This is my first time at SXSW and my first time in Austin, Texas. One day in and I already know it won't be my last.
Before leaving the UK I did a lot of prep. I didn't know much about SXSW and I admit, with my more traditional PR and Marketing background, I wondered if I'd find some of the content a bit too technical for me. I needn't have.
Interactive opening day was immense.
The opening keynote saw Senator Cory Booker bring some of the audience to tears (not us hard-nosed Brits of course) with his "I see you, I love you" story which was part of his passionate plea for us all to create a world that operates on love. Very American, not so tech-focused.
Next up was Q&A with SXSW legend and bonafide "rockstar of entrepreneurs" (his words not mine - confirmed when one attendee nearly passed out when talking to him) Gary Vaynerchuk. His 'don't give a @&%$' attitude is what has got him to where he is today. The secret of his success? Listen, be patient, pay attention and don't be scared to fail. All simple things that I already apply to my life so feeling good so far.
We quickly learned that if you REALLY want to go to a session - be there 90 mins beforehand, grab a coffee and wait it out. Or you have no chance. A good lesson to learn on day 1. Some of the sessions you're really excited about actually turn out to be crap and some you're not sure about turn out to be mind-blowing. So it's pretty much pot luck.
Another thing I've learnt so far is that a LOT of people share my view that AR & VR are a waste of time and money. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of examples of cool stuff around here but is it grabbing the attention of the majority of consumers? No, not really.
So what is going to be the next big thing? Well according to Siri Founder Adam Cheyer the combination of human and artificial intelligence is it. He talked us through the last 40 years and how every 10 years we see 'the next big thing'. '87 was the PC, '97 the web, 2007 mobile and so everyone is waiting for 2017 to be the year of ..... well, according the Cheyer it's the year of the assistant.
So, am I feeling out of my league here? Not at all. It turns out a lot of people aren't that techie either and most people just speak my language - plain and simple English. Am I learning? Well in two days I've probably learnt more than I have in the last two years so to say I'm excited about the rest of the week is an understatement.
Everyone here has the same objective - be it brands, agencies or start-ups. They all just want to do whatever it takes to grab the attention of their audience.
Gary V told us to ask ourselves two simple questions. Are you good at what you do? And do you shout loud enough about it?
There's no doubt that at Connect we are good at what we do. We have the team responsible for building the world's best automotive website.
Do we shout loud enough about it? Probably not. Yet. We are ever so polite us Brits after all (something I've already been told at least three times since I've been here).
So whilst I continue to get high on knowledge these next few days I'll also be taking a leaf out of the American's book and start being a little less British and little more American, shouting that little bit louder about the amazing stuff we do at Connect.
Claire Parkes, PR & Marketing Manager, Connect