South by South East … uuuhm West

Munise Can, Brand Strategist & Jeroen Thissen, Creative Director, at CODE D’AZUR

Rookie mistakes while navigating the keynote jungle of Austin Texas

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At CODE D’AZUR we use our ‘Stand Out. Fit In’ mantra to help our clients be relevant in a constantly changing world. So this year Munise Can (Strategist) and Jeroen Thissen (Creative Director) dove into SXSW for the first time, to submerge themselves in the latest developments and trends in tech. And they almost drowned. These are their rookie mistakes.

1. Let’s outsmart the queue!

Queueing is a big part of the SXSW experience. And so they have crafted it to perfection. There’s no way to outsmart the system here without being a total douche.

During the first day we walked past a line that seemed to go nowhere and laughed at the people in it. After another 5 minutes of walking, we got to the entrance of the talk we wanted to see and asked the steward if we could get in. She laughed and pointed at the queue that started a few meters from the entrance. We backtracked the entire queue only to end up behind the people we had laughed at 10 minutes ago.

There are stewards everywhere indicating the end of the line and positioning people in straight lines and blocks next to each other. Much like a Roman army platoon, ready to charge the next keynote. there’s no queuing up ‘The Dutch Way’ (scratch your nose, look at your phone and pretend not to see the queue). This is a good thing actually, because there’s no queue stress. You just get in line and hope for the best.

2. Let’s visit what I know!

Imagine you’re Jamie Oliver. If you go to any talk in the world about cooking, chances are pretty slim you’ll truly learn something new. You might pick up a funny fact or two, but to really get surprised with a fantastic insight? Not so much. We learned this after the first day. All the stuff we visited about Voice, AR, VR, etc, just wasn't very surprising. Once we started to go to stuff that was outside of out normal work, we started to get inspired, Like ‘Ego is not your amigo’, ‘The Future of Love, Lust and Listening’ and ‘Identity and Protest through Nail Art’ (We’re not making this up!). This is where we actually learned something new. And we loved it.

3. Let’s get some queue coffee!

Another rookie mistake that involves a queue. We were lining up for tickets for Elon Musk, already late. The hottest ticket in town. Close to impossible to get. A once in a lifetime opportunity. It was a line of thousands of people so Jeroen figured it would take a while. So he went to get some coffee at a stand down the line. We was there, playing with his phone, getting the coffee, just relaxing. But when he turned around (while holding 3 coffees and 2 waters) the ENTIRE queue had disappeared! But wait. How? Huh? Where are my colleagues? He started to run around like a mad man almost spilling the coffee (while having a panic attack). Apparently they were manually handing out tickets at multiple spots in line and everyone had already received their ticket. Just in time Jeroen spotted his colleagues that had managed to convince one steward to hold on to one more ticket for 1 minute longer since their poor colleague had just left for coffee. Jeroen was just in time. Remember: always keep an eye on the queue.

4. Let’s end on a meetup!

Meetups in the way they are organised at SXSW are quite weird for us Dutch people. Basically there’s a subject which is stated in the description, but that’s it. There’s no central host or someone that decides how things roll out. You just walk into a room and there’s a lot of other people also there that you have to go talk to. We’re not used to this. And it takes up a lot of energy! So do it in the morning if you want to experience it. Munise went in the afternoon to a meetup about ‘Gesture Interfaces’ but after 3 minutes of observing behind the coffee table, the only gesture she made was a moonwalk to the exit, fast forward to the beers.

5. The Panel Trap

Ok so... you're new to 'South By' (as you're allowed to say ONLY once you've been) and you want to try everything. However, you’re warned by experienced experts that tell you: 'whatever you do, don't go to panel discussions'. Because it is always boring, inaudible, awkward and just not worth your time. So we unchecked the 'panel' option in the planner tool in the app and decided not to go to panels. But, what if you come across something called 'prototyping the future through science fiction'. This is obviously something you can not NOT go to! Regardless of it being a panel discussion! Big mistake. It was boring, inaudible and awkward. We fell into the panel trap.

6. Manage your booze

Besides getting smart you can also get drunk at SXSW. Quite easily so. There’s a ton of parties with free drinks organised by sponsors, and there are lots of nice little bars with great music and a great atmosphere. But… the drinks contain alcohol. And having a hangover is not a good idea. It’s just very hard to listen to a talk about ‘Quantum Computing’ or ‘The future of blockchain’ when you also have to be next to the nearest exit that leads to the nearest toilet and you keep falling asleep, take it from Jeroen. So kids…manage your booze. Make sure you have no big talks the day after a big night.


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About the Author: Jeroen Thissen is Creative Director at CODE D'AZUR. He is a service creative that focuses on creating relevant solutions for clients such as KLM and ABN AMRO. One of his most recent achievements is the creation of Pack Assistant, one of the featured voice services at the Google Fun House at SXSW 2018.

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About the Author: Munise works at CODE D'AZUR in Amsterdam as their Brand Strategist. Her job is to analyse, think, consult, and build brands that move at the speed of culture. Her focus is the intersection of marketing, technology and communication. In this role she helps a portfolio of international clients, across a number of industries, on how to best optimise for not only rapidly shifting customer interactions and expectations, but also behaviours.