With so much content at South by Southwest Interactive this year – more than 1600 sessions – we saw an opportunity to build a predictive understanding about what overarching themes are most likely to dominate the many sessions and the conversation, both on and offline.
We also were curious about the "connecting topics" that the many sessions share. So, we partnered with Quid in order to organize SXSW’s session information into visuals that reveal hidden connections and meaning. Quid is a technology that uses algorithms and search to read and organize the world’s information into interactive visuals that reveal hidden connection and meaning.
MSLGroup and Quid organized all 1629 sessions into categories based on the common language in the description of each session posted on the SXSWi website. Although many themes proved similar to the official themes predetermined by SXSW, there were a couple of undefined topics that emerged, along with a few hidden connections to each other.
Below are two standout examples of the most interesting, undefined themes. First, to anchor you on the visual, understand that each bubble represents one of the 1629 sessions analyzed and the nine colors represent common language in those session descriptions. The percentages represent the percent of overall sessions that the topics represent.
So what undefined themes stand out? The first notable, undefined topic that is present across 5% of the SXSWi sessions is on Empowered Women and Minorities in Technology. Numerous sessions touch on the idea of on how to fix demographic gaps in the engineering world, as well as meetups and lessons learned from entrepreneurs and minorities in leadership. Most of these sessions are focused on women, but some panels also focus on MBAs and young Millennials in entrepreneurship, and transgender, LGBT, Hispanic, and African Americans in technology.
Making up 10% of the sessions, the second notable undefined theme is Marketing and Commerce. This idea falls in the middle of the network, which tells us that many sessions across all official themes will touch on how to make money.
This topic makes sense because generating revenue through innovative tactics is one of the most important reasons for marketers to attend the festival. This proves visually how marketing serves as an important connection at the very center of the conversation and purpose of SXSWi. In an op-ed on PRWeek on Tuesday, Stephanie Agresta pointed out that brand marketers "need to be at SXSW to understand where innovation is coming from and to be immersed in ecosystems that drive change."
This insight underscores that attendees venture to SXSW not just to learn, but also to learn for the specific purpose of generating revenue for their own companies and for their clients. Sessions in this category will dive into the future of retail, fashion, and marketing tools such as social media, data, and storytelling used to understand shopping habits and create authentic experiences with customers.
We next examined the specific sessions that are most representative of all SXSW sessions. If you are a SXSWi attendee wanting a great comprehensive sampling of the session conversation at the event, you may want to plan to attend these specific sessions.
Stay tuned each day of SXSW as MSLGroup works together with Quid to analyze the hidden connections from the previous days’ conversation. Subscribe here to MSLGROUP’s TraX program and click here to get a daily summary of our insights across key categories of the show.
Click here to see Quid’s session on Sunday, March 15 at 12:30pm at the Hyatt Regency.
Jeff Melton is SVP, global technology and platforms, MSLGroup