One of WCRS's account handlers travels to SXSW to make Austin slightly weirder.
I was lucky enough to get sent to SXSW Interactive last week.
Before you stop reading because you’ve already ready a multitude of articles
about what everyone learnt / saw / was amazed by this year…
I didn’t just go to be inspired by the conference; my agency WCRS sent me as
Subservient Glucky. Daily challenges were set during my stay at SXSW via
Instagram photos. WCRS staff, clients and friends were invited to vote by liking
the Instagram posts. At the end of each day (when I would be getting up) the
likes were to be counted and I was tasked to complete the winning challenge.
Follow @subservientglucky on Instagram and you’ll get the idea...
I’m sure you’re thinking I must be mad. Perhaps I am. But it was totally worth it.
Each morning I’d find out what I had to do each day. That was particularly
nerve-wracking. Due to jet lag I’d often wake up in the middle of the night and
have to resist the urge to check the Instagram feed and what options there were
for the daily task. Fortunately Austin’s motto is ‘Keep Austin Weird™’ so my lion
onesie looked pretty normal next to the woman dressed as a fairy riding a
unicorn horse. The challenges varied from wearing a lion onesie for a whole day,
busking for $5 on a giant piano, getting two-inch-long nails, eating the hottest
taco at Torchy’s and spending a day with two selfie sticks.
By far, the hardest task was the nails. I couldn’t do anything once they were on –
someone had to carry my bag, text for me, order me drinks…it doesn’t actually
sound that bad does it? As an account handler asking anyone to do anything for
me is difficult!
It wasn’t just about being subservient, it was also about the main event…SXSW
Everyone I spoke to before I went said that I would feel completely
overwhelmed, miss out on talks I wanted to see, and that I couldn’t do
everything. Which is completely true.
On the flip-side, for all the talks I missed, I ended up at others that have inspired
me. Brene Brown’s keynote, Daring Greatly, was a particular highlight. It was all
around being brave, not being afraid of failure and picking yourself up when
you’ve fallen and moving forward. She made the pertinent point that many of us
have been brought up to be intolerant of failure and think that vulnerability is a
weakness: ‘If you have no tolerance for failure, you will create nothing new’.
Andy Puddicombe, co-found of Headspace, did a keynote on happiness where the
audience took part in a live meditation. It definitely felt like mindfulness and
self-knowledge were are a theme of this year’s conference.
Gender equality was another hot topic, especially as the tech community is a
male-dominated field and across the globe (in all fields) women are still paid
less than men on average. But there was a feeling that this is all changing, slowly
but surely. New transport systems (Hyperloop), new transport technologies
(Google’s driverless car), AI, VR, AR, Space – these were all buzzwords that
friends and colleagues were talking about throughout the conference.
There was always somewhere to be or someone to meet, or something to
eat...Don’t go to SXSW on a diet.
Austin’s food truck culture is unbelievable. We may think we’ve got the food
trucks / food markets down in London, but this is nothing compared to Austin.
Grilled cheese, kimchi fries, lobster rolls, tacos, tacos and more tacos…and
snowcones. The calories are worth it and taste so good. Although I wouldn’t
bother with Torchy’s tacos (where I did my taco challenge) even if they are
Go to the rodeo
SXSW coincides with the rodeo being in town, so it would've been rude not to pay
some respects to old American culture. It didn’t disappoint either. Sat next to
real(!) Texans who could explain why someone had got a penalty for not tying up
a calf properly (yes, it’s true) was an education. Not something I expected from
my trip to Austin, but it gave an insight to Texan culture.
So this has been my whistlestop summary of SXSW 2016. I’m sure I’ve missed
The overarching feeling I was left with from the talks, the tasks and the
experience as a whole was that we have to be optimistic about the future
whether that be in the fight against ISIS, to gender equality, to advances in
science and to keeping sane.
And if I was asked to be Subservient Glucky again, I’d say yes in a heartbeat. It’s
only a lion onesie after all…