Connecting the Stream with Action: People as Conversation Agents

Fastcompany-287x300 When I asked on Twitter about personal take aways from SxSW 2011, Andy Hayes responded along the same lines as I would have:

#SXSW Lesson: that deepening connections with existing ppl is just as important as meeting new ppl. Twitter has been an integral part of the conference — and of many lives in the last 5 years.

Edward Boches also strikes a chord with the format of his happy birthday, Twitter post. Because it is about making connections — with ideas, meaning, and people.

What Bill Taylor and Alan Webber declared more than 15 years ago was alive at the conference. In a three-post series, I explained why and how we're connecting the stream with action:

  • technology and humanism meet — where I explain the importance of filters, publishing, the value of open source, and that of frameworks to balance logic and emotion
  • media embraces real time — with embedded recording, ambient journalism, and public experimenting
  • business becomes social — the opportunities here are in situational awareness, as ambient concierge, and with adaptive DNA

Those are my observations from the context, the conversations, and the themes or trends at SxSWi 2011. There is a more personal kind of reconnecting or connecting with people, like Andy said. Borrowing from Boches' format, here are my thoughts on how the conference continues to deliver.

It creates a gigantic context for connecting with content

Although this year it felt overwhelming at times, I appreciated the efforts put forth byt the SxSWi committee to make the experience valuable by segmenting content tracks — for example, social graph, emerging, design & development — and indicating the type of content — core conversation, meet up, panel, etc.

The space allocated to sponsoring brands — the Chevy Lounge and the Samsung Bloggers Lounge being the two locations where I spent the most time — and to exhibiting brands.

It lends its voice to inspired initiatives and causes

Because for those 5-6 days the conference becomes the place where everyone spends their lives — literally — it is the perfect stage from which to launch impromptu aid initiatives like #sxswcares on behalf of the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Thanks to the work of a small group of people, in a week or a little over it, the initiative raised more than $100k. The answer to how long does it take to plan a campaign is mobilize and do it. If you want better results than expected, then make it about something meaningful.

It helps you get out of your comfort zone

I had many impromptu meetings with super smart people doing great work I need to learn more about, as well as planned conversations throughout the event. There are many reasons why connections happen in real life — there's no hiding in person.

I was delighted to speak with Anna Gonzales as we were making our way into the CNN Grill to honor some extraordinary women who are making things happen in their spheres of influence. It was a humbling experience to hear about their accomplishments.


I reached out to a couple of people with whom I had the opportunity to spend quality time at SxSWi — both deepening existing relationships, and getting to meet for the first time — for their take on this year's event.

Here's what they said.

The folks who buy the badges and come with open hearts and minds: Terry Starbucker

This year's SXSW was an extremely gratifying one for me, for about 300 reasons – that was about the number of people I got a chance to interact with directly over those 5 days. Personal interactions are precious to me, especially those that involve smiles, warmth, good wishes, and offers of collaboration or help. This year there was all that, plus a big bonus.

My partner Liz Strauss and I just recently launched a new business, and we got a great opportunity to talk about it with trusted old friends, and inquiring new ones. That experience was extremely helpful in framing our message, and our value proposition. To all those who offered their points of view, encouragement, or just a "good luck", I thank you. To me, this is the real benefit of SXSW – the folks who buy the badges and come with open hearts and minds. Terry Starbucker

Watching the SXSW Community rally around SXSW Cares / SXSW4Japan refreshed my views about this industry we're in: Leigh Durst

Seeing people I know — and don't know — unselfishly engage to contribute their time, talent, voice, tweets, re-tweets, money and encouragement was inspiring and for me. These digital natives reflected the true nature of what SXSW is all about: people; people with vision, and a mission and compelling stories; people who want to matter in this world.

The tools just help us get things done — without people they mean nothing. What transpired so completely resonated with what I've been saying and writing about the true nature of influence, engagement, authenticity for the last two years. I felt completely validated- without attending one speech, or panel or talk, and more intimately connected with my digital family.

Together, we raised over $104k for Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief with another $35k pending at the time of this writing. I have a feeling it will go down in history as the best conference I ever attended. Leigh Durst

A wealth of opportunities to connect on a personal level with many of the personalities I cross paths with in the digital universe

The conversations that I was engaged in at SxSWi 2011 provided ample intellectual brain food -– fuel to explore new avenues of perspective I may have never considered had I not sat next to that person at the charging station, or borrowed that power cord at the blogger’s lounge. In the space between the lines of the conference hustle, I was simply amazed to find commonality with those I had never met, and that we may have different visions as individuals, but our goals are often more similar than may be expected.

One significant turning point – or “ah-ha” moment – occurred after receiving a tweet from a gentlemen I shared a cab with during SXSW. We had exchanged a few minutes of small talk about our respective lines of work during the shared ride, but never went so deep as to reveal we were both heads of our companies. Apparently, his company is a major new player in the tech sector, and has a need for my company’s particular expertise, so he sent warm regards via twitter the next day. We are now discussing the retaining of our company as their Agency of Record. That’s the power of personal connection. Ken Lingad


What was your take away from SxSWi 2011?

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0 responses to “Connecting the Stream with Action: People as Conversation Agents”

  1. Thanks for aggregating these three posts and expanding on your SXSWi experience. As I was watching from afar, it’s insightful to hear what others such as yourself gleaned from conference. It’s an event I’ve contemplated and just may attend in 2012.
    As for the tracks, I was overwhelmed when I looked at the sheer volume. Talk about a paradox of choice. Makes me think the real value is in the people and connections you make after having only met them on Twitter or other digital channels.

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