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There is a saying… “if some is good, more is better.” Often, this saying is meant ironically because it is rarely true. But in the case of our 2015 events leading up to (and slightly overlapping) SXSW Interactive, we here at W2O Group were extremely pleased with the results. For the Readers Digest version of our events, you can check out the content capsule below (it includes a few select videos of our speakers, our PreCommerce Spotify playlist, speaker presentations and pictures from numerous events). We also led up to our events with some speaker interviews which I recommend checking out here.


We kicked things off this year with our second annual VIP Round Table — an event reserved for speakers and some of our more senior level clients. Held on the 55th floor of the prestigious Austonian building, the 40 person event was led by W2O Group President, Bob Pearson and tech mogul, David Kirkpatrick of Techonomy.

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The two and a half hour, facilitated discussion touched on topics such as innovation, the future of apps, security and mobile advertising. The day rounded out with an appearance by none other than one of the hardest working men online and on camera, Al Roker (Below is the episode of Live from Stubbs Jon Harris and I filmed with Al).

One of our two signature events this year was our fifth annual PreCommerce Summit. And while each of our past four summits have gotten better than the year before, this was the year where we really stepped up our game the most significantly. Not only was the venue a cut above (thank you Austin City Music Hall) but our event production team (huge props to Erin Disney and Team Clink) took our game to a new level. And then there were the speakers. I’ve pulled out some key quotes below but I would highly recommend spending some time reading the recaps/watching the videos for each.

 

 

 

Here are the speakers (note links to their blog recaps and a link to their presentations to the right of each name):

On Friday, we held our second annual digital brunch. This is technically our third or fourth but the second in our new office with food trucks and music. This is a great time for our clients, neighbors, partners and employees to mix and mingle, enjoy some breakfast tacos, Bloody Marys, take in a demo or two, all while basking in the warm Austin sun.

Here are a few pics of the festivities:

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This year, in addition to our PreCommerce Summit, we decided to take a page out of our earlier SXSW days where we had a smaller, more intimate room. At our first ever Geekfest moderated by Bob Pearson and our CTO, John Cunningham, we featured 16 speakers covering topics that ranged from the Apache Project to resonant charging to the importance of diversity in tech. It was a lot of good food for thought in a power packed four hour span. We will have the videos for these talks up soon but in the meantime, you can thumb through the blog recaps below.

Last but not least in our string of events this year was the Geekacue. It’s hard to believe bu this was our sixth annual Geekacue and also the first year we didn’t host our event at an actual BBQ joint. For the last three years, we had the good fortune of taking over Franklin’s BBQ (owner and chef, Aaron Franklin, was recently named as a finalist for the prestigious James Beard Award). This year, we made the tough call due to space constraints and took our party over to the elegant confines of the Charles Johnson House. This of course meant that we needed to find some great BBQ and likely that we would need some entertainment as well. Mission accomplished on both fronts as we were fortunate enough to land new-but-not-so-new, Terry Blacks BBQ, as our bearers of brisket. The short version of the story is that twin brothers, Mike and Mark Black opened Terry Black’s in Austin in late 2014. However, the namesake of their new establishment is their father, Terry Black, whose father, Edgar, opened now legendary “Black’s” in the BBQ capitol of Texas (Lockhart) over 83 years ago.

In addition to some amazing BBQ, we also had the luxury of not one… not two… but three bands. Some of you may have only seen Monte Montgomery who opened or Black Joe Lewis who was the feature act. But for those lucky enough to stick around, we also had the red hot blue grass band, Whiskey Shivers, upstairs at the after party. All three were amazing and left us wanting more.

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During the Geekacue, we also kept our clients, partners and friends-of-W2O entertained with a dance party booth (video below).

We also brought back one of the staples of our Geekacue, the photo booth. We’ll have all the photos available soon on our Facebook page but in the meantime, here are some gems to give you a flavor.

