Dear SXSW: A Few Suggestions...

SXSW 2017 gave us a glimpse into the future of tech. Innovative minds from big businesses and small shops alike left us stunned with cutting edge advancements. If technological innovation in 2017 is anything like it was in 2016, we are in for significant disruptions to our daily lives and ways of working. We sat down with Allison Kent-Smith, smith & beta CEO, to discuss SXSW and the future digital landscape.

What topics should be  covered in more detail at SXSW 2018?

One topic that multiple speakers touched upon, including celebrity billionaire Mark Cuban, was the inevitability that robots are going to change the digital workforce in the near future. “The world’s first trillionaires are going to come from somebody who masters AI and all its derivatives and applies it in ways we never thought of,” explained Cuban. The concept was discussed multiple times during the weekend, but at a very superficial level.. At future festivals, as the age of AI gets closer, I hope more speakers will elaborate on how employees, businesses and industries can incorporate AI into their work   I would love to attend a seminar on how AI will replace and work alongside us at our jobs? How will our skillsets need to evolve to coexist with this emerging tech? Mostly, how we further develop our human skills to repair for the robots and machines?

What do you hope to see change about SXSW in the future?

I hope to see SXSW invest in is a curating system to help attendees find events based on their interests. The amount of information available at the festival is overwhelming no matter how many times you have attended and I always feel like I miss out on relevant events because I simply did not know they were happening. A digital curation system that suggests events and topics to attendees would be very beneficial in helping people get the most possible out of the experience

I also think that anyone that has attended the festival would agree that having Lyft or Uber in Austin would make the weekend a lot easier, especially when the weather is sub par like it was this year. Although SXSW partnered with Boston startup Fasten this year, another large transportation system to accommodate the huge number of attendees would be helpful.

How important is it to get out of your comfort zone in an environment like SXSW?

Every year I try to experience as much as I can while in Austin by branching out of my typical digital bubble. There are so many awesome events and people at your disposal at SXSW it would be foolish not to take advantage . By doing something as simple as sitting in a hotel bar and chatting with fellow attendees, you put yourself in a situation to meet some incredible and influential people.

This year I even made a point to check out the Austin Music Awards, an event very out of my usual realm, and it was definitely worth the ticket. By managing your time properly at SXSW you can get a great balance of business and leisure. I highly recommend every attendee get out of their comfort zone.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

This year, like every year at SXSW, was an amazing experience and I learned a great deal but in the future there are a few things I will do a bit different. In addition to bringing classic branded products such as business cards and notebooks, this year made it clear how important useful products can be. Since SXSW was so rainy, branded umbrellas would have been a great way to garner brand awareness. There is always room to be more creative and new ways to stand out, capitalizing on those opportunities is something I need to be more mindful of in the future.

Or maybe a branded compass, as getting around SXSW grows geographically every single year.

Allison, like many people, continues to go to SXSW every year because she gains access to priceless minds and centuries worth of industry experience that remain unparalleled by other events. In order to grow as an individual and as a company, you must never stop learning and adapting to an ever changing industry. SXSW is a great way to kickstart the hunger for knowledge but should not be the only stop on the journey. Like Allison, we should all continue to look for opportunities to grow as professionals.

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