegation of top creative types and geeks from all over the UK with the largest contingent hailing from the West Midlands Region). FYI – I’m on a plane with Jonathan, the lead dude, who is telling me all about some super cool efforts they are launching globally. You can bet that I’ll be there scanning the scene.
  • Utilize Plancast. They’ve done a great job this year with their “non-official” Austin site. You will find a lot of info you need there about the cool events and things to do and see.
  • Utilize #sxsw all day long.  I think you know what this is, but for those that don’t the hashtag that aggregates all things at the conference. You’ll find whatever you’re looking for there.
  • Do a tequila shot at the Iron Cactus.  I’m not a big fan of shots – in fact – rarely do them. But I save up all year to imbibe at the Iron Cactus tequila bar. The selection is amazing. This town is like Napa for Tequila. Remember, I said 1 shot, not 4. Don’t come crying to me if you get sick.
  • Ladies (and gentleman of course) – If you are looking for a place to help with all your beauty needs, I highly recommend Joie de Vie. Tell them Stephanie sent you. I’ve been going there for years and they always make me look pretty for the pictures.
  • Try to get in a little exercise along the river. Every year I bring my work out gear and I really try to get some time in the gym (as I do on all business trips). The late nights make it a bit difficult, but this year I’m going to try harder.  I’m planning a wedding after all. From what I hear, the weather is going to rock – so bring sneakers and get outside! BTW – it might even be swimming weather so pick up a suit and dive in.
  • Buy a T-shirt or sweatshirt or some really cool Texan piece of clothing. I do every year.   The company that manages the “official clothing” booth in the lobby is run by some pretty cool peeps.  And every year the shirts are a work of art.  I bought some pretty amazing red Cowboy boots at Allen’s 2 years ago. It might be time to splurge again.
  • Despite all the fast-paced energy and chaos – build your community online and off. When you meet folks, take the time to follow them on Twitter and Facebook.  Get to know them a bit. It’s a busy week but it will enrich your experience 10-fold.
  • Go to the keynotes.  Ya never what will happen. Of course you should hit a session or too as well.


  • Do some good while you’re here. Building upon Porter Novelli’s efforts in the area of social media for social good, we’ve launched CheckinForCharity.com. Starting Friday 3/12/10 at 9:00 CT, every time you Check-in on Foursquare in Austin or use #sxswHaiti on Twitter, Microsoft and PayPal will donate $0.25 toward Save the Children up to $15,000! So Check-in, tell your friends and tell your friends’ friends. As usual, the more the merrier and this time, the more the healthier.

Ok – I hope that helps.

Make sure you also read the First-Timers Guide on the official SXSW site.  It’s an excellent list, especially the part about wearing comfortable shoes.  I will of course, inevitably ignore that advice and regret it.

Have a great few days. And make sure you get some sleep each night. You’ll need it.


My New Gig (announced via Twitter 1st)

pn_announcementBack in January when I wrote Re-design 2009, I never imagined that my redesign would include an executive position with a leading global public relations firm. In fact, I didn’t even realize that over the last few years I had become a “PR person.”  I just wanted more flexibility in my project choices and changed my business model accordingly. Today, I’m very proud to announce that I have become the EVP and Global Director of Digital Strategy and Social Media for Porter Novelli.

As someone that has been in online marketing for 15 years, I view the changes going on in the marketplace through a holistic lens. I don’t see these shifts as merely “social media phenomena.” I think about digital broadly, understanding all aspects of the evolution we’ve been experiencing for two decades now. Back in the 90’s I participated in the “e-commerce revolution” and worked for companies like Barnes & Noble.com to figure out how online consumer sales would change the world of retail. Guess what – it did! Media, publishing and communications are now experiencing these same cataclysmic shifts. My latest career choice is a symbol of this change and I’m excited to continue to push the envelope of this industry – now as part of the Porter Novelli team.

This was truly a kismet kind of situation (yes that is meant to be geek double entendre). Serving on a panel for @pepsico, I got to meet Marian Salzman and was blown away by her brilliance and spirit. For those who wonder why I’d want to give up working for myself in a very entrepreneurial way, I’ll quote my dear friend  Tara Hunt in her recent post describing her decision to leave San Francisco, “because it is time.”

Yes, large companies bring security and money. Honestly though, talented and experienced independents that know how to execute (and sell) do very well in this business.  I could have easily continued working for myself and had a very lush life.  This choice is about the opportunity and the team.  I’m ready to take on bigger challenges and play in a global pond. I am excited to work with an array of blue-chip clients and be backed by an organization with resources and a commitment to transforming their business through digital marketing. I am also excited to spend more time writing and thinking about trends in this business (when you work for yourself you spend a lot of time on sales and operations and the writing gets put by the wayside).

