Summing Up SXSW 2017

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from SXSW. I’ve known a few people who have gone, but only for the music or the film portions. I was worried that the conference might be uptight or schmoozy, but it really didn’t feel that way to me!

I spent most of my time on subjects that mattered to me, like food and fashion, and saw so many truly badass, super powerful women speak. Every. Single. Session tied back to social media. Everyone is using social media to get their message out there and engaging with new audiences! Every session I attended reassured me that what I do, and what I’m most passionate about, IS important and is truly groundbreaking.

Saturday

3:30 The Smart Kitchen: Cooking Better with Technology

Lisa Fetterman from Nomiku was a super high energy, fun and sassy speaker. I learned so much about sous vide! Sous vide is growing faster in adoption than microwaves and color television. Her idea behind sous vide is to provide people with ready to make meals as well, just like the microwave.

She got some pretty harsh questions about how expensive the products are (about $250) but the panelist from IDEO said that we should be focusing on what’s actually good for you, good food that’s healthy is actually cheap (rice, beans, greens) and food that’s expensive (meat) isn’t as good for you. If people buy a sous vide, they’re actually saving both time and money because they’re eating out less and eating healthier because it’s home-cooked.

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5:00 The Urbanization of Beer, Wine & Spirits

Many people think of breweries, distilleries and wineries to be located outside of cities (after Prohibition, most alcohol fled the cities), but many companies are changing this. It’s harder to get customers to stop in when you’re located in the middle of nowhere, like a rural destination for wine tasting or a brewery tour. Rent is more expensive and permits are harder to come by in cities, but it’s worth it to build a community where everyone is comfortable stopping in and trying something new. City locations are pushing them to be more creative, the culture is young and vibrant, and drinkers want to know more about the alcohol that they’re enjoying.

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Sunday

9:30 Community Comes First: the New Retail Norm

I stood in a line that wrapped around the block for this one! I was most interested in hearing from the Pinterest representative, but Under Armor and a online retail store were there too. With Instagram, the community is very engaging. You don’t need to know the people you follow, but you will meet up with them in person because you feel like you know them. The Pinterest community is mostly online networking only, but it generates ideas and creativity. Facebook is a small community of friends and family, and influencers don’t work here.

It’s important to look for shared interests and goals in your community, give them something of value. Networks are great for feedback, but keep in mind that the most vocal member isn’t always the most important voice to listen to (aka trolls). If you use influencers, they have to relate to the brand. A lot of influencers don’t work because it feels empty, they don’t feel like the brand. It’s more about the quality of the influencer than quantity of their followers.

11:00 Courageous Creativity: Dreaming and Doing

Oh my she was so cute, and she got a standing ovation at the end! I almost skipped this one, but it ended up being my favorite session of all. I don’t consider myself a creative person, but after watching her speak, I realized I’m probably holding myself back.

  • Images- Use Pinterest or bulletin boards to generate ideas.
  • Surround yourself by people you trust
  • Create conditions for creativity. Look at your patterns- when do you feel most creative? Recreate that!
  • Laughter + play = brilliance. Some of her best ideas came from when she was goofing off.
  • Show people your ideas and they will likely say yes. Tell people and they will likely say no. The idea shes the most proud of is 29 rooms.
  • Don’t put a gun to your head/ dance monkey dance- this will never spark creativity.
  • You can find a different version of her presentation here: http://www.refinery29.com/2016/03/105591/how-to-be-creative

12:30 17 Ways Breakfast is Transforming America

I was most excited for this session because I LOVE Christina Tosi! Some of my favorite tid-bits:

  • Now people eat breakfast all day, this has really changed over the years.
  • Now people go on brunch dates and meet up over breakfast instead of a power lunch.
  • Christina Tosi was a picky eater, but her mom let her eat any cereal that she wanted, but the mom could pour as much milk over it as she wanted. The start of cereal milk!
  • Everything has an egg on it now, more foods can be considered breakfast food.
  • Squirl- Avocado toast. She gets her inspiration from the markets, Oct to Feb avocados aren’t in season, they’re too expensive and aren’t flavorful. The toast is their 3rd most ordered item on the menu, but avocados will have an even shorter season this year. She hopes that other restaurants follow her lead on this
  • Breakfast sends a lot of mixed messages- what’s good for me? What’s hip?
  • Christina- “I’m the most creative when I back myself into a corner and have to make something good.”
  • Flavors have to appeal “This makes sense in my mouth”
  • Tim Love- “Every morning we start fresh, no hustle and bustle, no distractions. My family eats breakfast together.”
  • Liquids are the future of breakfast. More restaurants will open for breakfast.
  • People want savory breakfast with a bite of sweet at the end, just like dinner and dessert
  • People look for familiarity in breakfast but it’s changing, now people crave variety.
  • Starting Sqirl came from a humble place, every day you open the door and hope people can come. They wanted a local Cheers vibe and have a loyal base of customers.

