After attending SXSWi for three straight years, we skipped the 2014 installment, so we decided to pass the mic to someone who was actually on the grounds and could provide some thoughts on this year’s event. Ladies and gents, meet David Trahan (@brooklyknight), a senior strategist at New York-based MRY. In case you were wondering, he specializes in brand strategy, digital, and consumer behavior and nerds out over airplanes, politics, and architecture. Take it away, sir.
SXSW was a playground for me. I won the trip as part of an internal MRY contest to send three employees to SXSW. I had the luxury of doing whatever I wanted (including sleeping in) with no formal responsibilities such as client schmoozing or attending certain sessions. I used this freedom as an opportunity to not only listen to panelists, but to observe the behaviors of SXSW goers and how they reacted to panels, brand installations, start-ups, and parties. I also ended SXSW as a part of the “The Story of SXSWi 2014: Eye of the Beholder” session recapping trends from SXSW 2014.
My key takeaways are as follows:
1. Curiosity > Information
Inspiring curiosity is the ultimate form of empowerment. You know the saying: give a man a fish, teach a man to fish… What I learned at SXSW is that there’s more bounty in inspiring that man to learn how to fish on his own rather than teaching him yourself. It not only instills in him a greater sense of ownership, but it allows for discovery of new fishing techniques since he wasn’t taught someone else’s way of doing things. Marketers often say they want to empower consumers, and their method of doing so becomes tools and information. Those are nice, but do they inspire? That is, do they encourage curiosity that leads to action and discovery?
This is why many of the “how to” panels got bad word-of-mouth reviews. They were just telling people how to do what they already know, focusing on the seller’s technique and not the buyer’s imagination.
As Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “To feel knowledge makes you take ownership of knowledge.”