Get Inspired: 2015 SXSW Takeaways

  • March 19, 2015
  • Shelley Nall

This past week was SXSW, where the annual invasion of all things tech, music, and film filled our humble little hometown of Austin, Texas. The conference offers an eclectic collection of panels, presentations, and conversations around what seem to be overly specific and unrelated topics like Introduction to Programming Robots, UFC: Women Breaking Ground Inside the Octagon, and Princess Reema’s Mission to Empower Saudi Women. However, the overall mission of SXSW – like any good conference – is to inspire. When you look at the schedule from that perspective, SXSW has some of the best programming around.

My interactive conference experience included Andy Warhol, Big Data for food, the Prime Minister of Ireland, beacons, a robot petting zoo, and Tig Notaro – to name a few. It’s safe to say I took away something beneficial from every panel I attended, but here are just a few of the tidbits I picked up this past week that have inspired me:

Work Inspiration:

Agencies must add value for clients and not all innovation is inherently valuable. It doesn’t matter how cool your solution is, if it doesn’t help your client meet their goals it’s worthless. (From Micky Ristroph of Mutual Mobile in his talk What the Hell is an Innovation Agency Anyway?)

Brand Inspiration:

Dogs sell. Battery phone case maker, Mophie, won the gorilla marketing battle with Mophie Rescue, in which adorable (and adoptable!) St. Bernards saved your dying phone with Mophie recharging collars. The lesson? Connect your brand to something relevant and resourceful – similar to my work inspiration above. Doing something solely for the sake of doing something is not worth doing.

Food Inspiration:

Food discovery service, Yummly, uses big data to organize millions of recipes and make suggestions based on your personal taste preferences. It’s Pandora for food and I am absolutely in love with it. I’ve already found new recipes I’m dying to try – rhubarb barbecue sauce? Who’d of thought!

Creative Inspiration:

If you are passionate about something, don’t let anything stop you. That’s what I learned from Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala, who spent over seven years of their lives making a shot for shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Life Inspiration:

“The first rule of ethics is to value someone as they value themselves.” This is beautifully simple, easily executed, and so often ignored. (From Martine Rothblatt in her keynote AI, Immortality and the Future of Selves.)

This year’s conference reminded me that there are important lessons to be found in everything; you just have to be open to hearing them and willing to act on them. As Dan Rather said in his keynote, “we live in an unprecedented time of bullshit.” So don’t get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of the day to day. Follow your passion, find your inspiration, and do amazing things. Until next year, SXSW!