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3:30 Good Night and Good Luck: Media in Election Years

I actually wasn’t planning on attending this session, it was my “back up”. Needless to say I am VERY happy that my first choice filled up. This session blew my mind and I was feverishly taking notes throughout this panel. It might not make sense, but here are some of my rabid scribbles:

  • We should learn more about politics,  we should understand polls better
  • Not everything will change because Trump is president. 
  • The NYT actually laid out what his presidency would look like, journalists should have done more of that.
  • If the majority of the population thinks crazy things, there’s almost nothing you can do at that point. 
  • Sometimes people just don’t believe the facts. Emotional narratives meant more than facts in this election, how do we make this relevant to people?
  • You can’t control TV news, you can only do your job.
  • TV news is now for middle America now, it didn’t used to be that way.
  • Elitists and parties lead the votes- with great power comes great responsibility. Satire punctures power, gives some catharsis. Comedy lifts your spirits and give you courage.
  • The Bush era seems quaint now.
  • Satire TV show: We’re not church. We’re preaching to the choir so the choir can sing.
  • If Hillary had won, no one would be reading us, the news would be boring.
  • We can’t be hysterical, it turns people off, emotions aren’t good, upbeat and open is good, Trump likes to paint liberals as crazed.
  • Trump never gave journalists any information, Clinton gave them an avalanche. Trump’s campaign didn’t answer his questions, but gave their answers on CNN to make him look like he had holes in his story, he did that to a lot of NY publications.
  • There’s never been trust in media, no eden, no great period of journalism.
  • The NYT doesn’t really represent black southerner, a Chicano farmer. We need to be aware of thing. 
  • Trump tweets are Nixon in real time.
  • Trump relies on the media more than anyone, he needs us. He watches hours of TV everyday, his tweets are him yelling at the TV, he reads everything. Trump heard about Sessions in the Post, Pence hears about things from the media. The media gets things to Trump. We’ve never had that kind of power before.
  • He’s profiting off of his presidency, it’s iffy, it’s gross.
  • We need people on the inside to help the press, we need to give them the info that they need. With Spence, we need to have solidarity with news outlets “Thank you, but I would like you to answer his question first.”
  • Cambridge analytica- How to emotionally sway people to do what you want them to do
  • We vote with our dollars every day, we cannot underestimate this. Slate plus is worth the money.
  • Academic press is willing to share information, needs more collaboration, academics they want to share their work with the masses.
  • Send people who ask good questions and don’t get nervous on TV, this is the only time that the White House has to answer our questions on TV.  

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5:00 The Changing Face of Beauty and Fashion

Editors from Allure, Conde Nast and Cosmopolitan spoke. Analytics didn’t used to be important to them, but they are changing the game now. Print and digital are very different numbers, and there’s very little overlap. They use analytics as one data point, because someone may not be famous now, but could be in the future. Go with your gut, and put the woman first.

YouTube is diverse, fun and shows real personality. There’s so much sameness, and they’re trying to find originality. There’s too much noise, too saturated. They don’t like perfection anymore. It’s good to stumble on beauty. 

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Monday

9:30 Deeper the Dish: Ideology of a Movement

This one broke my heart a little bit. Only about 10-15 people showed up and it was in a huge room. Most of the people who attended were family or friends of the speakers.

The restauranteurs seemed a little out of sync and weren’t very prepared. It might’ve been because it was so early, or the attendance was big, but their energy was low, and they didn’t seem excited to be there. A couple things I was able to glean: 

  • Social media is the main way that they advertise, but they do PR too.
  • They don’t eat out often, but when they do they are habit eaters or they are traveling.
  • Copenhagen is doing some cool stuff.
  • Emmer and Rye makes soy sauce out of bread.

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11:00 The Fashion Designer in the Age of Social Media

Marc Jacobs is just joyful and adorable. He made me laugh and I really enjoyed how honest he was about much much he loves had hates social media. There was a question, “What’s it like to be Marc Jacobs right now?” He though about it for a second, smiled a little and said something like, “I work up in Austin, ate pancakes and bacon for breakfast, had fun with my friends and now I’m here, talking to you. I would have to say that my life is pretty great right now.” Everyone burst into applause. 

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