The Porter Novelli family stole my heart with their passion and smarts. The Executive Team (shout out to Gary, Anthony, Marian, Julie, Michael, Lisa R.) and Brad McCormick (who I will work with hand-in-glove) are total rock stars. Aaron DeLucia and the team in Austin are amazing (and I cannot wait to go visit them soon and have some BBQ and start plotting SXSW 2010). Together, we will cross-pollinate our ideas and experience and innovate in a way that differentiates us from the pack.

Stephanie Agresta Consulting, InternetGeekGirl, Affiliate-Karma and my other burgeoning ventures (TechSet and UltimateRaceDay), will continue in some form and fashion. I’d like to think of myself now as “Powered by Porter Novelli.”

You can find the “official press release” on the site.  As my good friend Jeremiah Owyang pointed out: “It screams so “PR;” I do hope you have a heart felt social way of telling the story too.”

Well I do.  My story is much deeper and more complicated than everything I can put in this post, but it’s a start. I look forward to seeing many of you in the coming months as I head out on the road to meet PN staffers. As I told Jeremiah – I don’t believe in throwing out the baby with the bath water. There is still a place for a collection of words and quotes and background information. How it gets delivered and to who is evolving. But ultimately, there are many ways to tell a story.

I want to give a shout out to the many people who I consult when I think about my life choices.  @chrismccaffrey, my family and non-industry friends make up the foundation of life. Plus my colleagues that I rely on for guidance and support and laughter:  Brian Solis, Tara Hunt, Chris Brogan, Howard Greenstein, Rick Calvert, Cindy L’Esperance, Hugh MacLeod, Steve Rosenbaum and so many more I can’t fit them in here. THANK YOU ALL!!

Deb Schultz: Go Fetch!

Well, this is the last of my 9 posts featuring the participants of the Windows Mobile Fantasy Application promotion. It took me a bit longer than I thought to do all 9 posts (but not so bad considering I decided to not post on weekends – that was delusional thinking given my busy personal life these days).  I have really enjoyed this process. Telling stories about colleagues that I know and respect is an honor. I also have enjoyed hearing your thoughts about their “mobile fantasy applications.”  Some readers have pointed out that some of these apps actually exist (if not in the US than at least in other countries). We all know that the US is behind in mobile.  Maybe we can turn that around one of these days. Maybe these exciting apps will help. I’ve saved Deborah Schultz for last. As the old saying goes.. best for last! (That and I went in order by row).  The greatest part of all of this has been researching links on all participants.  While we hang in person a lot, it is hard for all of us to stay on top of what we are all doing. Twitter helps for sure. You can read Debs’s twitter on @debs.

I’ve known Deb for over 10 years. We met during the 1.0 days back on the NYC tech scene where we worked on NYNMA projects together.  Her one line bio sums it up (but i highly recommend you read her about page as it’s extremely clever:

One line bio: Deborah has been inventing and innovating for over 15 years in emerging technologies – where people, technology and media intersect.

Deb thinks about social software through a very unique lense. Her motto… “Technology changes, humans don’t.”   Deb’s fantasy apps is based on one of the greatest human instincts, to make things EASIER and to get other people to help you complete a task.  Deb gives hommage to the old “Fetch” application in her title (Remember Fetch?). As Deb points out in this video, “Shopping online is not effiicient, buying online is.” I’ve heard that they have this type of thing in Japan.. but you let us know.

Erin Kotecki Vest, The Queen of Spain, Wants the Queen of all Community Apps

Erin Kotecki Vest  is a true renaissance women. As her bio states, she spent ten years as a broadcast journalist in Los Angeles, Orlando and Detroit winning six Golden Mic Awards with LA news institution KFWB. She now serves as Producer of Special Projects for  BlogHer.com where she hosts BlogHer Backtalk. She also tries to contribute to the Huffington Post, MOMocrats.com, and her own site Queen of Spain Blog as often as she can. You can find her on Twitter @queenofspain – she gives great tweets!! And please make sure to ask her about her interview with Barack Obama. BTW – if you can read all about why she calls herself the queen of spain, here.

To all that good stuff, I would add: Erin is hysterically funny, a community builder extraordinaire, smart as a whip and a non-stop contributor to the twittersphere. Plus she does all that while being an incredible (yet self-depreciating) mom and wife.  The love she has (and tweets about) for her family is inspiring.

Erin works for BlogHer, a community for women who blog. I spoke at BlogHer last year and I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to be at a conference with a majority female attendees (not common in the tech industry). Erin’s fantasy mobile application was generated by the BlogHer community and would add value to any event.  A community app for event attendess, this app would aggregate RSS feeds from blog posts, site content, hashtag searches, geo tracking of other event attendees, and even include a clean bathroom locator! Plus, for BlogHer they could include their prioprietary “Chatter” app which is similar to Twitter. By the way, she’s NOT wearing @armano ‘s cowboy hat – that’s hers!