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For the last eight years, W2O Group has hosted a handful of invite-only events leading up to (and slightly overlapping with) SXSW Interactive. If you haven’t attended, this 100,000 person event hosted in Austin, TX has become a “must attend” for marketers, communication professionals, entrepreneurs and investors alike. While there is no shortage of panels, keynotes, networking events and concerts during what the veterans call “Southby,” we are big believers in creating a highly curated experience for our customers and partners to maximize the event. In addition to recommending the best health and tech panels, keynotes and parties to attend, we also produce two different thought leadership events and an awesome party featuring local BBQ (Terry Black’s this year) and top notch music (more on that soon).

If you’ve never been to one of our events, here are a few highlights from last year’s festivities.

If you want to dig deeper, you can read recaps and watch some of last year’s speakers talks here.

Note, all of our events are invite only. If you would like to attend, click on the event links below and select “Contact Organizer” to request the password. We review every request and promise to get back to you with either a password OR a good explanation why you might not be a fit (of course we prefer more of the former, and less of the latter).

Now, a little more detail about the events:

Friday, March 10th
7th Annual PreCommerce Summit | 9:00 AM – 6:30 PM
AT&T Executive Conference Center | 1900 University Ave, Austin, TX

The PreCommerce Summit is one of our signature events (one track/one day) and is free to the 350 invite-only attendees. The event consists of a series of brief keynotes,  10-minute TED-like talks mixed with select 20 minute fireside chats and by industry leaders. The focus is on business innovation and spans the health, tech and consumer industries.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Dan Bartlett, former Counselor to the President (George W. Bush) and current EVP, Corporate Affairs, Walmart
  • Judith Williams, Global Head of Diversity, Dropbox (@judithmwilliams)
  • Mike Clarke, Head of Analytics and Research, Google (@michaelfhclarke)
  • Torod Neptune, Corporate VP, Corporate Communications, Verizon (@torodneptune)
  • Francesca DeMartino, VP of Communications, Medtronic Diabetes (@GetFrescaFresh)
  • Brett Hurt, CEO and Founder, data.world (@databrett)
  • Lord Peter Chadlington, Chairman, Huntsworth
  • Robin Hauser, Director/Producer, Finish Line Features, LLC (@rubie226)
  • TK Keanini, Principal Engineer, Product Line CTO for Analytics, Cisco (@TKeanini)
  • David Berkowitz, Chief Strategy Officer, Sysomos (@dberkowitz)
  • Melinda Richter, Head of Innovation and JLABS, Johnson & Johnson (@melindarichter)
  • Rohit Barghava, Author, Founder of the Influential Marketing Group (@rohitbhargava)
  • Bob Pearson, Author and President, W2O Group (@bobpearson1845)
  • Ray Kerins, SVP of Comms and Government Affairs, Bayer (@raykerins)
  • Steve Cragle, CMO, United Health (@slcragle)
  • Angela Gillespie, Chief Strategy Officer, Global Medtech Practice, W2O Group (@AG_medtech)
  • Jim Larrison, President & Co-founder, Dynamic Signal (@jlarrison)
  • Bryan Kramer, Author and CEO, Pure Matter (@bryankramer)
  • Amy Lamparske, Managing Director, W2O Group (@amylamparske)
  • Matt Dickman, Head of Digital, Comcast (@mattdickman)
  • Jeremiah Owyang, CEO, Crowd Companies (@jowyang)
  • Mark Stouse, CEO, Proof (@markstouse)
  • Lorie Fiber, VP of Communications, IBM Watson Health (@loriefiber)
  • Mike Huckman, Global Practice Leader, Executive Communications, W2O Group, (@mikehuckman)
  • Katrine Bosley, CEO, Editas Medicine (@ksbosley)

Saturday, March 11th

3rd Annual Movers & Shapers | 10:30 AM – 2:30 PM
The Parish, 214 E 6th Street, Austin, TX

Movers & Shapers is our newest event and takes us back to our early roots of the PreCommerce Summit. With only 150 people in attendance, this event also leverages the 10-minute TED-like talk format with a few select fire side chats.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Jessica Mega, Chief Medical Officer, Verily
  • Jeff Haydock, VP Communications, (@jhaydock)
  • Dan Herscovici, SVP and General Manager, Xfinity Home (@danherscovici)
  • Stacey Higginbotham, Founder, SKT Labs LLC (Internet of Things Podcast) (@gigastacey)
  • Bret Greenstein, Vice President, Watson IoT Consumer and Volume Offerings, IBM (@brettgreenstein)
  • Ellen Jackowski, Sustainability Lead, Hewlett Packard
  • Chris Preuss Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Delphi (@cpreusscarwild)
  • Bryan & Amelia Thomas CEO/Co-Founder, PopUp Play (@popupplaytoy)
  • Larry Dobrow, Senior Editor, Medical Marketing & Media (@larrydobrow)
  • Nick van Terheyden, Chief Medical Officer, NTT DATA, Inc. (formerly Dell) (@drnic1)
  • Sandra Lopez, VP & GM of Wearables, Intel (@nycsf)
  • Asif Qasim, Clinical Director & Interventional Cardiologist, MedShr
  • Michael Plante, CMO, Inside Sales
  • Marie Baker, Senior Manager, Social Strategy and Community, Bayer (@marieveebee)
  • David Berkowitz, Chief Strategy Officer, Sysomos (@dberkowitz)
  • Mark Stouse, CEO, Proof (@markstouse)
  • Stephanie Agresta, Author and Cofounder, Virago Group (@stephagresta)

8th Annual GeekACue6 PM – 10 PM
Historic Scoot Inn, 1308 E 4th St, Austin, TX 78702

This eight-year long tradition started with 50 employees and clients out at local BBQ legend, The Salt Lick and has evolved into a 700-person party. This year’s event will be at the historic Scoot Inn and will feature Terry Black’s BBQ and two amazing bands — LOLO (recently on the Bachelor) and Eric Tessmer.

We hope you can join us for some/all of our events. As you may have noticed, all of the events are password protected but if you click, “Contact Organizer,” you can request permission.

Last but not least, none of this happens with out the support of our sponsors (whom we like to call, “partners”). We encourage you to introduce yourself to their senior leaders at our events at SXSW. And if you’d like an introduction before then, we are more than happy to facilitate.

 

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You’re an emerging biotech company, healthcare start-up or medical device business. You believe in your vision and you’ve been talking to venture capitalists. But what keeps venture capitalists interested in continuing the conversation?

Paulo Simas, our chief business designer, hosted a panel on that subject as part of W2O’s annual Pre-Commerce Summit during South by Southwest in Austin. A key take-away from the panel was that venture capitalists, like many of our clients, are focused on how to make patient outcomes better and easier to attain.

“There is no greater time in the history of health and medicine than right now.”

Josh Makower, general partner at New Enterprise Associates, one of the world’s largest healthcare venture capital firms, and a Pre-Commerce panelist thinks “there is no greater time in the history of health and medicine than right now” and that “health tech” is stealing the spotlight among venture capitalists.

Innovations in technology mean that healthcare companies must focus on creating a fuller experience and continued relationship with the consumer. The next frontier of healthcare may be a more integrative approach to patient care. For example, with regards to patient adherence: in addition to developing and manufacturing a drug, forward-thinking companies will make sure the drug is easy for patients to access and administer, and provide tools that make self-care easier. Apps that help patients manage their medications and methods for providers to seamlessly communicate with one another about a given treatment are getting venture capitalists’ attention.

Colin Foster, managing director of Twist Marketing and leader of W2O’s Austin office (a.k.a. Silicon Hills, home to the BrewLife Austin office and where more than 80 W2O employees are based), points out that healthcare companies need to show venture capitalists that they are able to drive down cost for all parties.

“The cost impact of staying on your medicine can be huge – the actual health outcomes improve drastically if you adhere to a drug correctly,” Colin says. The fact that 50 percent of prescriptions are not correctly adhered to underscores this need.

Let’s say this describes your company – you’re harnessing the power of technology to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients and you’re a shoe-in for a meeting with a great venture capital firm. What else do you need to know?

“Venture capitalists want to hear that you have a clear risk mitigation plan, because every opportunity has plenty of risk,” Colin advises. “Be blunt and clear about the risk involved and how you’re ready to tackle it.”

You can view a recording of the full SXSW Pre-Commerce Summit here (the venture capital panel begins at 05:01).

Last week I introduced the first half of our amazing speakers from our Movers & Shapers event. This is my final blog post in this series — please enjoy learning from the second half of our phenomenal speakers!

  • Kyle Flaherty, VP, Solutions Marketing, Rapid7
    Kyle used his time to talk about The New World Order and focused on the threat landscape from a marketer’s point of view. Marketers now represent one of the most visible threat landscapes on the horizon. He kicked things off on a bit of an ominous note: while technology has enabled all of us to work faster and smarter and has brought so many benefits to all of us, the downside the security risks it creates. Kyle reminded us that the bad guys outnumber us, are much better funded, are better trained and are way more motivated to get at your data than security companies are to protect your data. That reality impacts billions of dollars for companies and can sometimes cost lives.  Based on Rapid7’s research, most of the hacks we read about against today’s corporations boil down to one thing: compromised credentials. In other words, we have your user name and password. How do the bad guys get it? through social engineering. Kyle spent a minute talking about the pride that some of us take in our marketing (technology) stack for good reason: according to Gartner, by 2017, marketers will have more budget to spend on technology than CIOs. Crazy when you think about it… But with more technology comes more potential vulnerabilities. Kyle then showed an example of how attackers used technology to attack a published marketing stack along with a little business research to create a fake LinkedIn account for the company’s CEO to ultimately gain access to the company’s website.  So, what can marketers do? 1) Ditch PassWORDS for PassPHRASES. 2) Enable two-factor authentication everywhere you can. 3) Use tools like TinEye for reverse image searches via your browser. 4) To check about the safety of an attachment or URL, check out VirusTotal. 5) Use a tool like Okta for single sign on…  You can check out Kyle’s session right at the the 2 hour 26 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.

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  • Josh Kampel, President, Techonomy
    Josh joined us to talk about the Techonomic Future of Business. The whole idea behind Techonomy as an organization is to understand technology’s broader impact on business and the world in general. To understand that, Josh and others on the team (like Founder and CEO David Kirkpatrick) travel the world to interview business executives about technology’s impact on society. Before joining the Techonomy team, Josh had business experience with two industries facing disruption: first the music business in 1999. Napster began the disruption in 2001, he stayed in the industry until 2004 when he made the move to another industry about to be under siege at the time: newspaper publishing. 6 months after starting, Craigslist burst onto the scene, decimating newspaper classified ads… one of their most important revenue streams. His real-world experience of living through disruption has positioned him well to look at innovation within companies and recognizing disruptive forces and how companies can change to be part of it instead of a business casualty. Josh then walked the audience through examples of disruption where upstart companies forced big, established players to change business models. You can check out Josh’s session right at the the 2 hour 38 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.

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  • Chuck Hemann, Director, Digital Analytics at Intel
    Chuck is another person I have an immense of respect for. He led much of W2O’s analytics efforts when I joined the company almost three years ago. Fast forward to today, and he’s been heading Intel’s analytics’s efforts for the last 18 months. He sat down with our own Aaron Strout to discuss the topic Global Data Supply Chain and its impact on Intel. Regarding Intel’s journey, one of the first steps Chuck took to help move Intel forward was to invest heavily in their marketing stack. The goal for them was simple: to assemble a set of technology tools so they could put marketing metrics into the hands of marketers to let them draw insights from the data for their area of the business. In making that transition, Regarding their marketing stack, Chuck said it’s not the Field of Dreams. For Intel, it was a case of if you build it, they don’t necessarily come. What they quickly realized is how sophisticated the technology is doesn’t really matter. People are the engine that really make things run. To execute on their analytics vision, Intel asked the questions, “Are we measuring the right things? Do we have the right frameworks in place, do we have the right teams in place? Can we do this outside the United States? That led them to remaking many of their analytics’s frameworks, hiring more people with diverse skill sets, standardizing all their reporting and establishing reporting cadences so marketers knew when they would receive insights on a regular basis.  Now, 18 months later, having that infrastructure in place helps Chuck’s team provide marketers with insights information on complex campaigns around the world (like like Gaga’s recent moving tribute to David Bowie during the Grammys). When Aaron asked Chuck to talk more about the importance of people in the midst of so many data measurement tools, he had this to say…  data is only going to get more plentiful, it’s only going to get cleaner and more  accessible. As that technical reality happens, the importance of people in the equation is only going to grow. To that end, Chuck liken’s his team as insights consultants who sit in between the technology and the marketers trying to make sense of all the data. That person’s role is to be the himan face of that data. You can check out Chuck and Aaron’s discussion session just before the the 2 hour 59 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.

