It’s been two weeks since I returned from the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, TX. For those who were there, or have been before, you know how amazing it is; for those less fortunate, I’ll spare you the list of statistics and simply say, it was big, crowded, noisy, and the ultimate venue for all things social media.
The Interactive Track
The South by Southwest extravaganza includes music, film and interactive disciplines spread out over a two week period, but I decided to concentrate on the five day interactive track and mainly attend those sessions which focused on social media. While that may sound like a small piece of a very large media pie, from March 13th to 17th I was totally immersed in panels and discussions on blogging, Twitter, and Facebook, exploring how the tools of social media were changing the world of non-profits. By the time it was over I thought my head would explode due to information overload.
Social Media Nonprofit ROI Poetry Slam
The attendance of so many non-profit organizations at the festival surprised me, and turned out to be the most rewarding aspect of the entire event. The ROI Poetry Slam session was a lot of fun, with representatives from some of the world’s most respected non-profits sharing what they were doing with social media and the lessons they had learned while calculating their return on investment.
Using a poetry slam format, each panelist will present a five-minute poem or story about how their organization has successfully implemented a social media strategy experiment and how they considered the ROI. The audience will have ample opportunity to ask questions & respond.
- Beth Kanter, Beth’s Blog
- Holly Ross, NTEN
- Danielle Brigida, National Wildlife Federation
- Wendy Harman, American Red Cross
- Carie Lewis, The Humane Society
- David Neff, American Cancer Society
- Katie Paine, KDPaine & Partners
The above list of panelists comprised a rock star level gathering of non-profit expertise that wowed the audience with their poetic skills as well as deep insights into how the tools of social media can be used to create community, spread awareness and raise funds for ongoing projects. While all of these organizations are doing a fantastic job in this respect, I would encourage each of you to visit the National Wildlife Federation website for a glimpse at how effective this technology can be.
Social Media For Social Good
Exploring how new media technology helps non-profits better serve their communities (and the greater good of humankind) is a big part of SXSW Interactive.
I had previously met Jeff Pulver during a networking breakfast he had organized back in January at Nate ‘n Al’s Delicatessen in Beverly Hills – an event which illustrated Jeff’s belief that magic comes from connecting people – the hallmark of social media.
The lunch time panel that he moderated during SXSW at Stubb’s Bar-B-Que covered a broad range of topics, from personal stories on how social media is influencing and promoting the objectives of many non-profits and other social campaigns, to a free wheeling Q&A period with the audience.
- David Armano, Logic + Emotion
- Scott Goodstein, Revolution Messaging
- Beth Kanter, Beth’s Blog
- Stacey Monk, Epic Change
- James Young, Convio
- Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook
As with the poetry slam session, the line up of panelists was world class and provided the audience with insights from many perspectives. Despite the miraculous accomplishments spoken of during the presentation, the big takeaway for me was not about what had been done to date, but about the constantly changing social media landscape that would define the future of non-profits.
IM Video Journalism
With video online all the rage, UK-based international award winning video journalist David Dunkley Gyimah deconstructs video journalism and posits his cinematic brand known as IMVJ. Described by Apple Pro as a one man hurricane. Ex BBC David talks technique, workflow, and swift turnaround factual feature making.
I wasn’t sure what to expect in this session, but I’ve known from the start that the medium of video would (at some point) play a big role in spreading the message of Global Patriot and I wanted to see how the pros did it.
What I encountered during David’s presentation was nothing short of a fast-paced journey through the wild world of video journalism, it’s relationship to mainstream media, and the role it can play going forward in providing an alternate view of world events. David also illustrated the fact that projects which used to cost a small fortune can now be pursued using relatively low cost equipment and an army of one – an amazing prospect.
The Beacon Lounge
Want to meet the best & brightest of the non-profit Geekeratti? Need a place to hang with your world-saving entourage or just get your blog on? A pack of socially conscious organizations & web shops will converge on SXSW this year and we have just the ticket. Welcome to The Beacon, Lounge with a Conscience.
I must admit that I stumbled into The Beacon while waiting for the doors to open for another session, but it was one of those accidents of fate that paid off. This was a place for non-profits to gather and tell there story, to get some face time and shake hands instead of blog or tweet.
It was in this lounge that I encountered Reuben Thiessen of OptInNow.org – they arrange micro-loans, and I had been looking for such a connection to work with Global Patriot. Upon my return to San Diego he set up a unique Global Patriot account that I used to launch Global Patriot Day and fund two women with loans. I will definitely visit this lounge next year!
The SXSW Party Scene
Not that I’m much of party animal these days, but no post about South by Southwest would be complete with a mention of the party scene that is as much SXSW as are the speakers and sessions. To begin with, there are parties every night – in fact, multiple overlapping parties, the first of which start around 5 p.m. and the last of which end well after midnight. Some parties were widely promoted and touted by the big name sponsors, while dozens more were spread by word of mouth.
On the negative side, many were crowded to the point where it was hard to move and the music was loud to the point that conversation was difficult. I remember one evening leaning across the table, as did the other party, yelling out every word, and still missing half the conversation.
On the positive side, I did meet a 2 or 3 people at each venue who were potential allies in promoting the cause of Global Patriot. Each offered unique insights or a skill set that broadened my horizons or shifted my way of thinking. That made the sore throat and constant ringing in my ears worth it.
Don’t Miss 2010
As crowded & crazy as the South by Southwest Interactive Festival was in 2009, I would be remiss if I didn’t highly recommend it for 2010. (Global Patriot is already making some interesting plans!)The power of social media to influence the world of non-profits, NGOs and other social initiatives is only beginning to be tapped – the best is definitely yet to come!