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The Ultimate Guide to SXSW 2017 for Creatives and Content Marketers

South by Southwest (SXSW) has become the place to be for innovators and creatives. With experiential film, music, comedy and interactive tracks, it’s the perfect place for marketers to get inspired.

The festival has more than 100 sessions, dozens of parties and over a mile of festival grounds, so navigating SXSW can be a challenge. We’ve put together everything you need to take on SXSW like a pro, from expert tips from SXSW veterans to a downloadable guide (complete with an interactive map powered by Journy and discount codes for travel planning and ride sharing apps)!

Whether you’re heading to Austin to discover what’s next or to be discovered yourself, the intel below will help you get the most out of your SXSW experience.

The Must-See Lineup at SXSW 2017

Before you head out to the festival, take a look at the schedule so you have an idea of what you’re getting into. Create a list of sessions and activations you definitely want to see. Plan for at least two a day. You can see the full schedule here.

Pay attention to session titles as well as the speakers. A winning combination for a session would be a topic that interests you with speakers you’d love to meet.

Visual storytelling is a hot topic at SXSW. Professional photographer and founding product architect for Libris Peter Krogh says the festival shaped how he thinks about visual content.

“SXSW helped me understand the future of visual communications and how I can benefit from the changes headed our way,” he explains. “I used what I learned there to formulate and execute my business strategy.”

Check out these must-see sessions to get inspired and build up your visual storytelling chops.

March 11

Distilling Passion: Future of Impact Storytelling
Speakers: Ben Roffee, Neet Upadhye, Emily Hawkins, Mallory Brown

You know your cause is important, but do others? Learn how to engage your audience using cutting edge storytelling technology.

March 13

The New Archive: How Tech Democratizes Historical Narratives
Speakers: Ron Haviv, Lauren Walsh

This session highlights Lost Rolls America, a public photo archive that emphasizes a democratic process and prioritizes the role of photography in memory and history. This open discussion offers a broad meditation on how imagery impacts the recollection and narration of the past, and how our relationship to images and memories has evolved.

Voyeurism on the Small Screen: Innovations in Mobile Storytelling
Speakers: Zach Wechter, Shabnam Mogharabi

Learn from leading creators, tech experts, reps, and producers about storytelling trends for the pocket-sized screen.

Creators in Social Media: Enhancing Your Content
Speakers: Devin Supertramp, Julien Solomita, Michael Shabun, Liz Eswein

Looking to improve your social media presence? This session explores the impact of technology on enhancing videos for social media, increasing followers, and conquering the unique challenges of being a one-man team.

Power of Storytelling In Sports Entertainment
Speakers: Bryan Tucker, Grant Jones, Karin Hammerberg

The drama of sports is no longer confined to the stadium. Now, more than ever, sports are part of popular culture. Find out how the sports world is becoming an increasingly dominant force in entertainment.

How Immersive Storytelling Explores Social Issues
Speakers: Christian Divine, Dr. Jeffrey Jones, Raney Aronson-Rath

Find out how Peabody-Facebook Futures of Media Award winners use technology to enhance their storytelling.

Letting Go and The New Way to Tell Visual Stories
Speakers: Aaron Huey, Patrick Witty, Rajiv Mody

Scared about initiating an Instagram takeover of your brand? Learn how National Geographic turned over the keys to its Instagram, and why the brand is now using the same model on Facebook and Snapchat.

A Shared Purpose: Keys to Leveraging Authenticity
Speakers: David Guttenfelder, Greg Asner, Sadie Quarrier

How can your brand maintain authenticity while working with influencers? Find out at this session.

The Creator’s Handbook for VR & 360 Storytelling
Speakers: Yelena Rachitsky, Julia Sourikoff, Jessica Brillhart, Brandon Milbradt

You can shoot 360 video, but can you use it to tell a story? This session takes a look into the future of storytelling with VR and 360 Video.

So many amazing sessions. So little time.