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  • Kip Knight – President, H&R Block
    Keep didn’t join us as the president of US retail operations at H&R Block. Instead, he discussed US Marketing and Communications College (USMCC) Real World Case Study that he helped implement for the US government. In other words, he shared details about his efforts and role as a professor in the US State Department. Kip has been a marketer at big companies for more than 30 years. He believes marketing is one of the strongest disciplines we have. And it’s something we’ve seen can be used for good or evil. In 2008, Kip got a call from the Whit House. He was asked to meet with the National Security Council to look at ways to improve the US’s image abroad. He along with two other marketers presented to members of the National Security Council.  At the end of that initial meeting. Kip made it clear that he didn’t think anything they discussed would have any impact on things moving forward. When he was asked for a proposal, Kip recommended assembling a group of marketers from other US businesses with the goal of helping the National Security Council better understand how to communicate with key audiences. They agreed, and that’s when Kip worked to pull together a team to help establish a curriculum that ultimately became the foundation for the US Marketing Communication College. The goal was to assemble a team that reflected world-class marketing thinking made up from professionals from leading American companies to teach US government agencies in a way that would enable diplomats to tackle 21st-century communications challenges. They started the effort by introducing the ABCDE Communication model as a framework for the curriculum they established. A) Audience B) Behavioral Objectives C) Content D) Delivery E) Evaluation. Ultimately, the group established a 1 week curriculum that is among the highest rating series of classes in the State Department. Since 2008, they’ve used 10 US Marketing College Sessions to train over 500 diplomats. Kip then shifted to discuss what he called the ultimate communications challenge: How do you market against ISIS? The team is set to meet to discuss approaches to tackle that difficult challenge. Initial State Department efforts like #ThinkAgainTurnAway have received lots of criticism from the media. It’s not easy. It will take a collective effort from the best minds in the space. Kip asked Bob Pearson on stage. Bob mentioned the upcoming meeting later this week with the US Institute for Peace.  Bob put the call out to US marketers and social media teams.,,, if your company wants to help or even if you as an individual are interested in joining the coalition to assist with these anti-ISIS efforts, reach out to Bob via Twitter (@bobpearson1845) to discuss. You can check out Kip’s session right at the the 3 hour 46 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
  • Jesse Knish Photography Jesse Knish PhotographySanjay Dholakia, CMO, Marketo
    Sanjay joined us to discuss Marketing Automation and the New Era of Engagement. He’s had tons of business experience along his career: from consultant to CEO of a public company to CMO. He loves his current role—as CMO of a company with lots of clients, he gets to talk to many smart marketers with the goal of working to help them make sense of the data streams from their marketing stacks. He learns more from the marketing folks working through that transition. All this data has changed all our expectations as consumers. He referenced Amazon as an example of a company that has moved things forward in a big way. Why? Because they’re the ones who’ve figured out how to use data in a way that serves us as customers. We all know Amazon goes way beyond basic demographic data that some marketers still use today. Example: when Sanjay goes to Amazon.com, his home page is filled with women’s clothing. Why? Because he inly goes there to buy gifts for his wife. Amazon knows that and adjusts his experience accordingly. They could try to sell him millions of SKUs based on demographic data, but they don’t. Bottom line, Sanjay argued that he buys a lot from Amazon.com because they’ve figured out how to become useful. Being useful  or helpful is the new baseline in terms of customer expectations. That’s why it’s something all marketers should strive to do. You can check out Sanjay’s session right at the the 4 hour  mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
  • Jesse Knish Photography Jesse Knish PhotographyBrian Solis, Author and Principal, The Altimeter Group
    Christopher Wilder sat down to interview Brian about his new book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design. Chris asked him first what he means by “user experience.” According to Brian, a lot of things we do in business today are based on philosophies from the 60s or 70s. And many times we’re measured against those old standards. Brian says experience is human, it’s emotional. An example of getting at user experience: Asking a fellow attendee, “How’s your SXSW going?” When Brian set out to write his book he sought to answer the question: What is an experience between a company and a customer?  While there’s no single answer, Brian defines an experience as a human reaction to any moment. Companies have lots of ways to create moments with a potential customer: marketing information, buying an item in a retail store, contacting customer service, etc. For customers, the experience is really the sum of all of those individual moments. Besides some of those methods being used to create those moments are based on outdated philosophies, the other problem is that all of those moments on the company side are managed by different parts of the business that most like don’t talk to each other. All the tools are there for companies to start to fix that. You can check out Chuck’s session a little over the 4 hour 35 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.

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Matthew Zito, Chief Strategy Officer, Synthesio; Joshua March, CEO, Conversocial

Matthew and Joshua discussed the 4 Stages of the Customer Buying Cycle along with what brands can do from in terms of social engagement along all of those stages. Here are the stages they discussed:

1) Research – Information gathering stage.. may ask friends for recommendations, read Yelp reviews, a person may do basic Google searches.

2) Interaction – This is typically the stage where a customer reaches out to a brand, a merchant, or other customers seeking more detailed information.

3) Purchase – This is the point where a customer actually buys a product from a brand, merchant or reseller. It’s at this point that brands receive the most data about their customer, basic demographic data, etc.

4) Perception – This is the what do you think of the product? phase. It’s where the customer has gone through the purchase, setup or installation process, has formed opinions after some amount of using the product, and may begin to share more detailed opinions online.

Joshua made the point with today’s social tools, brands have the opportunity for social engagement during any of the four buying stages. Matthew reiterated that 80% of the customers who have solid social levels of engagement with that brand or more loyal to that brand. The other bonus for brands is that customers are sharing more buying intent kinds of conversations via social, and many of those updates are public data. Joshua mentioned the trend of public social engagement extending to the private side, where Facebook recently allows customers to reach out to brands privately through Facebook Messenger. Both Matthew and Joshua highlighted Facebook’s now enabling transaction purchase receipts inside Messenger, so customers can now have lots of information at their fingertips when they may need it down the road. According to Joshua it doesn’t matter where a customer buys a product, since they are more than likely social and mobile. That means they are taps away from tweeting a question, able to post reviews, etc. Both Matthew and Joshua recognized the increasing importance of prompt responses when customers do reach out for help. Matthew cited a recent study that shows brands who responded promptly and helpfully consistently had the highest Net Promoter Score (NPS) ratings when they responded to customers within 30 minutes. NPS scores trailed off pretty dramatically the longer customers have to wait. Both also agreed that that 30 minute response expectation from customers is getting shorter and shorter. You can check out the joint discussion session just before the 4 hour 16 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream

 

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We kicked off our 2nd annual Movers & Shapers event (last year known as Geekfest) on Saturday here during SXSW. This one featured several people I’m lucky to call friends. As Bob Pearson mentioned, we chose this list of speakers because many of them are shaping the future of business in this digital age.

Thanks to our clients, partners and sponsors and W2O employees who made today (and our other #SXW2O events) possible. Below are a few highlights from each of the speakers.

  • Javier Boix, Senior Director, StoryLab, AbbVie
    Javier discussed activating a storyline paradigm (see his pre-interview here). When he and the team thought about how to move AbbVie in the storytelling realm, they knew they had to approach things differently. That’s why they created StoryLab.  For AbbVie, StoryLab = Content Development + Media Relations + Digital + Measurement. Tune into the Movers & Shapers livestream at just over the 9 minute mark to see Javier’s session.

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  • Michael Jarjour, CEO, ODH, Inc
    Michael joined us to talk about how Data is Improving Mental Health. He sat down with our own Bob Pearson to discuss Michael’s passion, how we transform behavioral and health. Key challenges in behavioral health are resource constraints and highly fragmented data. Mentrics is a tool that combines ODH’s risk assessment data along with data of the complex care patients to find out which patients are most at risk.  From a data perspective, payers are the most important component. How does the risk stratification process work? Michael explained that the ODH team had worked on the solution for four years. It identifies the high-cost patient population to track cost drivers over a year. The goal is to help health care providers figure out which patients are at risk and provide insights into the kind of treatment that can best affect outcomes. It’s about identifying 1) which patients need the most help 2) what kind of help do they need? 3) How can we help? Tune into the Movers & Shapers livestream at about the 23 minute mark to see their discussion.

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  • Amber Naslund, SVP Marketing, Sysomos
    I’ve known Amber a long time. She’s someone I’ve always had a great deal of respect for. Now even more so after hearing her talk about embracing imperfection. Everyone talks about transparency and authenticity. Amber nails both. She lives and breathes social engagement and analytics. Much of her talk centered around Impostor Syndrome. It refers to “high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as “fraud.” In 2011, she was riding high when Radian6 was purchased by Salesforce, she had a successful book and was well-known for the social engagement work that she was a part of. During her next step is when she starting struggling those negative feelings of self-doubt. Especially as so many of her peers in the social space appeared to be at the top of their game. That period led her to do research on the topic. She quickly found in her interviews that Impostor’s Syndrome affects everyone… men, women, all ages, etc. Even extremely successful people like best-selling author Stephen King. Bottom line, Amber’s currently focused on making this topic as her next book. I hope she’s successful on that front and applaud her for having the courage to share with the folks here at our event.  You can check out Amber’s session at about the 39 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
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  • Ray Kerins, SVP Head of Communications & Government Relations, Bayer
    Ray’s topic of discussion was the Criticality of Intellectual Property. Ray did something I wasn’t expecting. He made a talk about IP pretty lively and engaging. He started his session by acknowledging that most people’s eyes glaze over when they hear about patents and IP. He defined IP as the set of laws that protect individuals and companies who have created a unique product or thing. It’s important to all of us because it protects innovation. Ray cited one of the most difficult aspects of IP is the un-evenness of laws around the world. While those in the United States are decent, several countries outside the US have very weak laws, and in some cases, those laws can be difficult to enforce. Ray is a board member of the US Chamber of Commerce and he’s also a member of the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC). GIPC’s sole responsibility is to make sure the IP laws around the world help protect innovation created in America. According to Ray, IP creates job. He referenced several reports compiled by GIPC. One such report is the International IP Index, which ranks the world’s countries in terms of levle of IP protection. In other words, to track the places where counterfeiting is the biggest problem. Surprises? Venezuela is the country that currently ranks the highest on that list. India is #2. Another surprise? China currently ranks  17th on the list. Ray attributed China’s going down on the list (improving) to the Chinese government’s active efforts to strengthen their IP laws and enforcing those laws. You can check out Ray’s session just about the 50 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
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  • Michele Skelding, SVP Global Technology and Innovation, Austin Chamber of Commerce
    Michele’s topic was The Next Big Thing? Disruptive Innovation in ATX. Michele has lived in Austin for the last 20 years and has worked in technology for most of that time. She joined the Austin Chamber of Commerce about three years ago with the goal of bringing her tech expertise to the city. Michele mentioned that the average age in Austin was 33. The city has a population of about 1.9 million people, of which 415,000 are students. What’s one of the most important things the city can do to keep those students here? Create jobs that they’ll want to stay here for. As a city, that means we have to be on target with our business benefits. Add it all up and Austin is expected to be one of the fastest growing cities until 2025. Michele ended with a plea for those of us in Austin to get engaged in terms of the future of the city. Along those lines, she mentioned recent headlines where Austin proposed city ordinances are creating barriers for companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in this city. One more thing: Thanks to Michele for making the introduction to Hugh Forrest and making that PreCommerce fireside chat possible. You can check out Ray’s session just about the 1 hour 27 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.