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Key stats across all our events:

  • We had over 5,200 tweets tagged with our hashtag #sxw2o (I encourage you to scroll through the content there — it will make you smarter… and hungrier, I promise).
  • W2O Group held eight different events this year — our most ever. Look for that number to be closer to ten next year.
  • There were over 3,300 registrations for our events. Somewhere between 40-50% of those folks showed up plus walk ups. Subtracting out overlap, we had roughly 1,000 unique folks not including our employees attending our events.
  • There were over 60 briskets consumed at our Geekacue. Okay, I’m making that number up but it was somewhere in that neighborhood.

Last but not least, none of this would be possible without our wonderful partners/sponsors. They not only help fund (or in the case of alcohol, provide in kind donations) but they are also integral parts of our events as speakers, attendees, photographers and avid Tweeters. We appreciate you all and thank you for your support Sysomos, Clarabridge, Bayer, Datasift, Sprinklr, Business Wire, Synthesio, Sullivan Wine, Deep Eddy Vodka and Thirsty Planet.


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SXSW just ended in Austin, so we thought we would write this Millennials Unplugged post from the standpoint of “what matters to us”.  We’re not trying to create a better list of technology innovations.  We just talked this weekend about what we both care about. We also asked our W2O Millennial colleagues for their first-hand views, as well.   Here’s our SXSW summary. 

#1 – We are shifting from Call of Duty to Duty calls – Brittany grew up playing Call of Duty, often as well as the boys, who seemed to dedicate every waking hour to reaching the next level.  Well before women in tech was a theme, Brittany was waiting in line for the midnight launch of the newest Call of Duty game.  Just her and 100+ boys.  That was then.  Now, we see an explosion of wearables, 3D printing and, in particular, healthcare applications.  Bob always hoped that this generation who grew up on gaming would eventually apply their knowledge to the real world, although he was skeptical at times as he watched 5-6 kids shoot each other on screen, laugh and drink a diet pepsi. But it looks like it’s happening.  Kids used to spend time teaching others cheats and tricks of the trade for video games.  Now, we are realizing that as millennials get older, they will start applying tremendous technical knowledge to innovation that may not have been so obvious to us parents.  Yes, fellow parents, our kids did pick up new skills we didn’t fully appreciate.  And as their skills widen beyond Call of Duty to applications in life, it also opens up more opportunities for women in technology.  Duty calls and millennials are ready to surprise us with their innovative ideas.

#2 – Virtual Reality Drives Healthcare Reality – we are living in a time when we have tremendous technology advances and we have a health system in flux due to the Affordable Care Act.  Our colleague, Anke Knospe of Twist said “SXSW helped solidify that virtual reality is truly taking shape and offers potential far beyond video and gaming. Physicians have already been using aspects of virtual reality to conduct surgeries or help treat psychiatric/neurologic conditions, but video games and VR may even show promise as diagnostic tools and could potentially help improve the drug development process.”  Anke’s right, but what she said next is profound.  “While highly scientific, healthcare typically hasn’t been known to be the most innovative and, in the past, hasn’t attracted the (millennial) geek squad that has helped push social media/tech into a new era. The fact that we are now starting conversations around using video games and VR in healthcare and that companies like Akili are working on out of the box ideas like developing a video game to diagnose Alzheimer’s at an early stage are speaking to the fact disruptive thinkers are no longer steering clear of pharma and healthcare.”  Anke, we both believe you are right.  It is becoming cool to innovate in healthcare for millennials and beyond.  Let’s go!

#3 – Let’s break down the walls to connect and share – anyone who does this wins.  That’s why we like Meerkat, Periscope, Snapchat and iBeacons.  Help us connect faster?  Heck, even Bob likes that.  Help us live stream video to twitter?  No brainer.  Break down barriers.  Break down barriers.  Break down barriers.  The three things we both care about.  Meriel McCaffery of WCG added a very interesting observation. She said “Considering the (snails) pace with which some companies adapt basic social media (e.g. Twitter and Facebook), this for me underlines that we need to continue to push our clients and, as an industry, are obligated to make our clients uncomfortable.”  Meriel’s right in our book.  Technology makes innovation possible.  Consultants push the envelope related to what is possible.  It’s like Reese’s.  Have to have chocolate and peanut butter or it just doesn’t work the same.  At least that’s what Brittany says.  Bob’s on a diet.

