SXSW Interactive Festival Day 2: virtual reality, Mayor Sly James and more

Barkley associate content director Carolyn Cohen is blogging the SXSW Interactive festival for The Pitch. 

Day 2 started off with sunshine, a pleasant break from the typical March rain in Austin. Saturday was spent hopping in and out of sessions, and further checking out the activations. Read more about Day 2 below with my top-five ideas from Day 2. 

1. Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality is everywhere at SXSW. The key differentiator is using your demo to explain a real-life use for the technology. We hit up The New York Times VR event. In addition to free Google Cardboard devices, they showed five different short films optimized for virtual-reality viewing. The swivel chairs caught me off guard at first, until I sat down and joined the fun. The chairs allowed each user to be fully immersed in the experience. I watched a short film about border wars with Mexico, which started off with a 360-degree view from a helicopter. It felt a little surreal but I enjoyed it!

2. BridgeCXUX Workshop

Barkley’s own Susannah Sulsar and Forrester’s Leah Buley hosted a workshop Saturday afternoon discussing the connection between Customer Experience and User Experience. This was actually the first SXSW Workshop I’ve ever attended, and while the two-hour time slot might scare some away, it was incredibly engaging with a very clear takeaway. For me, the biggest lesson was that segments of companies, such as customer experience and user experience, are converging, and those who were once specialists need to become aware and learn about other practices. You can read some of the conversation about it by checking out #BridgeCXUX on Twitter. 

3. City Pride (Bonus Sly James)

A theme we’re starting to notice is city and country pride. So far, we’ve stumbled across Casa Mexico, German Haus, Great Britain House, Des Moines Embassy, We: DC, Choose ATL and more. The city pride is strong, and these cities are using the opportunity at SXSW to educate the attendees. Plus, Kansas City Mayor Sly James has been around this weekend, and today I was lucky enough to run into him!

4. Noise: Activations
There’s always a few activations that just don’t feel right. Today, we saw several that had too many messages, too many sponsors, or, on the flip side, not enough messages. We attended an event for Nerdist, hosting panels from the Film festival, but it was crowded by an activation from the CW, a booth from the Powderpuff Girls and an event from the ASPCA with puppies. It felt a little confusing to put so many messages in the same place. This proves why a brand activation at SXSW is more than just a big footprint. A big idea and a big message are musts. 

5. Independent Agency Meetup

I ended the day at the Independent Agency Meetup. This packed room was a great opportunity to chat with people from not just all over the country but all over the globe. It was fun to talk with people in similar positions, too. This is just one great example of how diverse SXSW is. I’m pretty sure most people imagine that everyone else around them also works for a VC firm, or for an agency, or on the marketing team for a big brand. The more people I meet, the more I realize just how many different industries are represented here. 

Here’s looking forward to a great rest of the weekend!

See more at Barkley’s blog and read Cohen’s first dispatch here.

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