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  • Robert Scoble, Entrepreneur in Residence, UploadVR
    Robert is another person I’m fortunate to know pretty well. Robert’s book Naked Conversations (that he co-authored Shel Israel) had a big impact on me when I was gearing up to take the reins at Direct2Dell back in 2006. Robert’s one of the best in the business about what’s next in technology. Look at his other books as an example. Age of Context focused on how sensors and big data will continue to impact business. He and Shel are currently working on their third book called Beyond Mobile. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality is not surprisingly one of the main topics that book will cover. Fresh off the news that he’s joining UploadVR as their Entrepreneur in Residence, Robert dove right into the topic of virtual reality and augmented reality. He discussed companies like Magic Leap and Meta that will play a part in the future, as well as other established tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Google. This technology is already showing up in our world… self-driving cars use sensors and tons of data to map the world around them. Heavy machinery company Caterpillar is already using AR to help train mechanics on repairs. According to Robert, augmented reality (where we interact with virtual objects superimposed on top of real-world objects) is going to have the biggest impact. We’re still 3 – 5 years away from the truly ground-breaking stuff that will occur has hardware gets smaller, faster and cheaper. It’s coming though, and in my opinion, there’s much to look forward to. You can check out Robert’s session at about the 1 hour 38 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
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  • Patrick Moorhead, President and Principal Analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy
    Patrick’s topic was The Future of Healthcare is Closer Than it May Appear. Before becoming an industry analyst, he spent over 20 years in the tech business, focused on things like product management, product marketing and strategy. For 15 years he served on the board of St. Davids’s Medical Center and the Austin Heart Hospital (where he also chaired the board for five years). Besides sing the bureaucracy first hand, he was struck by the number of people so passionate about helping others. He mentioned that we spend over $3 trillion dollars in Healthcare annually. An estimated 90% of that goes toward chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. And an estimated 80% of those could be prevented with better healthcare along with personal responsibility. He also said the biggest issue in healthcare is the disconnect between payment and service. During the session, he called out that Moor Insights was welcoming Yuri Teshler to lead the Healthcare vertical  You can check out Patrick’s session at just over the 1 hour 58 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
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  • Natanya Anderson, Sr. Marketing Director, 365 by Whole Foods Market
    Natanya talked about the Mandate to Innovate, which is a good topic for her given how much she has done inside the walls of Whole Foods before taking on the charter to expand their 365 effort. She touched on disruption and called out Whole Foods’ recent investment in Instacart as an example of how Whole Foods is working with innovative companies instead of against them. Figuring how to innovate inside a big brand was something she struggled with at first. Her light bulb moment came when she spoke at the Foresight & Trends Conference about 18 months ago. She spoke to many people there who were part of innovation groups, or in some cases, even innovation business units. Many of them spent time analyzing trends to help figure out what areas lend themselves to innovation within their respective companies. That’s when it hit her. Instead of thinking, “How do I get that (innovation) job?” She realized the better question was, “How do I make innovation part of my job?” She started by establishing a mandate to innovate for herself. That’s when she starting actively looking for places where Whole Foods could innovate. Then she extended the that intention to innovate to her entire team. She found that some people on her team were more receptive to it than others. The tipping point was when she tied innovation to the team’s goals overall and they worked as a group to figure out how to measure the innovation part of their efforts. Hint: It wasn’t ROI. You can check out Natanya’s session at just over the 2 hour 14 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
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Check back soon to learn more from other speakers and what amazing insights they offered at Movers & Shapers!

 

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Lionel Menchaca currently serves as Director of Corporate & Strategy at W2O Group. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn or reach out to him on Twitter at @LionelGeek!


 

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On the annual springtime migration to Austin, our clients, partners and friends—without fail—take one look at the super packed SXSW Interactive schedule, get excited, get overwhelmed and then proceed to have nasty flashbacks to first year course selection at university. Well, with deep gratitude to my esteemed colleagues Kristen Grant and Melissa O’Hara for their SXSW sleuthing skills, we’ve tried to take out some of the guesswork.

The team waded knee deep through the SXSW Interactive Health & MedTech stream of events to find what we hope will be some of the golden nuggets. Just think of us as your team of guidance counselors, here to help you pick your major, minor and maybe a couple electives.

But before we get to the list, I want to highlight our own MDigitalLife team who will have a standing presence at the SXSW Health & MedTech Expo. They will be showcasing how we can help you understand and leverage the online healthcare ecosystem, having mapped the digital footprints of over 700,000 stakeholders worldwide. Be sure to stop by and visit them as you make your way around the sessions.

Now, let’s get to our recommended sessions. Each link takes you to the relevant page on the SXSW site where you can add the event to your schedule.


Friday, March 11, 2016


2016 SX Health & MedTech Expo

Time: 10:00am-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriot, 110 East 2nd Street

SX Health & MedTech is an integral part of SXSW Interactive, brings together many of the conversations being discussed at SXSW – not to mention that everyone has a personal relationship with health. Look for the 2016 event to expand the number of exhibitors, broaden and deepen the discussion topics, and make it even more accessible for the SXSW community to participate in the conversation.


Saturday, March 12, 2016


Value Revolution: Transforming the Health Business

Time: 9:30am – 10:30am

Location:  JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd St

This panel will explore the groundbreaking solutions to the problems that have driven the system to the breaking point, along with specific regions and ecosystems that are making those solutions real.


Apps and Better Medical Outcomes: Real Solutions

Time: 11:00am-12:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

This panel will discuss cutting edge mobile solutions that help with communication among caregivers, educational or job re-entry, organization of medical records and independence


Virtual Health: Is it Real or Just Fantasy?

Time: 11:00am – 12:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd St

Experts will speak about a number of topics including the historical legislative and policy initiatives that have hindered and promoted the use of virtual health at the state and federal levels and the rapid development of technology that is enabling these platforms to provide improved access and quality driven outcomes.


A New FDA: A Partner for the Digital Future

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, MedTech Stage 110 E 2nd St

Leading this charge is Bakul Patel, Assoc. Director for Digital Health at the FDA, who will provide insights into the FDA’s current and future plans for regulating digital health and answer those questions you were afraid to ask.


Rare in Common: Building Rare Disease Communities

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

This session will explore the potential and impact of these digital communities with rare diseases in common from the point of view of multiple stakeholders: the people facing rare diseases themselves, companies dedicated to developing medicines for them, and thought leaders in rare disease communications.


Virtual Physicians: The Future of Healthcare

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd St

Join us to explore the revolutionary role virtual humans may play in your healthcare future! Part of the IEEE Tech for Humanity Series.


New Prescription: Mobilize Patients’ Communities

Time: 3:30pm-4:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Hear from the President of Seton Medical Center Austin and CEO of Rallyhood, who created an innovative program to mobilize patients’ personal communities that aide hospital recovery.


Digital Health and Outcomes: Where’s the Evidence?

Time: 3:30pm-4:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, MedTech Stage 110 E 2nd St

This panel, moderated by BuzzFeed’s Stephanie Lee, will explore how digital health companies can use clinical evidence to succeed through the lens of a company that has commercialized its outcomes (Omada Health), a company that validates emerging products (Evidation Health), and an investor that evaluates hundreds of companies each year (Rock Health).


The Future of Medicine: Where Can Tech Take Us?

Time: 5:00pm-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, MedTech Stage 110 E 2nd St

From the prospective of a leading physician, scientist and innovator who is Chair of Medicine at Singularity University, this talk examines rapidly emerging, game changing and convergent technology trends and their potential to change the face of healthcare and the practice of medicine.


Are Medical Devices and Systems Hack Proof?

Time: 5:00pm-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd S

As clinicians increasingly rely on computers vs. common sense, and medical devices become increasingly vulnerable to security breaches, it’s time for new dialog on trust and security for Medtech.


Sunday, March 13, 2016


2016 SX Health & MedTech Expo

Time: 10:00am-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, 110 East 2nd Street

Look for the 2016 event to expand the number of exhibitors, broaden and deepen the discussion topics, and make it even more accessible for the SXSW community to participate in the conversation.


Telling Health Stories with Interactive Storymaps

Time: 11:00am-1:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 402-403 110 E 2nd St

This interactive workshop will use Esri’s storymapping technology and teach participants how to find health data, combine different data, and display them through interactive storymaps that create unique, holistic depiction of personal and community health. Bringing your own health data is encouraged!


Revolutionizing Med Education to Transform Health

Time: 12:30pm – 1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204  110 E 2nd St

Experts on the front lines of this revolution will discuss how medical schools are changing, what this means for students, educators, patients and the community, and how technology and innovation will help create physician lead in the evolving education landscape.


Hacking for Healing: MedTech & Chronic Disease

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Four experts will discuss their platforms, research, and deep experience to give chronic disease patients new ways to think about managing their health — shifting from precision medicine to precision prevention.


Imagining the Future of Personalized Medicine

Time: 3:30pm-4:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Jennifer Darmour, wearable tech expert and designer, David O’Reilly, leader in digital medicine, and Alan Levy, veteran innovator of specialty pharma products, debate the best path forward toward more engaging and personalized healthcare and lay out future possibilities that will astound you.


The President’s Precision Medicine Initiative

Time: 3:30-4:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, MedTech Stage 110 E 2nd St

The Precision Medicine Initiative, unveiled by President Obama in January 2015, is a bold new cross-government initiative to build the technology, data and policy frameworks to catalyze new insights and therapies so that every patient can have individualized, tailored treatment.


(Video) Gaming the Healthcare System

Time: 5:00-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, MedTech Stage 110 E 2nd St

Games, video games in particular, have shown a much more significant contribution to healthcare by providing a connective community and therapy to both physical and cognitive impairments, as detailed by our expert panel. Come play!


Millennials in Medicine: Good or Bad for Health?

Time: 5:00pm-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd St

This panel of leading millennial physician-innovators will offer a provocative prognosis for the future of US healthcare and debate the net value of physicians disrupting rather than providing healthcare.


Deadliest Catch: New Cancer Diagnosis Approaches

Time: 5:00-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Biomarkers are recognized as a critical tool for bringing new drug candidates to market and driving personalized medicine. Now, this groundbreaking science provides a powerful new opportunity to detect and prevent lethal cancers and save lives.


Monday, March 14, 2016


Wearables: The Powder Keg for a Health Revolution

Time: 9:30am-10:30am

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd

Join Garmin, a global leader in connected fitness and wellness technology, and Validic, the healthcare industry’s leading digital health platform, as they discuss how wearable technology innovation and adoption is setting the stage for a healthcare revolution.


Rethinking Healthcare Through Design Thinking

Time: 11:00am-12:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd S

This panel will feature a nationally recognized health design leader to lay out the landscape of problems facing healthcare, and he will demonstrate how creativity and design can address – and have addressed – those challenges.


Consumer Reports: What’s Our Health Data Worth?

Time: 11:00am-12:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Hear solutions for balancing individuals’ right to privacy with profound opportunities to serve the public good, advance science & innovation, and achieve a more effective health-care system. Takeaways include ideas for new regulations, systems, and best practices, plus actions we can all take to manage our valuable health data more responsible.


CDT/Fitbit: Ethics and Privacy in Wearable Research

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Through a visually engaging presentation, the presenters will offer details on the project goals, methodology, findings, and analysis, as well as present the final guidance recommendations.


Wearables in Health: In Theory and in Practice

Time: 3:30pm-4:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

In this dual presentation, Dr. Sam Volchenboum will speak to where we’re at and where we’re headed regarding the challenges and benefits of using wearable data to inform treatment and clinical trials. Dr. Ray Duncan of Cedars Sinai Hospital will share the practical hurdles, insights, and success stories of integrating wearable data with EMRs at one of the most connected health systems in the country.