#4 – Being a real person online matters…..a lot – it’s not all about technology.  We’re people and we care about making connections and doing the right thing.  Taylor Carr of WCG provided a great summary of what he believes matters about better understanding human behavior.

Unconscious Bias conversation – Sometimes, we don’t even understand our decisions, or why we’re making them.  We all loved Judith Williams of Google’s talk at PreCommerce who made us all think about what we do and why we do it.

Empathy at scale – Taylor really loved the Covey quote that was included in this presentation, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Business today is tasked with actually understanding and listening to its audience.

  • It’s All About Strength – Truly tapping into people’s strengths and passions to really unleash them within their organization. In order to do that, you really have to deeply understand them.  Great talk from Mason Nelder of Verizon

Taylor said why this matters.  “We wear a lot of hats. Communicators, marketers, consultants, etc. Today, it’s becoming more important we add some others to our portfolio. Those of sociologist, psychologist and more. Digital technologies like our analytics tools are starting to allow us to “listen” to audiences, but a crucial layer isn’t just listening, but understanding them. Their behavior, emotions, habits, tendencies and more.

#5 – How about just getting to the point? Samantha Hershman of WCG was inspired by Al Roker’s talk and his point to do just that…..get to the point.  She said “I find Al Roker to be an extremely interesting person and appreciated his whole take on digital communications today. What I found impactful was when he talked about what we’re learning about consumers this year, as opposed to last year, and he said that consumers really just want people to be honest with them. He continued to say that consumers are looking for more value in their daily tasks – pretty much they want people to get to the point.”

#6 — Societal benefits of technology are important – a great example is a company started in Austin by Stephen Garten and Scott Jacobs called Charity Charge.  This new company, which was one of 10 companies selected by IBM at SXSW as a key social business start-up is “a for profit benefit corporation focused on creating giving tools that allow people to make the world a better place through simple actions. You use a credit card to earn 1% cash back donations to help the charities of your choice charge forward.”  Perhaps the next Toms is starting right in our backyard?  Let’s hope.

#7 – Automate our lives, please – yes, automated cars are good.  Energy transfer by wifi (Witricity)to allow us to not carry cords in our backpacks or charge an electric car in the future is good.  We’re not scared of what’s next.  Yes, bring it on.  The no brainer of no-brainers for both millennials and boomers. Automation will soon not only assist, but replace the need for human intervention and operators.  That sounds more cool than scary to us.

That’s what we know.  Enjoy, Brittany and Bob Pearson

Our next column will be on Facebook.

We just completed an awesome series of events during SXSW in Austin.  We heard from leaders of key companies (Intel, Verizon), leading online companies (Twitter, Google),  leading thinkers (David Kirkpatrick/Techonomy, VJ Yoshi), leading innovators (Witricity) and leaders in media (Al Roker, Bloomberg).

We created this content capsule with our friends at NextWorks so that we could share the presentations, blog posts, videos and photos with you directly.  This is designed so that you can share it internally with your teams or simply share it with your network via social channels.

On behalf of our partners at Sysomos, DataSift, Clarabridge, Business Wire, SprinklrBayer and Synthesio, we hope you can join us next year at our PreCommerce Summit, GeekFest and Geek-a-Cue.  In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the summary of what we have learned from some of the smartest people in our business.

Enjoy, Bob




There are three certainties in life… death, taxes and the fact that our company, W2O Group, will once again be hosting some awesome events during SXSW Interactive. Unless you live under a rock, you know this is one of the largest interactive conferences on this planet. Over 100,000 of the top digital, social and mobile minds from around the world haling from companies large and small, agencies, startups, etc. come to Austin, TX to network, attend panels and catch up on the latest trends. Many of these attendees are influential bloggers, senior marketing and communications professionals and journalists who report back on who is doing what in the interactive space.