March 14

Photography: Still An Agent for Change
Speakers: Endia Beal, Jeff Frost, Michelle Dunn Marsh, Becci Manson

Compelling imagery is an essential tool for cause-driven organizations. Learn how organizations are using photography to spark social change.

How Can We Make 360 Video Actually Compelling?
Speakers: Rose Troche, Ola Bjorling, Imraan Ismail, Nick Bicanic

You shot a 360 video, and you’re not sure what to do next? Find out here.

March 15th

Adding Meaning and Context to Visual Media
Speakers: Peter Krogh, Anna Dickson, Ramesh Jain

Every photo has layers of meaning behind it – the creator’s intention, what was happening in the background when the photo was taken. Find out how external data, computer-vision and human-assisted curation can provide context in a new age of visual media.

Date Pending

Contemporary Curation: How Imagery Shapes a Brand
Speakers: Art Markman, David Moon, Oen Michael Hammonds

Why do some images fit a brand’s message and others fail? Explore how the right images can power a brand’s narrative.

Bonus: SXSW Off the Record

There are so many events happening outside of the official schedule that some people go to SXSW without ever stepping foot into the convention center. To get the full Southby experience, make sure to check out an unofficial SXSW event. You can find out about them on SXSW’s Twitter and Facebook.

Photo by Peter Krogh.

Tips for Creatives and Content Marketers

Have a goal in mind.

If you go into SXSW on a mission, you’ll have a better experience.

Do you want to meet a specific person? Gather enough information and photos for a killer blog post? Learn more about the Internet of Things? Whatever it is, keeping your goal top of mind will help you stay focused during the flurry of activity.

Be prepared and be present.

Download the SXSW app. Make sure your electronics are charged. Pack more business cards than you think you need. Practice your elevator pitch. Have your social media channels at the ready.

Why is this so important? Being prepared will help you live in the moment.

“Be in the headspace to network, wherever it may take you. You might run into someone who can change your life,” says Laura Mignott, a 7 year SXSW veteran and co-Founder of Digital Flash.

And on that note…

Be courageous.

The age old rule, “never talk to strangers,” doesn’t apply here. Don’t be afraid to initiate conversation – everyone’s there to meet people and swap ideas.

The key is to keep the interaction short and impactful. Remember to listen and see how you can help the people you meet, as well.

Tips for Brands

SXSW has been a launching pad for new products and companies since Twitter made its splash in 2007. Having an eye-catching, interactive activation is the key to success.

“Brands that win are the ones that tell a story without telling the story,” says Mignott. “They become a destination that you want to stay. I get this brand. They get me. It’s far more cool. Far more memorable.”

Let’s take a look at the brands that got it right at previous festivals:

Game of Thrones: Hall of Faces

In this 2016 activation, attendees not only got to sit on the Iron Throne (I know!), but they could also add their visage to the Hall of Faces, #selfie style. They even created TheHallofFaces.com so fans at home could play along.

Refinery29: School of Self-Expression

Another stand-out activation from 2016 was Refinery29’s School of Self-Expression.

“Fusing tech, creative, and style, Refinery29 held their own mini-SXSW with panels, yoga classes, art installations, and more,” says Gillian Driscoll, founder of Sound Dessert, a music consultancy in Austin. “Pros like Kate Bosworth, Chuck Grant, Wynter Gordon and more shared their experiences and predictions for the future of tech and style, while guests got to listen, create, and interact with the space around them. It was visual, educational, and engaging: everything that makes for a winning activation.”

Kodak: Memory Observatory

To launch its Moments App, Kodak created a walk-in structure where participants could share a memory or listen to the story behind a photo. The tent-like structure created an intimate environment that demonstrated the emotional power of photos.

Photo by Peter Krogh.

Download the Insider’s Guide to SXSW

Don’t miss out on the best of SXSW 2017. Download our insider’s guide to get access to an interactive map powered by Journy (it’s got everything from SXSW key locations to the best coffee spots in Austin), discount codes for ride sharing and trip planning, and more tips from SXSW veterans!

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