Another year of SXSW has come and gone. And in the words of our President John Montgomery:

“Just when I think that SXSWi has jumped the shark and I’ll never go back, I have multiple encounters that really blow my mind.”

From catching the coolest panels at the Fast Company Grill to bantering with robots in Japan Factory, here are the top insights we gleaned from this year’s event.

1. Everyone’s got the same problems.

Budget got you bugging? Feeling your creative vision forced into a box? We heard from industry experts across the board who have all had first-hand experiences with the same frustrations we feel on a daily basis.

But worry not—the right tools exist for us as creatives to communicate impactful narratives at almost any budget. Regardless of where you sit, things might seem broken at times, but it’s up to us to find new, innovative ways to fix them. And there’s comfort and validation in knowing you’re not alone in trying to figure out the ever-changing digital landscape.

2. Analog and digital are melding like never before.

Dutch designer Pauline van Dongen beautifully described the emerging wearables trend like we’d never heard it before: “We have to stop asking ‘what does it do.’ Instead, we should start asking ‘what does it invite us to do’?”

Even our textiles are getting smarter these days, as we learned from Levi’s® and Google’s Project Jacquard. Tech is no longer just working for us, it’s working with us.

3. Talk with your consumers, not at them. 

In the age of real-time, we’re reminded that people are able to communicate what they love and hate at a much faster pace than ever before. But that means the risk for error is much higher and the fall can be that much harder.

Oftentimes when communicating new initiatives, it’s easy to forget that we, as advertisers, are not always our target audience. The good news? You don’t have to talk to everyone. Narrow your focus, bring your target consumer along the journey, and create a feedback loop with them. Emily Culp, Chief Marketing Officer at Keds, challenged us to “always ask – What is my consumer getting out of this?’” New media has to be built for specific audiences and it has to meet a consumer at his or her needs, not yours.

4. Think lateral, not literal. 

“We either explore or we expire. That’s about it.” Those were the remarks from astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who spoke to a rapt audience.

The hundreds of sessions at SXSW Interactive offer something unique to attendees across every digital field. Without a doubt, every single badge-holder came out of this experience with more knowledge than we had before. While learning about the importance of gifs might not be the most obvious session for an account executive to attend, it’s the perfect example of how growing one’s knowledge base can help expand anyone’s digital toolkit.

We should constantly challenge ourselves to not just learn about what we do, but what those around us do as well. As content king Gary Vaynerchuck said, “If you spent your time doing instead of dwelling, you’d be much further along.”

5. We all have a story to tell. 

You’ve got a story! And you’ve got a story! (Said in my best Oprah voice).

Joshua Topolsky, founder and editor-in-chief of The Outline, reminded us that “stories aren’t linear. They’re not told in one way.” There’s a narrative arc to every single thing we produce and it’s up to us to figure out how to tell it and who is doing the telling.

Want to Talk?

Rebekah Weinberger

Business Development Specialist