This year’s SXSW Eco
has turned out to be marvelous and compelling from content, planning and situational perspectives. I hope to go into much more detail in an upcoming One
+ piece, but here are some of my initial thoughts/considerations/brain rumblings 1.5 days into the event.
What could have been a severely distracting situation turned into an anecdote of coincidence and a well-behaved crowd. You see, on Day 1 of SXSW Eco, an oil executives group was meeting at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center
in Austin—yeah, that’s the venue for Eco. A handful of protestors gathered, some holding signs to notify passersby that the CEO behind the controversial Keystone XL
pipeline was “in the building.” I’m proud to say the Eco group (the majority of whom are opposed to the Keystone XL project) went on with their business of healing the world (and ourselves) without getting dragged into any nastiness.
From a content POV, Eco delivered/is delivering impressive speakers on the gamut of CSR topics: food, communications, education, energy, climate change, entrepreneurship. One early session matched food journalists and a culinary photographer up with a female farmer from Uganda to discuss culture and food, including such thoughts as “Is the Instagram/Pinterest culture perhaps causing connected humanity to more openly discuss what we’re eating?” As much as people are getting sick of seeing photos of food on their social networks, the fact of the matter may be that this potentially self-involved behavior is driving the conversation of food and sustainability, cultural norms and more.
As to the planning: I was thrilled to see the event held at a LEED-certified venue. Most sessions were close to being completely full (and a few were—much more like the regular annual SXSW) but for the most part space was sufficient throughout. A wonderful courtyard in the middle of the venue afforded attendees the best air Austin has experienced in months—perfect for the evening Day 1 reception.
And yes, Virginia, even SXSW Eco still has a printed conference program…and a vibrant website…and an outstanding mobile app. This event is, however, a harbinger of the future of meetings. Stay tuned.