Tuesday. March 15, 2016


Tech in the Golden Years: How Tech Changes Aging

Time: 9:30am-10:30am

Location: JW Marriott Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

In this panel, SXSW goers will gain a fresh perspective on emerging tech in senior healthcare from an often unheard generation at SXSW: a baby boomer. HomeHero, Heal and PillPack will speak on the need for quality caregivers, physicians and easy access to medication, while the aging senior can share his own perspective.


We the People: Healthcare and the 2016 Election

Time: 11:00am-12:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Join Jane Adams, Washington insider & Senior Director of Federal Affairs, Johnson & Johnson, & Lauren Chauret, Partner at PTV Healthcare Capital, as they discuss the 2016 election, its implications on the healthcare system & show you how to come out on top!


Inhale and Exhale: The Future of Health Data APIs

Time: 3:00pm-4:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

A generation of startups are taking on the enormous task of building simple, portable APIs for health data. These companies are building solutions that will finally bring about the interconnected health system that we are all desperately waiting for, and could hold the keys to cracking open the health IT market.


Fixing the Patient Behavior Change Gap

Time: 5:00pm-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd St

This panel explores why behavior change is so difficult, even when it’s in our best interest, and how new technologies and smarter design can help us solve the largest problem in healthcare tech — behavior modification and engagement.


Improving Physicians’ Understanding of Patients

Time: 5:00-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Based on case study data, participants at a recent health app design challenge developed a FHIR-compliant application that intuitively communicates the patient’s status to any interested party.


Of course, while SXSW sessions can be hit and miss, we hope that this curated list of recommendations helps you navigate the maze of SXSW and have a better overall experience at SXSW. And if you have other recommendations or feedback on our shortlist, please be sure to let us know in the comments below.


Learn more about W2O Group

Out of all the great speakers that took part in W2O Group’s 2016, PreCommerce Summit, the fireside chat between Hugh Forrest, director of SXSW Interactive Festival and NewCo CEO John Battelle was one that I personally was most excited to hear about. Though it’s huge now, it didn’t start that way. Beginning a few years ago, it surpassed the music festival in terms of attendees—a trend that continues in 2015 and probably beyond.

Hearing the humble beginnings (Interactive started as the SXSW Multimedia festival in 1994… anyone rememeber CD-ROMs? Heh!) from Hugh’s perspective to what it’s grown into now (Hugh expects about 35,000 will attend Interactive this year) was worth the wait in my book. He covers a lot of the history and the evolution of the festival. And maybe next year we can expect a single ticket for all SXSW? And BTW, Mr. Robot fans can check out the Ferris wheel(!) on 4th and Congress.

If you want to watch John’s interview of Hugh, tune into the #SXW2O livestream at just about the 7 hour 40 minute mark.

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Here’s an edited summary of the Q&A between John and Hugh.

Q: When was the first year of SXSW Interactive?

A: The Music part started in 1987. In 1994, we added SXSW Multimedia because we thought multimedia was the future back then. With CD-ROMs, there was a lot of potential there, wasn’t there? 🙂

Q: In 1994, how many people attended?

A: That first year, we combined it with the Film part, so it was SXSW Film and Multimedia. If you counted all the volunteers, we had about 1,000 attendees combined. We thought at the time it was a good first showing. After that, we split it into two separate events, one for Film and the other for Multimedia. In the startup world you have concept known as the Valley of Death. For startups that survive, it’s usually a period of  about a year to 18 months. We had about a 10-year Valley of Death, where we were really struggling to find our voice, to find our market to understand what we were doing. The reason we survived during that 10 years was  of the success of the SXSW Music event. It was paying the bills during that time. If we’d have been a standalone event, we would not have survived that difficult period.

Q: During that period, did you have a lot of difficult meetings where people thought. Maybe this multimedia thing isn’t working. Did they ever think: maybe we should just stop doing it?

A: Many things keep me humble. This was one of them. I remember an above the banner headline in the Austin American Statesman from 1998 that was something like “Excitement Coming to Austin: Music, Film, Rodeo, Multimedia!” No disrespect to the Austin Rodeo, it’s a cool event. But we were slightly below that. In terms of meetings, it was more me wondering to my boss, why are we doing this Multimedia thing? It doesn’t make any sense. We can’t find our audience. The Music festival brings the rockstars from all over the world. We’ve got this film event that brings in movie stars, and all I’ve got is a bunch of geeks.

Q: When did it tip?

A: Certainly the biggest tipping point was 2007 with Twitter. But, we started to see a little bit of an uptick in growth in 2004. A keynote speaker that year was a guy named Jonathan Abrams from Friendster.  I had seen him on a late night TV show, and I thought this guys kind of interesting, let’s try to get him for SXSW. He turned out to offend about half the audience. That’s a common theme in many of our keynotes.

John: I remember in the early keynotes, those people in the audience were really quick to tell you if they weren’t pleased with what you were saying.

Hugh: Are you saying that from personal experience?

John: I’m saying it from watching it happen to someone I interviewed onstage. I don’t remember all the specifics, but that person answered a question and got hisses and jeers from the audience.

Hugh: It’s a tough crowd, not like this one… Jonathan’s keynote in 2004… when he offended some people here coincidentally or not, that was about when Friendster hit it’s peak uaage in the US. I think it is still popular in Asia. But that was our first real foray into social media. Who could have known in 2004? I mean, in retrospect it makes sense, but we didn’t know back then that social media was going to be such a big deal, so much a part of our lives. Many things contributed to our eventual growth after 10 years of non-growth. I would say that startups and social media are two of the biggest things. Again, particularly Twitter in 2007 [was the big turning point]. The irony of the Twitter story is Ev and Biz have always credited SXSW as the place they launched, but the fact is they actually launched about 6 months earlier. Thanks to both of them for that.

John: I know I wasn’t there that year, but I was following what was going on, somehow, before Twitter… maybe e-mail. Everyone was talking about Twitter. I knew it, because I knew Ev, but it became a big deal here…

Hugh: Yes.

Q: So, how many people are copmong this year

A: Probably about 35,000 total.

John: So about 35x growth, with most of it coming in the last 10 years?

Hugh: We were lucky enough to experience a hockey-stick level growth from about 2004 – 2014. It leveled off at that point simply because we really hit capacity in Austin. There were some years where the growth numbers were crazy. On the one hand you’re happy after not growing, after struggling so much for so many years. But it’s just as mystifying [to think] why are we growing now when we couldn’t grow before?  Now, it’s the challenges of growth, of scale, of trying to retain the user experience that helped growth is very significant in and of itself.

Q: What year did the marketers show up?

A: You should ask these guys in the crowd… they’re the ones who know.

Q: The startups obviously caught on at some point. Was there a tip to that piece?

A: There wasn’t a Twitter-like tip there, but again, Twitter just changed things so much for us. More startups wanted to come to SXSW to be like Twitter, more venture capitalists came looking got the next Twitter. Branding and Marketing people wanted to come to discover the next big thing before their competitors did. Twitter was 2007. 2009 was Gowalla… remember them? And 4square actually launching the same day at SXSW.

John: Yeah, it was like a duel for the location-based services with the local favorite, less highly-funded Gowalla.

Hugh: Right. And Gowalla is in the digital graveyard at this point. What’s interesting here and even going back last year to Meerkat is the products, apps, services, startups that get the most buzz out of SXSW are the ones that help people digest SXSW. Twitter got so much use because people used it to find which parties their friends were going to, where they were eating breakfast or lunch, what panels they were going to… it helped the crowd digest a large event. Same thing with 4square and Gowalla… and Meerkat. You can broadcast you’re in a session that’s great or horrible. It’s simple, but it can be complex. If you want the most buzz at SXSW, figure out something that helps people better digest the event.

Q: Do you see anything this year that is an emerging possibility to break out the way those did?

A: It’s interesting on the eve of their one year success at SXSW, that Meerkat announced that they were pivoting, essentially changing direction, changing business models. Facebook Live is certainly doing a big push here, and it’s essentially an updating of that type of app. Again, we’re seeing more functionality with mobile devices that take advantage of increased broadband in terms of personal broadcasting. I think that if something breaks out, it could be that. We were surprised as anyone that Meerkat got so much buzz at SXSW. It was a perfect storm for them. I remember the Apple Watch press conference had been on Monday before SXSW. People were using it there, it got featured on Product Hunt. It had some buzz going into the event. It kind of broke all the rules that we thought had become rules in the sense that it didn’t have a whole lot of money, was a relatively small startup, and all the sudden it got huge traction out of the event. The common wisdom at that point was that SXSW had grown so big… to rise above the noise you have to have a huge budget, it’s impossible to do. But again, something that hits that sweet spot that helps registrants better absorb, digest or discover the event is what popped. Who knows if that will happen this year?

Q: How has Interactive grown compared to Film and Music and is it the muscle that’s driving the business as much as Music was before?

A; Interactive is the biggest industry portion of the event in terms of people buying badges. The tables have turned around from 15 years ago. Part of that growth came from people who were buying badges for Music started buying badges for Interactive to understand how they could navigate the change in the [music] content industry. Over the last 15 years, geeks have become the rock stars. That narrative of Mark Zuckerberg dropping out of Harvard, creating a startup, getting crazy rich… that so much powers the startup ecosystem, the startup mindset of people much younger than us doing cool stuff out there.

Q: Has Interactive has kind of consumed the film and entertainment industry?

Hugh: Is this your Marc Andreessen moment where you say software is eating the world?

Q: I notice you have a Convergence Track where you’re sewing the two together. So people who have both (Film and Interactive) badges can go to both?

A: Yes. We have more and more convergence stuff that tries to bring these industries together. The idea being that 25 years ago,  it was easy to tell the difference between Music and Film, and this weird thing called Multimedia. Now, years later it is all so interwoven and blended together. We argue, discuss converse within our staff: if you have a session about a YouTube or Vine star. Is that Interactive because they’re using technology? No it’s film because they are the film stars of 2016. Or it’s Music a song that way. These lines are completely blurred at this point.

Q: Will it come to the point that you just sell one ticket to the whole deal?

A: That’s a pretty good idea, John.

Q: So will we hear about that more next year?

A: I’m saying there’s a lot of good ideas that come out of this event on March 10 right?

Q: What lessons do you have for marketers or brands who are looking to make the most at SXSW?

A: We’ve seen lots of interesting, crazy, fun, weird promotions at SXSW over the years. This year it’s the Ferris Wheel on 4th and Congress creating the buzz. But the things that will create the most buzz with this audience. the visual trend setters, the forward thinkers, the people with huge social media followings  are things that help people better absorb the event. We’ve been lucky to have automobile sponsors like Chevy and Mazda. The thing they do best? Provide rides to people. That solves a problem for people since it’s so difficult to get around. The program was called Catch a Chevy and they provided free rides to people. That’s where they got the most buzz out of the event.

Q: Without naming names, I’ve seen some [brand] activations that seem a bit off… do you or a team approve how marketers get to activate?

A: We’ve taking a much more active role here.. in the wake of some activations that weren’t quite right.

John: Can you give us examples?

Hugh: No, there are too many people tweeting in here. I don’t want to do that. But we do try to give brands guidelines to help them be successful here. As the event has gotten bigger, we know there is more noise. Now, rising above that noise is always a challenge. It’s harder and harder for a brand or startup like Meerkat to gain traction. A story that I still love is that when foursquare launched when we thought location-based apps were the next big thing, the promotion that Dennis Crowley did was he drew a four square with a piece of chalk outside the Convention Center. He was playing foursquare with people.  I mean you’re playing four square with the founder of foursquare. It wasn’t reaching huge numbers of people, but it was reaching people who could create buzz about it. It’s harder to do that now since we are more strict about brands using chalk on the sidewalk, but…

John: Admit it. This year, you would have kicked Dennis off the sidewalk.

Hugh: I like Dennis. I wouldn’t kick him off. Maybe others.

Q: What people find most valuable are the vast number of get-togethers that happen all over town. So much good stuff. What’s your point of view? Is there an official view toward the unofficial side of SXSW?

