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The Ultimate Guide to SXSW Interactive 2016

March 25, 2016
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First off don’t call it by its full name South by Southwest (SXSW). If you want to fit in call it “South-by.” At least that’s what the seasoned veterans were calling it.

SXSX = South-by

Now that we got that out of the way, here is the roundup for this weeks festivities.

Capes Are In

As it would turn out capes are actually in style. In fact, they were trending hard at South-by. They were a hot promotional swag item at some of the exhibits and people wore them with authority.

All poles were covered in saran wrap

Seriously, if you were a cylinder pole at SXSW you had saran wrap on you. Being a music town, Austin has a serious problem with flyering. In an effort to keep Austin looking nice downtown, the city wrapped every pole so all the flyers would not damage the metal or wood. Everything was wrapped down to the fire hydrants, and it was hard to miss but clever all the same.

“Keep Austin Weird” is a real thing…

Austin has always been accepting, but the call to keep Austin weird was in full effect at SXSW. Here are just some of the characters for you to enjoy, as there was some great people watching!

One of the weirdest and coolest spectacles of SXSW interactive was Service with their wizards. Yes, wizards! You could use their app to summon your own personal wizard that would wait in the incredibly long lines as South-by. Similar to the Uber model, they would show up based on your location and go to work standing in line in a wizard hat and glasses as you sat across the street sipping cocktails or going about your day. Other services by the wizards included, putting your name down on reservations, securing meeting spots, and other various tasks that save you time.

VR Was Everywhere

Virtual Reality (VR) was a huge crowd draw for the exhibitors at SXSW interactive 2016. Big brands like Capital One, McDonalds, and Gillette all had their own versions of their crowed pleasing virtualized realities. Gillette did an amazing job of tying in their brand through a heart pumping thrill ride that made even the most adventure seeking SX attendee perspire. After you were done, they would hand you a stick of their deodorant.

Augmented Reality (AR) was also a crowd pleaser. AR is the blend of VR with actual reality. Google glasses are a good example of AR. As we look to find more applicable uses for VR commercially, we see the emergence of AR. We are starting to see use cases in the medical field for training surgeons in a VR setting, and then using AR to give real time feedback to a surgeon on patient vitals as he is conducting his procedure.

Needless to say, VR has come a long way since the arcade.

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AI Is The Official Buzzword Of The Year

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has officially become the buzzword for 2016 and SXSW made it official during Interactive 2016. Luckily there was no terminator or drone scenario taking place, but rather knowledge-based algorithms developed into new technologies. The AI Samurai was a bit unsettling, and would use facial recognition to take note of you when you walked by then make sure it recognized you and gesture you when you came by again. Not bad for a machine.

Innovation is Alive!


Hyperloop attended SXSW, the coolest company that may or may not ring a bell. Hyperloop is the transportation of the future using pressurized tubes to transport people or objects at speeds greater than the speed of sound. CEO Dirk Ahlborn delivered a riveting keynote on the progression of this technology.


SimilarWeb is a diamond in the rough when it comes to digital marketing tools. If you have not heard of or used SimilarWeb for your digital marketing efforts, it is worth taking a look. They take a refreshing data-driven approach to the way they pull data on your industry and competitors. In the hands of a seasoned digital marketer you can do a lot with this data to make gains in market share.

One of my favorite features of SimilarWeb is portrait. This tools helps you create personas in real time around things such as social media data that tells you what your audience is into. From there, you can better custom tailor your messaging to speak directly to that audience on your website. As a result, you can create a higher converting experience through real time persona building.


If you design websites like I do, horribly –this website tool is for you! PageCloud is different than any other drag and drop website builder I’ve ever seen. Unlike some of the builders you may have seen on WordPress (WP), PageCloud allows you to design in real-time on the front-end of the website. As a result, you can actually see what you are creating for your audience. In contrast, for WP, usually this is done on the backend of the website and you need to update from the backend, then refresh your browser to see what it looks like as you make changes.

Have an existing page design and don’t want to go through a website migration to get this kind of functionality? PageCloud has a state-of-the-art import function that will analyze your webpage design and recreate it in the PageCloud editor.


Digital marketing tools are a dime a dozen now-a-days. I mentioned one above worth looking at for your digital marketing. Here is one more that is worthy of mentioning. Roost is brilliantly blending push notifications you are used to getting on mobile devices and utilizing the technology on websites. There are many use cases to start using and testing around this. One being shopping cart abandonment on an ecommerce website and notifying the user they have something in their cart they left behind and here is a small deal to come back and complete the transaction.

Count Your Free Swag

Promotional giveaways, or swag, are a way of life during the Interactive portion of SXSW. From big-ticket raffles for drones and laptops to more modest complimentary USB drives and pens – you can find it all. One of the swag veterans was Social Imprints. They have been attending SX for five years and print custom t-shirts on the spot right in front of you. By far the largest exhibitor line throughout the convention floor with everyone wanting their newest creation on cotton.

Another notable swag was Stella Artois, and their famed “chalice” miniaturized for this event. You could not find someone without a Stella chalice sipping their landmark beer or newer addition, Cidre.

Music is alive in Austin

Music is life in Austin and there were no exceptions during SXSW Interactive 2016. From hip-hop to country, SXSW had it all. SXSW Interactive highlighted some up and comers and singer songwriters trying to take things to the next level. From new ways to license and distribute music to ways to promote your music digitally, there was a think tank of knowledge being shared.

For the Electric Dance Music (EDM) fans, one of the favorites was this mini mixer. Easy and portable you can remix and create dance music on the go.

Yes, There Were Also Food Trucks

Austin is quickly becoming known for its awesome food scene. The food trucks are taking that scene by the horns and hitting the streets. Whether you are studying at the University of Texas Austin or hanging out on Rainey St., there is always a truck nearby ready to serve you. From bacon ice cream to Lobster sandwiches, there is a food truck for everyone.

Outside the conversion center at SXSW the food trucks were pulling in big crowds. Ramen Burger, with its organic fresh tasting burgers, was next level. The truck was equipped with cameras so the line could view themselves as they pondered what to order.

Overall SXSW Interactive 2016 was a huge success. A record-breaking crowd showed up this year setting the venue a blaze in the hot Austin sun. This is an event for any techy in the industry and must be witnessed at least once in your lifetime.

Can’t wait to see what SXSW has in store for 2017!

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