Because a significant number of our clients at W2O Group (WCG, Twist and BrewLife) are now involved with SXSW Interactive, over the last six years we have developed a series of events during SXSW that complement all of the activities that go on during that time. Our signature event, the PreCommerce Summit, takes place on March 12 (Thursday) from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and is packed with speakers from well-known brands like H&R Block, Google, Twitter, Verizon, Intel and Bayer. We will also have thought leaders from companies like Techonomy, NBC and Bloomberg providing industry insights. Did we mention that we are honored to have none other than Al Roker, co-anchor of the Today Show, and a special fireside chat between Tech moguls, David Kirkpatrick (author of The Facebook Effect) and Vyomesh “VJ” Joshi (former EVP of printing at Hewlett Packard)?

We are interviewing a number of these speakers on our blog here.

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Jon Harris (former head of comms at Hillshire Brands and media personality), will be interviewing Al at our event. You can hear more in our Live from Stubbs interview with Jon here on what he and Al will cover.

This event will be attended by about 400 plus customers and other industry thought leaders. A cocktail reception will follow. The event is complementary, but invite only. If you are interested in attending, please email us at info@w2ogroup.com. In that email, be sure to provide name, title and company. We will also be live streaming the event via UStream if you can’t physically be there. Registration is open to the public (RSVP here).

We will also host a digital brunch at our (not so) new office located in East Austin. If you like food trucks (hint: Gordoughs will be one), music, cocktails and lost of interesting people, you will enjoy this.

Every SXSW, we do our best to cover “what’s next” in digital. This year, we’re planning to host our first GeekFest on Saturday at The Austonian between 10am – 2pm. We have 12 speakers including Becky Brown, VP of media at Intel and TK Keanini, CTO of Lancope to give 15 minute talks with some time for Q&A every 3-4 talks. We will have no more than 70 people in attendance. This event is being sponsored by Synthesio.

In addition to our PreCommerce Summit (selected talks from last year’s event), Digital Brunch and Geekfest, we will also host our sixth annual Geek-a-Cue Saturday night at the historic Charles Johnson House (on the Colorado River). This is the house MTV uses to host its SXSW Music parties so you know it’s good. We were sad to not host our Geek-a-cue for a fourth time at world famous Franklin’s BBQ, but with their new expansion we simply ran out of room. Not to worry, however, because we are pleased to bring you one of Austin’s newest gems, Terry Blacks. While we won’t pretend anyone can cook brisket like Aaron Franklin… the Black brothers (their grandfather is Terry Black who opened Blacks in Lockhart 83 years ago) come pretty damn close.

Oh, did we mention that we have two AMAZING bands this year as well? For openers, we’ll have Austin favorite, Monte Montgomery. And then for our main act, we are featuring Black Joe Lewis (yes, that Black Joe Lewis that has appeared on Letterman and countless music festivals).

Check out my 2014 wrap up post to get a better flavor of the awesomeness you will experience this year.

Here are eventbrite links/descriptions of the events:

  • Friday, March 13th: Digital Brunch (400+ director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)
    • RSVP Here (no password required)
    • 3000 East Cesar Chavez, Austin
    • 10:00 AM – 2 PM
    • Food trucks, music, innovative demos, coffee, brunch, and mimosa/Bloody Marys to fuel your first festival day
    • Shuttles available from the Stephen F. Austin Hotel starting at 9:45am
  • 6th Annual Geek-a-cue: Saturday, March 14th:  (800 director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)
    • RSVP Here (password required – email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
    • Charles Johnson House – 404 Atlanta Street, Austin, TX
    • 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
    • Roundtrip shuttle available from the Stephan F. Austin Hotel starting at 4:45 PM
    • To RSVP contact info@w2ogroup.com (space is limited)

As you can imagine, space is limited at these events so please make sure to RSVP soon. And if you do RSVP and decide after that you can’t make it, please be courteous and let us/me know that your slot is available.

We are over-the-moon excited to have Sysomos, DataSift, ClarabridgeSprinklr, Businesswire and Bayer as our sponsors this year. We greatly appreciate their support.