A: We are much more aggressive in terms of trying to control unofficial events. That’s mainly due to safety, since we take safety more seriously than some of the pop-up events do. As organizers, we try to bring those unofficial things in. But, most attendees can’t tell the difference between what’s official or unofficial. Attendees know, I went to Austin, had a great time at SXSW, went to a party, met great people, I made connections, I got business opportunities out of it, it was a worthwhile experience. It’ s a cops and robbers game. As soon as we bring them in, other unofficial things come up.

Q: SXSW really lights up the city.

A: It does take over the city. That’s a good thing for a lot of people. But lots of people don’t like this week because it’s a huge traffic disruption. For many years, some will tell me, “I’m not a huge fan of SXSW, but I rent my place out via Airbnb that week, so you paid for my vacation. There’s a thriving under-the-radar economy there.

Q: Lastly, tell us the story about President Obama speaking here:

A: We have been working, cultivated relationships in the White House, particularly in the Obama administration, for many, many years. There have been speakers from the White House who have participated in panels, other speakers who’ve moved onto the White House. We’ve had pretty strong context there. There has been interest in previous years, but the timing didn’t quite work out. This year it did work out… I will say that the White House was very easy to work with throughout this process. There was very positive conversations. It wasn’t confirmed until we announced it last week, so we were sweating it out. I’ve said before that in the State of the Union address in January this year, the president mentioned Austin, at one point, while talking about startups.

Q: What’s President Obama going to talk about?

A: He’s going to talk about 21st century civic engagement. That geeks should go to Washington D.C., help reinvent government, help make it more efficient and effective. I think it’s a really good message for SXSW. We’ve pushed community good social causes for a while, and this fits well into that. That said, we also know a lot of the audience isn’t particularly political and believes that the government doesn’t understand technology all that well. They’ll be somewhat skeptical of this message.

Questions from the audience:

Jessica Federer, Global Head of Comms and PR Bayer Healthcare Animal Health:

Question for John: Are we going to ever see NewCo Austin together with SXSW?

A: We avoided SXSW. I’ll tell a story. I thought in 2007 or 2008, I noticed marketers were coming to SXSW when I was with Federated Media and we were doing events. One of them was called Signal. I actually called it Signal SXSW. Big mistake. I had Marissa Mayer come and asked other people to come a day early. It was kind of like the PreCommerce Summit. I reached out to Hugh. We worked it out. I changed the name to Signal Austin. Ever since that time I was one of the unofficial events and I was making such a bad mistake… Fortunately, I got pulled into the tent. From that point on I made sure I got Hugh’s permission and that I didn’t schedule anything around SXSW. Now, NewCo Austin will happen in July.

Rohit Bharghava, CEO & Founder, Influential Marketing Group

Question for Hugh: With so much activity in terms of content sessions, are you looking at the TED kind of model of making video stream recordings available?

A: We do record audio of the sessions and make them available as podcasts after the event. We’re doing more with livestreaming. TED is this finely curated meal. And that’s wonderful. [SXSW] is a 24-hour all-you can eat buffet, and that’s wonderful at times too. Presentations and panels are great, but ultimately what people come to events to meet other people, make connections, have face-to-face conversations that happen outside the panels, at the bar, happy hour. Panels are just the hook to get people in and to market the thing.

It’s SXSW Eve, so we thought we would feature one of Austin’s up and coming entrepreneurial couples this evening.  Bryan and Amelia Thomas decided to blend virtual world creativity and real world play to found a company called PopUp Play.  If you ever buy presents for kids, you’ll be interested in this company.

Here’s a brief Q&A between myself and Amelia and Bryan.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your company?

From Amelia: PopUp Play began with a conversation I had with some friends.  We were talking about our favorite toys as children, and I remembered the “Flying Phone Booth,” a shipping crate my sisters and I turned into a spaceship. Over the next year we refined the concept as we talked to people who had young children.  It was the enthusiastic response from these parents that pushed us to make PopUp Play a reality. So, we knew the business concept was really attractive to prospective customers.

What gets us excited is that kids can experience the joy and self-confidence of bringing their creations to life and playing with them. Taking a digital design and then interacting with your life-size creation is an experience previously reserved for adult engineers, architects and designers. We have brought that experience to kids.

Q: What are the most important learnings as an entrepreneur that could help others as they start their companies?

Building any kind of company will involve an entire community.  Friends, family, former co-workers, strangers, we could have not gotten this far without the help of countless people who have donated their time and money to make PopUp Play a reality.

Create a lean business canvas as soon as possible and review it regularly.  Early on, it will force you to ask all of the hard questions about your business.  As you build your business refer back to it regularly to see whether your assumptions have changed and to keep you on track.

Openly share the idea.  This is great advice from Guy Kawasaki, in his book “The Art of the Start.”  Sharing your idea with people you trust and respect will result in a huge amount of feedback that will make it better or change your direction entirely.  This value far outweighs any potential cost of someone “stealing” your idea.  After all, ideas are free, execution is where the value is.

Q: Tell us about your main product.  How do children interact with it?  What do they like?

PopUp Play enables kids to design and build their own toys.  Our first product is an experience where kids, ages 3-9, design a custom playhouse that we then manufacture exactly to their specifications and deliver a few days later.  Kids are able to easily set up their playhouse, decorate it and then play inside their creation.

The experience begins on an interactive design app called the PopUp Play Build Lab.  Kids select from options like a house or castle.  They place structural components like towers, windows, doors and roofs.  Then they decorate their creation with graphics torches, dragons or fairies.  At the press of a button they can order their creation.  We deliver their creation a few days later as a life-size playhouse.  Then the play experience continues when the kid creators decorate and color their playhouse and play massive games of make believe inside their creation.

Kids love that they can take what they are seeing on their tablet and play with it in their living room.  It’s a new way of thinking that kids otherwise don’t have access to.  When a kid sees this structure in real life that they created on their iPad, the sheer amount of joy on their face is remarkable.  The phrase “mind blown” might have been created for this moment.

Q:  When you were a kid, what were your favorite toys?

We already talked about Amelia’s favorite toy, the Flying Phone Booth.  Bryan’s favorite toy was a bicycle.  He loved the freedom it gave him to explore and go on adventures.

Thank you Amelia and Bryan, you’re building a very cool company and Austin is proud of you!  We wish you the best of luck.

 

Every quarter, investor relations professionals spend hours preparing press releases and conference call scripts to provide updates on their company’s recent milestones and financial status. Sometimes even that is usually not enough to tell the whole story, with most public companies also conducting a Q&A session during their quarterly calls. With all of that work going into fine tuning your messages and providing a comprehensive vision, how can you possibly be expected to condense that story into a 140 character tweet?

The short answer is, you can’t. As an upcoming SXSW panel (140 Characters, Zero Context) will discuss, the character limitations on Twitter can make providing context to your story difficult, to say the least. But since you can’t just ignore a channel that is rapidly being adopted by the media and investors alike, you need to find a way to work within those limitations to make sure that more than just your stock price gets shared.

In starting this conversation, the first question I typically get from CFOs is, do investors really care about social media? The answer to that has been shown to be unequivocally yes. You could easily look at the number of followers of major financial media (Jim Cramer from MadMoney has nearly 1 million followers) for an answer but recently there have also been some studies showing how investors use social media and the impact that it can have on their behavior and opinions.

Greenwich Associates conducted a survey of 256 investors from the US, Europe and Asia and 80 percent say they use social media as part of their workflow. Nearly a third of these investors stated the information obtained through social media directly influences investment decisions. The other interesting tidbit from this study is that while investors use Twitter to track breaking news and company updates, LinkedIn is the most popular platform for work-related purposes.

This may lead to the question then of why even bother with Twitter, why not just move to other platforms that are less restrictive. There are several reasons why Twitter should not be ignored. First, it generates a significant volume of conversation. So far this year, Gilead ($GILD) has been mentioned in nearly 50,000 tweets. Even smaller companies can see a lot of traction on Twitter. In a nod to SXSW, let’s look at an Austin-based company – Luminex ($LMNX), a small-cap company that develops and markets biological tests has been mentioned on Twitter over 1,100 times so far this year.

The second reason not to ignore Twitter is that even with the character restrictions, Twitter is one of the best ways to engage directly with your audiences. You can convey a sense to trust and transparency and truly build a relationship with people in 140 characters. This is supported by a study from the University of Illinois that showed that when a tweeting CEO shared negative news from their personal handle, 46 percent of investors perceived the poor financial results to be a one-time event, compared to those who learned of the information from a CEO letter on the company website (eight percent), from the IR portal on the company website (nine percent) or through an IR or corporate twitter handle (12 percent). Having the CEO engage in what felt like a personal level on Twitter was shown to actually help buoy the company’s stock price during difficult times.

This leads us to the foundational reason why having a comprehensive social media strategy is so important: the channels are used differently. Even when you cannot tell the full story, Twitter can be an extremely effective channel to provide quick updates and teasers to where to find more information, to guide people to blogs, webcasts or LinkedIn posts where you do have the real estate to provide context beyond 140 characters. Think of Twitter as the guy on the airport tarmac directing planes where to go. You are guiding your audience to another platform where they can read about your whole story rather than just see the most recent update on your stock price. But Twitter is also an excellent opportunity to humanize your news, to build trust with your investors. By showing that your management team is invested in building the best company possible, you are providing that intangible context that doesn’t always shine through in a press release or investor presentation. That context can be just as valuable as anything beyond 140 characters.

It is that time of year again… South by Southwest (SXSW). Once again, our company will be hosting some awesome events leading up to (and slightly overlapping with) SXSW Interactive. For those not familiar, SXSW is a giant conference/festival comprised of three parts: Interactive, Film and Music. Given the importance of Interactive or “digital” to our clients’ business, we take this opportunity to invite many of our clients and partners to town to learn, network and celebrate.

Recap video from our awesome 2015 events

Our signature event, the PreCommerce Summit, takes place on Thursday, March 10 from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and is packed with speakers from well-known brands like Bayer, Hewlett Packard, Best Buy, Medtronic, Intel and Overstock.com. We will also have thought leaders from companies like Techonomy, Politico, NewCo and Crowd Companies providing a look at what the future holds in store. This event focuses squarely on innovation and its fast-paced formats (10 to 20 minute TED-like talks, power panels and pithy fireside chats) allow for learning on steroids. And of course there is the networking.

This event will be attended by about 450 plus customers, partners and other industry thought leaders. A cocktail reception will follow with special WILCO side project, Autumn Defense. 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 if you can’t physically be there. Registration is open to the public.

In addition to PreCommerce, we also host a digital brunch at our swank offices located in East Austin. If you like food trucks, cold-brewed coffee, music, cocktails, cool demos and lost of interesting people, you will enjoy this. We have also ordered sunny weather so this is a good opportunity to work on your tan.

Every SXSW, we do our best to cover “what’s next” in the world of  business. This year, we’re planning to host an event called “Movers and Shapers” (formerly GeekFest) on Saturday at CB’s (the new VIP event space at Stubbs) from 10:00 A.M – 2:00 P.M. Speakers include senior level marketers and thought leaders from companies like Intel, AbbVie, Galderma, Techonomy and Bayer. Featured speakers will include Ray Kerins, SVP Comms. & Govt. Relations at Bayer and Robert Scoble, Futurist at Rackspace.

In addition to these three amazing events, we will also host our seventh annual Geekacue Saturday night at iconic Stubbs BBQ on Red River. This year, we’ve booked Red Bull Sound Select artist, Not in the Face along with new festival darling, Black Pistol Fire (check out their video below).

If you need more proof that these events are amazing, check out my 2015 wrap up post.

You can find information on all of our events here.

Thursday, March 10th: Sixth Annual PreCommerce Summit –  It will be a series of 10 minute TED-style talks, panels, and fire side chats.

  • Eventbrite here (password required – email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
  • Zach’s Theatre: 1510 Toomey Rd, Austin, TX
  • Sessions run 9:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M.
  • Cocktail Hour from 5:00-6:00PM featuring band, Autumn Defense
  • Live stream available for those not able to attend coming soon
  • Complementary but invite only.

