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Maybe managers aren’t so necessary…

It’s counterintuitive when a conference that is all about digital and interactive communications has recurring themes of “being real,” “connecting with people in person” and “putting your devices down,” but those are all concepts we’ve heard consistently in Austin. Today was no different. From Livestrong’s recent crisis communication efforts to a Microsoft employee’s 15-minute presentation on productivity, Monday has been our favorite day of sessions to date. Here are some takeaways from day four at South by Southwest:

Jim’s Take: 

  • Deloitte’s Chairman John Hagel delivered a presentation entitled “From Story to Narrative” in which he started by sarcastically apologizing that he didn’t have a PowerPoint. He discussed how we need to think of all things as a narrative rather than a story – narratives are not finite, and they are opportunity-based rather than threat-based. So, ultimately narratives highlight the reward and motivate people to take action. Food for thought when it comes to content creation and curation.
  • Livestrong’s CEO Doug Ulman spoke about their crisis communication efforts following Lance Armstrong’s recent announcement – a rare opportunity to hear from a CEO of a large organization that is currently going through a large-scale crisis. Livestrong had only six day’s notice prior to Lance Armstrong’s Oprah interview and they made the immediate decision to openly talk about the issue, “We have a moment in time when people are paying attention, and we need to take advantage of that. If we go into hiding for 6-8 months, no one will care anymore.”

  • Ulman also broke down Livestrong’s three most vital actions over the past few months: transparency, talking about the issue proactively, and always asking “is what we’re doing in the best interest of our mission?”
  • Finally, after meeting @andrewhyde and several other Denverites and beyond today, I’m more convinced than ever that, while a string of Twitter @replies might be a fun and simple way to meet people across the globe, it’s the in-person meetings that provide context, credibility and staying power, which is a big part of what makes this conference so valuable.

Jon’s Take: 

Today was easily the most interesting and informative day for me and you’ll see a couple of different reasons why below.

  • The first session I took in today was, “Embracing Analog: Why Physical Is Hot” at the Hyatt on the other side of Town Lake. The panel from Wired and JWT had some interesting data to share about demographics and their differing views on analog items and it wasn’t what I would have expected. Think about these stats for a minute: the global stationary and card market is expected to reach $111.8 billion by 2016, a 25% rise from 2011 and vinyl records showed the fifth consecutive year of sales growth in 2012, with a 19% year-over-year increase. Surprising, isn’t it? Take a look at the images below and think about how you could engage with Millennials and their desire for the physical and nostalgia.


  • Next up, I briskly walked (seems to be a common occurrence for me this week) to the Hilton for a series of sessions that were uniquely well-suited for my attention span, four 15-minute talks all in the same room. The first was about the organizational structure of Alcoholics Anonymous and how some learnings from their success can be applied to other industries and companies. Joe Gerstandt began by stating, “people who use more swearwords in presentations are more likely to be honest & trustworthy” and discussed how AA was designed by the users, with their perspectives in mind, and it’s an organization with no CEO, no marketing department, really no management at all, and it’s thrived for 75 years. Finally, Gerstandt ran through five reasons that AA had been successful: clarity of purpose, freedom of choice, principles (as opposed to personalities) driving the organization, honesty, and no management (he mentioned Morningstar as an example of corporate applications of this idea). Provocative stuff.
  • The third 15-minute presentation in this group ended up being my favorite session of the entire conference. Scott Hanselman powered through a brisk and information packed talk about re-thinking your priorities and cutting down on the numerous data streams that keep us from doing the things in our day that really matter. Hanselman reminded not to be “Askhole’s” (someone who always asks for advice and then does exactly the opposite of the suggestion) and he featured a gif of Pee Wee Herman holding snakes. For no reason at all. Amazing.
  • The most awkward moment of SXSW 2013 came in the last of these shorter sessions when a new company tried to turn their talk into a product demo. He had an interesting concept that the crowded room was interested in hearing, but he completely lost everyone when he started talking about the features of his platform. Someone even stood up and said “can we skip the product demo?” Awwwwwwk-ward (but necessary).
  • The last session of the day was a talk with Xerox, SalesForce and Cisco discussion social marketing in business-to-business environments. Lots of good takeaways today and I’m excited to spend some time digesting everything I heard.

~Jim Licko and Jon Woods

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