PreCommerce 2016 Speakers Include:

Friday, March 11th: Digital Brunch (350+ director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)

  • RSVP Here (no password required)
  • 3000 East Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX
  • 10:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M.
  • 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

Saturday, March 12th: Movers & Shapers Summit (150 director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)

  • RSVP Here (password required — email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
  • Stubbs BBQ — VIP area called CB’s — 801 Red River St, Austin, TX

Movers & Shapers Speakers confirmed include:

7th Annual Geekacue: Saturday, March 12th:  (800 director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)

  • RSVP Here (password required – email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
  • Stubbs BBQ – 801 Red River St, Austin, TX
  • 6:00 P.M. – 10:00 P.M.
  • Roundtrip shuttle available from the Stephen 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 Bayer and SysomosDynamic Signal, Synthesio as our sponsors this year (2-3 more to be announced shortly). We greatly appreciate their support.

With this quote by Jack Welch, Bob Pearson finished his talk at the W2O PreCommerce Summit in London today. The President and Chief Innovation Officer at W2O Group, encouraged the audience to remain nimble to be able to adapt to future trends and changes and shared some of his insights into tomorrow’s world of brands, customers and media.

As described in his book PreCommerce, Bob sees the biggest value for brands in decreasing the distance to their customers and focus on pre-commerce phase vs. the actual point of sale: Only those who are able to listen, will be able to respond and adapt to market needs – maybe even before those needs actually exist.

The digital age definitely enabled brands to be much closer to their target audiences than ever before; however, the structures, relationships and stakeholders, as we have known them for years, will no longer exist in the future. Bob Pearson summarizes this development in four key game changing trends:

  1. Our Definition of Audience Is Changing

If we look at the 1-9-90 model, we can clearly see the former content creators and outlets are no longer as relevant in the online conversation as the 9%, which we define as brand advocates, those who spend their time inside social media channels, who are part of strong peer groups and, who add their views to existing content, that will share the future of your brand’s or company’s story. With this development, the audience is now more important than the outlet.

  1. The PESO model is flipping

As the 9% grow in importance, so does earned and shared media. This requires us to integrate a new media planning model that defines an insight-driven social media channel and influencer strategy, which roles out into campaigns, content and experiences. As part of this model, paid media amplification remains an important part to break through the “noise”, but it will follow conversations and communities more than news.

  1. Markets Don’t Wait for Campaigns Anymore

Digital conversation is dynamic and to be able to participate, brands need to be agile. Providing customers with what they need, where they need it and when they need it, is a challenge that includes our creative approach. Those brands who are able to use data and respond to trends in real-time, with content dynamically changing based on interest, will make the 365 campaign become real.

  1. Micro Segmentation Replaces “Personas”

Or in Bob’s words “We always knew that top-down persona-driven segments of “five audience types” was wrong”. With each person and each audience having their own media ecosystem, the roll-up of these ecosystems defines the media network. In order to customize content to their target audiences, brands need to understand how the audience and their attention are fragmented. Therefore, the future media leaders will excel in audience architecture.

About Bob Pearson

Bob Pearson is President and Chief Innovation Officer at W2O Group. Bob has a unique combination of social media, marketing and communications skills acquired during nearly 25 years at three Fortune BobPearson500 companies and a major consultancy. In 2011, he published his book “Pre-Commerce: How Companies and Customers are Transforming Business Together”, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. He is currently working on his next book, which will be available in March 2016. “Storytizing” will focus on the importance of creating a compelling and at the same time relevant narrative for your brand.

Together with panelists Steven Overman, CMO at Eastman Kodak, Simon Shipley, Marketing and Innovation Manager at Intel, and Steve Milton, Consultant and Former Corporate Communications director at eBay, Bob Pearson investigates whether evolution is enough to stay relevant in the new digital economy.

There’s a clear need to embrace digital, but do we need to learn more about it before we start our digital agenda to ensure we do it right?

For Bob’s panelists digital is actually something that needs to be part of the mindset of an organization in order to be successful and impactful. Since the nature of the digital world is dynamic and not stable, we need to start acting, but also remain nimble to be able to respond to changes in the future.

Part of our digital transformation should also be a reevaluation of familiar questions: How do global brand behave in local markets? Do we position ourselves as the known and trusted international brand or do we adapt to local needs? Navigating between the waters of global and local has always been a challenge for companies, but when it comes to digital the core question actually diminishes – there is no local. However, we have to think through more tactical implications such as various languages, servers or how we handle e-commerce fulfillment. We are trying to behave in a unified way, but have to figure out how those things can actually be executed.

Another key question in digital is whether or not e-commerce is becoming channel and platform agnostic by integrating the ability to sell and buy into our social channels. It is actually not a question of if, but rather when we see this development, thinking about markets like China, where the integration of the marketplace into the social world is already reality.

So what can online marketing tech companies do to be more relevant and valuable? With a lot of change we need to have a scientist’s mindset, being curious, trying out new things and failing fast, which is not failure, but a way to gain new insights. Most importantly we need to listen of what people care about and can no longer assume we know.

I started my career as a research scientist at UCLA and spent years in the lab laser-focused on repeatability between experiments, making each day EXACTLY the same as the last. As intellectually challenging as it was, it was also… boring. If variety is the spice of life, I was eating white bread every day.

This is what led me away from the lab and instead to BrewLife, and an existence fully of daily variety. Two weeks ago is a perfect example.

W2O Group, the parent company of BrewLife, hosted its 5th annual Pre-Commerce Summit to kick off SXSW Interactive on March 11th in Austin, TX. The day was full of compelling talks that made me rethink my approach to communicating, to strategy, even to thinking.

I learned that if you want to make products that resonate with your audience, you need to check your preconceptions at the door. This is exactly what didn’t happen when YouTube engineers first designed how videos reorient when you turn your phone. (All my fellow left-handers know what I mean.)

Al Roker and W2O President, Jim Weiss
Al Roker and W2O President, Jim Weiss

To communicate effectively, you not only need to put your preconceptions aside, you should also put yourself in the shoes of the person you are communicating to. A great idea can be lost simply because it wasn’t explained in a clear or inspiring way. Al Roker shared a story at the PreCommerce summit that most parents can relate to. In an attempt to get his teenage daughter to clean her room, Al resorted to yelling, which resulted in tears and accusations of “if only America could see this Al Roker.” A clean room probably would have benefited both Al and his daughter, but once communication broke down they could not reach a point where they agreed on the best outcome.

All of these Pre-Commerce Summit talks started my brain a-swirling. How do we make sure we’re taking our best ideas and communicating them in a relevant and persuasive way?

ACC logoConveniently for my mileage rewards program, I went straight from SXSW to the American College of Cardiology (ACC) Conference in San Diego. I was there to work with a client on sharing the story their data told and helping others see the value of it. Even in the world of data there is disagreement: You can’t argue with a number but you can argue about what that number means. This idea of different takeaways or reactions to the same set of information was exactly the concept that had been rattling around in my head ever since the Pre-Commerce talks. In my brain, it was like SXSW, soul patches and live music collided directly with cardiologists in suits. Two worlds that shall never meet… until they did.

I left San Diego with a greater appreciation that no matter what the topic is, from healthcare, to tech, to family discussions, we each bring our own preconceived notions to the table and, at times, struggle to get others to see our point of view. But you can’t get others to understand your point of view until you understand what they bring to the conversation.

Communication is an art, a science and definitely not a one-way street. You cannot effectively engage in discussion until you listen to what the other person is bringing to the conversation and account for that in your thinking. It may change your approach to the discussion, but more importantly, it may change your own preconceptions. Maybe you’ll consider a new treatment protocol for your patient or maybe you’ll think to make a video player that rotates for left-handed people.

 

 

Each year, more than 25,000 interactive experts visit Austin to hear about what’s next and reflect on what it means for their organizations. It’s very easy to get caught up in the buzz. Very hard to sort through it all and figure out what really matters. Basically, what is the trend underlying an innovation or what is the truth that we should live by as we lead our communications teams? Here are four key trends related to innovation and four pearls of wisdom from leading professionals that emerged at SXSW. Each is focused on how it will influence our work.

1. The importance of Meerkat. On its face, it’s simply an app that allows you to share video via Twitter. In reality, visual content is our favorite way to learn and it is driving many innovative models.

The Fortune 500 is doing a poor job of leading with video first, however. In fact, often it is just an add-on to our work. Big mistake.

We prefer to learn visually, technology is making it easier to do so and the marketplace is creating more visual solutions. Are we evolving our own use of video inside our companies?

2. Speed kills old models. We groan as we wait six to nine months for a campaign to be created, approved and released. The good news is that technology enables speed and when speed gains enough momentum, it destroys old models. We’re moving into the era of the agile campaign, where hours matter, not months. You can see it in how companies share news at SXSW. More important, communicators can develop libraries of content in advance of trends and then react within minutes when necessary. Speed + Right Content + Right Window = Results.

3. Data scientists are the new media planners. Customer behavior (earned and shared media) will influence greatly how we plan for paid media. We should always know what our customers actually do online before we develop a paid media plan. Earned media makes paid media smart.

For communicators, this is a gift from heaven. Will we be ready to take advantage of how analytics is reshaping the market? Do our communications teams have geeks on staff? We should.

Source: W20 Group

4. Responsive experience trumps responsive design. We used to focus on ensuring the same website experience was shown in the same way via any device. This responsive design approach now is table stakes.

For our owned media, we need to ensure the right experience, not the same experience, is shown each time. With more than 50 percent of content consumed by mobile phone, we only get one chance to get it right. It’s critical for communicators to understand search habits, who visits their site and what that experience should be. We can’t just count site visits.

And here are some tips from senior executives patched into business communications:

1. Change is normal. “One thing I’ve learned about being a communications professional—especially in digital—is to be open and flexible to change. As you know, the digital landscape changes approximately every 6 months. You have to think about how you’re going to reach your customers on the platforms they use, it’s not the other way around.”

Paul Buckman, Director, Online Communications, US Food and Drug Administration

 

2. Say hello to real KPIs. “It’s very easy to say that communicators need to be data-driven, but the real trend needs to be communicators focusing less on rear-view mirror measurement and more on what helps to inform the road ahead.

It’s great that the goals for a particular campaign were met, but how does that information help us plan the next campaign?

How does it help us hone the list of people we plan to engage with for the next quarter? How does it help us use the right sort of keywords in our copy? How does it help us achieve greater brand lift for the upcoming quarter? Rear-view mirror measurement doesn’t always help answer those questions, and the industry is still doing far too much of that sort of work.”

Chuck Hemann, Manager, Analytics, Intel Corp.

 

3. New school ROI. “Too often we are caught up in vanity metrics like the number of views or clicks and likes and less interested in or able to explain the true business value related to our effort.

Did we create a piece of content that can be leveraged by marketing, sales or recruiting? Are we moving the needle on corporate reputation or adding value to the brand?

Whether it is positioning the company, selling product or recruiting new talent, communications professionals need to explain more succinctly what we are doing, why we are doing it and the value it brings.

Doing so allows us to tangibly show that our communications outcomes are creating true business results.”

Michael Marinello, Head of Global Comm., Technology, Innovation & Sustainability, Bloomberg

 

4. Avoid content pollution. “We are on the cusp of a new horizon for communications professionals but are dangerously close to messing it up as a profession. The modern communicator needs to meld great content with the science of content distribution and the insights of big data.

We can no longer shout messages and hope they stick. Instead we need to be data modelers, big data and insight experts, digital channel pros and world-class storytellers who create content that cuts through the clutter, minimizes content pollution and is measureable by its impact.”

Andrew Bowins, Senior VP, Corporate Reputation and Engagement, MasterCard

As we sort through the innovation as well as some hype, the message is pretty clear. We have the best opportunity in our lifetimes to evolve the communications profession. We also have the most urgency to do this now with intent, purpose and skill.

CONTACT:

Bob Pearson is President of W20 Group and author of “Pre-Commerce: How Companies and Customers are Transforming Business Together” (John Wiley and Sons). He can be reached at bpearson@w2ogroup.com

This article originally appeared in the March 16, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.

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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Brunch

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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.

geekacue2

geekacue1

geekacue3

terry blacks

2015-03-14 20.02.22

geekacue-bobnmitch

geekacue-whiskeyshivers

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.

photobooth1

photobooth2

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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.

Like Aaron mentioned, was thrilled to see more amazing speakers at our inaugural Geekfest SXSW event. I think just about all who listened to the discussion about cybersecurity came away with the same takeaway: it’s a bigger problem than you think.

TK Keanini (CTO – Lancope)  kicked things off with Cybersecurity: a Game of Innovation. In his presentation, he made the case that cybersecurity is an ongoing game of innovation, where both sides work to out-innovate the other. He started with the evolution of Cyber Conflict from manual attacks/ defenses paved the way for mechanized attacks/ defenses to talented human/ mechanized attackers and the equivalvant on the defensive side. Finally, 2011 brings things to where we are now: do-it-yourself human threats/ mechanized attackers. By DIY, TK meant hackers these days don’t need to code. They can buy tools that automate much of the process. Citing stats from Hackmageddon.com, the US was the #1 security target overall by a pretty wide margin, followed by the UK. Because it is lucrative, Cyber crime was the motivation behind almost 75 percent of the attacks in February this year.

TK also turned attention to the Internet of Things (IoT), providing a glimpse of the security problems it causes.  For example, SHODAN, an Internet-connected device search engine created and run by John Matherly (@achillean on Twitter), easily shows the vulnerabilities of internet devices many of us use every day. One example: a crematorium that was unsecured (as in anyone could control it from the Internet). Eye-opening and scary to say the least.

TK also referenced Verizon’s 2014 Data Breach Report as another example of how the good guys are being out-innovated in terms of cybersecurity. What can we do about it? Change how the game is played: instead of focusing on patching hundreds of security holes, focus efforts on detecting hackers in the midst of a series of operations we know they need to perform.

He reminded those in attendance that security is everyone’s problem, and offered the following recommendations: be social about security (look out for each other 0nline); operate online with a healthy degree of paranoia; use 2-factor authentication whenever possible (check https://twofactorauth.org/ for more); on the enterprise side, pay for security features and demand more from vendors); remember that only (mostly) secure data is encrypted data.

Here are TK Keanini’s slides and more background on him:
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TK Keanini

Bio: TK Keanini brings nearly 25 years of network and security experience to the CTO role. He is responsible for leading Lancope’s evolution toward integrating security solutions with private and public cloud-based computing platforms. TK is also responsible for developing the blueprint and solution that will help Lancope’s customers securely benefit from the promise of software-defined networking (SDN). Prior to joining Lancope, Keanini served as CTO for nCircle, driving product innovation that defined the vulnerability management and configuration compliance market. Before joining nCircle, he served as Vice President of Network Services for Morgan Stanley Online, where he built and secured a highly available online trading system. Previously, Keanini was a systems engineer at Cisco, advising top financial institutions on the design and architecture of their data networking infrastructure. Keanini is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

Michael Crosno  (Executive – Click Security) continued the reasons to be concerned theme when he took the stage to discuss The Changing Landscape of Enterprise Security. Michael shared tons of scary stats and a couple anecdotes to illustrate just how difficult things have become. Michael painted the picture that hackers outgun the good guys in a number of different ways. How so? Globally, companies spend $70 billion per year on cybersecurity; hackers make over $300 billion over that same time frame. Regarding the cost: Drug-trafficking  costs us about $600 million a year; security breaches costs us over $1 trillion a year. Continuing down that path, Michael confirmed 400,000 registered hackers in China; they are unionized, can get health insurance; black market tools available everywhere. Hackers don’t need to code at all today.

Michael also discussed the Anthem hack, estimated to have affected tens of millions of customers, in a coordinated effort that happened over the course of an estimated 10 months. What are hackers doing with that information? Selling the entire details of a person’s health information from medical history to insurance ID. Say you have medical problems with your knees that will require surgery. Hackers will sell you insurance ID and appropriate details to someone overseas that will allow them to fly into the United States (in a different state than you reside) and to have those knee surgeries using your health insurance to pay the bill. Scary stuff.

So, what does all this mean to IT security? Michael sees a shift in focus from threat prevention  or detection (keeping hackers out) to threat investigation (finding hackers once they are in your network). He cited research from Microsoft that analyzed 20 years of security breaches that found nearly 500 actions were common requirements for large-scale security attacks. Research from Google and Symantec came up with slightly lower numbers, but all agree that there are a set of steps hackers have to go through. Per Michael, companies need to focus on recognizing hacker behaviors during these processes to build out predictive patterns so they can catch them in the act. That’s why he says the next big wave of security tools will focus on investigation rather than prevention.Ultimately, he sees security maturing in the same way Business Intelligence has. Years ago, companies had small teams of BI analysts. These days, lots of people in different BUs use BI software for insights. Regardless, companies will need a lot more people involved on the security front.

Michael Crosno

Bio: Michael Crosno is currently the President and CEO of Click Security. Prior to Click Security, he was the Founder and CEO of MyEdu Corporation in Austin, Texas, which he sold to Blackboard Corporation in 2014. Crosno joined MyEdu from Global 360, a leading BPM company, where he was President and CEO and sold it to private equity firms, TA Associates, Technology Crossover Ventures and JMI Equity. Before joining Global 360, Mr. Crosno served as CEO of the leading enterprise portal company, Epicentric, Inc. He sold the company to Vignette and served as EVP Worldwide Operations. Previously, he was EVP at Gemplus, SVP of Worldwide Operations at ViewStar and VP of Sales and Marketing at Computer Associates.

Michael Coté (Director, Technical Marketing – Pivotal)  closed things out on the cloud front discussing how companies can implement a fail fast model while still being focused on the right things in a presentation he called “Failing fast for the up-tight.”

In a talk that featured outfitting urinals with sensors to the Death Star, he made the point that failing fast worked for implementing cloud infrastructure tools and in other areas as well. Regarding failing fast, Coté acknowledged the tech concept of failing fast doesn’t seem to make sense for some companies at first blush, but it’s a positive thing because it gets at trying to solve specific problems. To him, failing fast means rapidly try out new things; getting new code in customers hands on a daily or weekly basis, Observing how customers use it, gathering feedback and iterating based on that feedback, In other words, failing fast really means learning fast.

So where do urnials come into the picture? Coté compared outfitting old urinals with sensors to how many companies have approached their private cloud implementations over the last several years. Modernizing old,  legacy urinals  with sensors that only work part of the time ends up frustrating the users. Not focusing on the bowl means not addressing the fundamental problem of using too much water; inefficiency. It’s a halfhearted attempt to implement technology. Similar to what Pivotal sees with many clients in regard to their private cloud implementations. In their reseacrhc, Pivot found that up to 95% weren’t happy with results of their private cloud efforts. I n many cases, they were doing half the work, or installing an infrastructure and expecting that to make a difference; 3 – 5  years later, many companies are  getting to what he called the “state of the blinking cursor.” Companies invested in changing infrastructure, rolled out new cloud technology, but nothing much is happening as a result. In Coté believes companies need to focus less on installing chunks of infrastructure and spend more time using the failing fast model to test what functionality needs to be rolled out to help end users.

Here’s Michael’s presentation and a bit more detail about him:

Michael Cote

Bio: Michael Coté works at Pivotal as part of the technical marketing group. He’s been an industry analyst at 451 Research and RedMonk, worked in corporate strategy and M&A at Dell in software and cloud, and was a programmer for a decade before all that. He blogs and podcasts at Cote.io and is @cote in Twitter.

 

 

 

For more information on our SXW2O events, please visit our website: http://w2oevents.com

Hard to believe after three full days of events that we could bring more education, networking and fun to our clients, sponsors and friends, but via our newest SXSW event, Geekfest, we once again delivered. This post will focus on the Future of Tech and Marketing portion of the event with speakers Zita Cassizzi of Toms Shoes, Becky Brown of Intel and Pete Blackshaw of Nestle.

Here is a little more background and some key take-aways for each:

Zita Cassizzi is the Chief Digital Officer at TOMS.  She joined TOMS in 2012 and is currently the Global Chief Digital Officer. She is responsible for all things digital including the P&L, social, mobile, customer experience, web development as well as building out the digital international presence. Zita is a dynamic leader with over 20 years of experience in creating and leading global businesses, marketing and global e-commerce. She loves creating global strategies, solving complex business challenges based on data and analytics, and building high-performing teams and businesses as a result. Zita is passionate about women’s issues. During her 16 years at Dell and now at TOMS, she serves as a co-founder of a women’s networking organization.

Zita Cassizzi

Zita opened up by talking about taking technology and leveraging it for the sake of better customer service. And even that starts with some basic grounding tenets:

  • You don’t own your brand.
  • Your customers thoughts and emotions about your brand are more important
  • You must inspire and collaborate with your fans in co-creating brand stories and content with you, making them participants and leading stars
  • You should empower via site, social media to create and foster a sense of community and belonging both online and offline

One of the lenses Tom’s uses for curating their customer experience is via #travelingtoms and #tomsholidaycheer via photos. Online storytelling at its finest.

Another major component of tapping technology to empower the service of their customers is through creating events and moments (experiences) that connect their fans to the brand online and offline. They also leverage diverse online and offline touchpoints (stores, Instagram, installations) and ultimately through technologies like augmented reality.

My favorite point the Zita made is her stressing of the importance of delivering “memorable moments”  thus inspiring and motivating their customers to take action. This should create a dialog in the physical and online world.

___________

Becky Brown is the vice president in the Global Marketing and Communications organization and director of the Digital Marketing and Media Group at Intel Corporation. She has overall responsibility for Intel’s “connected customer” experience, which encompasses the company’s digital marketing and advertising investments and strategies. Brown leads a global team defining Intel’s roles and investments in a breadth of media, developing relationships across the advertising and digital ecosystem, and building marketing capabilities and solutions to connect the customer journey.

Becky Brown

I love the fact that at an event called “Geekfest” where many of the speakers drilled down on how technology was helping us/changing us, Becky asked us to take a step back and think about the importance of People and Process versus being overly focused on technology and tools.

As part of her thought process, Becky talked about the fact that she turned over 30% of her team last year. Some of the new skill sets she is acquiring include:

  • Expertise vs. generalists
  • Trained vs. acquired
  • Strategic hires (data scientist, customer experience, operations)
  • Comfortable with data and technology
  • New vocabulary
  • Deepen partnership with IT

Becky also noted that she loves hiring Millenials because of their curiosity and the fact that they are really good at asking questions (inquiry mode).

During her talk, one of the visuals she shared really hammered home her message of there being an overabundance of tools (below).

tools

___________

Pete Blackshaw is the the Vice President of  Digital and Social Media at Nestlé, S.A. Leading global digital strategies for the top FMCG. Pete established the Digital Acceleration Team (DAT) and the Silicon Valley Innovation Outpost (SVIO). DAT is an 8-month digital immersion program for 12 aspiring leaders around the globe, that has now been replicated in 10 markets in Nestlé. SVIO is Nestlé’s connection to the innovation ecosystem in  Silicon Valley, tasked with identifying and leveraging leading digital partners to enhance the health and wellness of consumers. Pete previously served as CMO of  NM Incite, a  Nielsen-McKinsey social media research venture, and earlier, helped Procter & Gamble win Ad Age’s “Interactive Marketer of the Year” distinction. He is the author of  Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000 (Doubleday), founder of PlanetFeedback.com, co-founder of  the Word of  Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and former Chairman of  the Board for the National Council of  the Better Business Bureau. He  was awarded the Advertising Research Foundation’s (ARF) “Great Minds” distinction in 2010.

Pete BlackshawPete’s talk focused on his company, Nestle’s Innovation Trifecta which talked about:

  • Digital Acceleration Team’s (DAT) model and programming
  • Silicon Valley Outpost
  • Enterprise social media

Pete’s talk created an interesting juxtaposition to that of Becky’s (a technologist talking about the fact that we need to focus more on people and process versus tools and technology). As the head of digital at one of the largest consumer package good companies in the world, he sounded every bit technologist talking about speed, agility, start-ups and digital acceleration.

Pete did echo his belief in the importance of many of the same values and skill sets that Becky mentioned during his talk with a premium being placed on sharing.  In particularly, he stressed sharing across global markets.

Lastly, Pete made a request from the group asking them for help working with Nestles to bring new, innovative solutions into the enterprise. Sounds like a good bridge to the PreCommerce panel on adopting and scaling innovation, Josh Kampel of Techonomy, led the other day.

It was my absolute pleasure to co-host our very first GeekFest with our president, Bob Pearson, and bring together some of the most interesting and technical minds for a great discussion on Open Source, Security, Digital Marketing and Emerging Tech.  This post will focus on our Open Source Software panel, with speakers Joe McCann, Matt Franklin and Boyd Hemphill.

Joe McCann

Joe McCann is a co-founder/CEO of NodeSource. He is a hacker, tinkerer, builder and breaker with more than 13 years of web, mobile and software development experience. He has a special fondness for Node.JS because he can rapidly prototype an idea within minutes. These speedy ideation sessions fed into his desire to help Fortune 500 companies build actual products that allow technology to be utilized in real world scenarios. Joe has a broad background ranging from being a techno DJ to working on Wall Street. The perspective he brings to technology is rather unique and unconventional. Joe is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit, actively promoting emerging technologies and relevant business use cases to bring pragmatism to futurism.

Joe opened the discussion by talking about the macro-trend of unbundling, using cable tv subscriptions as an analog for the future of app development.  In 2014 we reached an inflection point wherein there were as many people with Cable TV vs Internet Subscribersbroadband Internet connections to their homes as there were cable TV subscribers – more and more of those customers want to pay for only the television services they use.  Similarly companies are unbundling – eBay and PayPal split up, Symantec has created Veritas to unbundle their information tech business, and HP announced that they will be splitting into two companies.
Node.JS is well suited for this move in the app space – centered around the idea of creating smaller, unbundled services, which interact via api “contracts” and creating smaller, more agile and manageable micro-services designed to scale.
Joe closed out with the point that every company is ultimately a tech company and must learn to use technology to the betterment of their business.  By moving away from macro-services and large, unwieldy codebases they can become more responsive to the changes in their industry.

Matt Franklin

Our own Matt Franklin is a technical and business leader with experience leading efforts in open source investment, software architecture, big data analytics, identity management, agile software development, service oriented architecture, and social business integration.

As an advocate of open source software, Matt is always looking to apply business practices that pragmatically leverage and contribute to the open source software community. He is an active member of the Apache Software Foundation and participates in local and global open source outreach as an organizer of BarCamps, meet-ups and conferences.

Matt gave the group a great introduction into the Apache Software Foundation, the largest foundation dedicated to the creation and support of Open Source Software.  He introduced us to the mission and purpose of the ASF and the pivotal support it brings to open source projects.  The Apache Way, although often seen by outsiders as a heavyweight process, has been honed over the years to give projects the support they need to flourish.

“The incubator project is the entry path into the Apache Software Foundation for projects and codebases wishing to become part of the Foundation’s efforts.”

He also introduced us to a few projects currently in incubation and some new projects coming into Apache.
  • Kylin is a SQL-style interface on Hadoop recently open sourced from eBay
  • NiFi is a powerful visual system to process and distribute data
  • Tinkerpop is an open source graph computing framework working on it’s first official Apache release
  • Zepplin provides a beautiful data-driven, interactive and collaborative documents with SQL, Scala and more
  • HTrace provides a mechanism for easily tracing processes in distributed systems
  • Ignite is an in-memory data processing fabric designed to deliver uncompromised performance

Boyd

Boyd Hemphill, the Technology Evangelist for StackEngine, is a DevOps thought leader and builder of communities.  With over 25 years of technical experience, he has served as:Implementor of the Theory of Constraints as it applies to the Software Delivery Life Cycle, Automator of tasks that need doing more than once, Systems architect who provides ongoing vision, strategic guidance and mentorship for development teams to ensure long-term systems and data integrity, and Enabler of small teams to set and accomplish large goals.

Boyd is a force for good in the Austin Developer Community, serving as a mentor for many startups and developers.  He can be frequently found running or speaking at Meetups for Austin DevOps, Docker Austin, and other groups, volunteering with Geek Austin events, such as Data Days Texas, and is anchoring the upcoming Container Days Conference.

Boyd talked to us about two upcoming tidal waves – Docker and Lamdba.  Docker is a hot topic among the infrastructure community, which takes virtualization to the next level enabling unheard of level of efficiency.  Docker is moving fast, having gone from preview to production release in under 18 months, and it’s already fully supported by AWS and Google Cloud.  Lambda is a new service announced at Amazon’s latest Re:Invent conference, which creates an ecosystem of event-triggered micro-services.  This allows code to be run only when needed and the attached infrastructure to be billed in sub-second increments.  Together these innovations will dramatically change the way in which applications are created, and with the improved efficiency significantly lower the cost of running an infrastructure.

My favorite point from Boyd’s talk was around disposable environments.  SysAdmins used to treat their infrastructure personally – each server was hand built, lovingly named and carefully cared for.  With the advent of Cloud Computing we’re now treating infrastructure as cattle instead of pets – servers come up and down automatically, do their work then go away.  With micro services and Docker the movement is now to ants instead of cattle – they are so disposable you don’t even notice that you’re stepping on them.  At StackEngine, Boyd is building the tools that make the ants all march in formation.

A huge thanks to all of our speakers at GeekFest.  We’ll be posting the videos from that and our other SXW2O events soon.

For more information on our SXW2O events, please visit our website: http://w2oevents.com

A Brief Recap of the Digital Marketing and Design Panel – part of Saturday’s GeekFest events

In a continuation of the day’s theme of emerging trends in the technology and communication landscape, this panel featured experts sharing their experiences and perspectives on new ways to foster connections. While each of our four experts shared their very approaches, all of them were all rooted in active listening and seeking more meaningful connection points.

Learning from each other

Daina (1)

Daina Middleton, Head of Global Business for Twitter, shared her personal passion for seeking connection through identifying the unique perspectives different team members share in approaching leadership and problem-solving. Middleton has been studying communication phenomena in different time periods, specifically the Old West, when traditional male and female work roles expanded because of need and the harsh environment. Her research has focused on identifying how to create stronger teams by recognizing and valuing the different approaches women and men generally take in the workplace.

Middleton organizes these different approaches with the monikers ‘grace’ and ‘grit’, with ‘grace’ representing the attributes females tend to employ, and ‘grit’ representing the male approach. Middleton explained that, “women use communication as a tool to enhance social connections and create relationships,” while “men use communication to achieve tangible outcomes and establish power.” While neither approach is patently right or wrong, each can be polarizing or limiting. It is only by listening to each other, and working to each team members’ best strengths that we overcome the limitations of a single viewpoint and have the greatest chance to succeed.

Pattern identification on social

Matthew Zito

Matthew Zito, VP of Products at Synthesio, shared his approach to listening to and exploring social patterns and data to create behavior-based profiles of customers and more individual buying journeys. These highly personalized profiles offer insights into customer preferences and personalities in a way that goes beyond demographics or clicks, and demonstrate a much deeper need for marketers to get to know their users as humans, not just buyers.

Zito shared examples of how profiling customer interests (beyond just interest in your product), brands can align their marketing plans with more personal and directed customer journey steps. These plans can even include specific times of day that will be most relevant to your customers. As Zito says, “don’t just measure your customers, understand your customers.”

An anthropological approach

Jon Kolko

The best way to learn how to help customers is to immerse yourself in their personal experiences through living them – challenges, successes, and

all.  That’s the message from Jon Kolko, Director and Founder of the Austin Design Center, speaking about how to listen better and use empathy to create products people love. Sharing some of the principles of his newly-released book, Well Designed, Kolko shared some of his experiences in designing products that are natively customer-first.

For Kolko and his team, customer-first means literally living with your end-user to get hands-on with their experience, hear how they absorb the world in their own words. Kolko shared that in one project, this immersive process involved living with college students, recording and analyzing their comments, and then designing an app to offer specific recommendations about the job application and recruiting process. This work highlighted expectation gaps between the students and recruiters who were filling jobs. Without having that deep experience, Kolko said the team would not have learned certain key insights, including what messages to focus on, what platforms and language to use, and how to make the app useful, while still being fun and appealing to students.

Learn by watching

Kurt Holstein

In a presentation called ‘Personalization – Are the ads from the movie Minority Report almost here?’ Kurt Holstein, President of Azoic Ventures, shared the current status of dynamic ‘DOOH’, or Digital Out of Home display advertising. This is the kind of advertising that is often placed in large environments like Times Square, but is also emerging in smaller footprints like interactive digital signage (think directional kiosks) and in proximity sensors like beacons. In keeping with the theme of learning from listening, Holstein shared the benefits of these types of dynamic ads – both to the marketer and to the end user.

End users will soon have the opportunity to have a much more personal experience with a brand based on customization (assuming they opt in) to share data with brands. In its current form, these beacons and personal approaches rely on apps and active input from the customer, and are best for driving offers or location-based information.

For marketers, new technology like Active Camera Technology (ACT) can recognize visitors and respond to visible demographic data. Age, gender, ethnicity can be combined with location, time of day, dwell time, as well as more individual characteristics like facial emotion markers – all to allow a display to respond and react to the identified characteristics. Combining the more personal beacon technology with the ACT will allow marketers to achieve the ‘Minority Report’ level of personalization – but only if our customers want it. It will be up to us to keep listening to them to balance promotion and privacy and foster good relationships.

For more information on our SXW2O events and speakers, please visit our website: http://w2oevents.com

Jim Weiss (CEO and Chairman – W2O Group) and Cathy Baron Tamraz (CEO – Businesswire) kicked off this afternoon with a PreCommerce Talk about Business Wire, which is the leading global commercial news wire.

Here is a summary of highlights of their discussion.

Cathy talked about how Business Wire now uses Content Capsules to share visual content along with news.  She talked about the importance of Business Wire’s reputation, much in keeping with the philosophy of their owner, Berkshire Hathaway and, of course Warren Buffet.  It is clear that Cathy treats the news of its clients as a treasured asset to be protected at all costs.  Right on.

The press release, by the way, is now 101 years old, according to Cathy.  Jim asked if the news release is still as important as it has been in the past.  Cathy gave the example that Apple utilized Business Wire to introduce its new watch.  Great way to answer the question succintly.

Jim discussed how W2O is partnering with Business Wire via NextWorks, led by Tim Bahr.  Cathy said that Intel is using the capsule, as well as Xerox, Cigna and more.  The key is that people are staying on the site for more than five minutes on average, which is far more important than counting clicks.  This portable website allows people to consume content anywhere, anytime and get the full story without having to travel to other locations.

In the Q&A, Cathy was asked “what about small companies who no one knows…what do they do?”  Cathy said you should not make the assumption that no one is watching….a release can be a great idea to get the word out for small businesses.  In fact, Business Wire built its business serving small companies that have grown up over the years, such as HP.  Jim added in that you can also identify the right influencers and keywords, so you help people find your story, which is important for any size company.  So if you are building a company out of your garage, Business Wire is an important part of your arsenal.

Jim ended with discussion of the concept of Storytizing…..and emphasized it is really about what others say about you, not what you say alone.  This speaks to the 1 and the 9 of the 1,9,90 model.  Empowering our audiences to tell our story is always the most powerful way to go.  Business Wire gets the word out….and great stories take it from there.  The fundamentals remain clear and simple.  The hard part is creating compelling content.  That’s on all of us.

Best, Bob

For more information on our SXW2O events and our speakers, please visit our website: http://w2oevents.com