SXSW Diary Day Two Wednesday, March 17, 2021

It’s SXSW week, but log-in passwords replace industry badges, and few if any musicians or marketing pros are traveling to Austin, Texas.

‘WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn’ screens in the Documentary Spotlight section of the 2021 SXSW Festival.

The online SXSW Festival is live, and I’m convinced that digital programming will become an SXSW norm.

I’m watching SXSW sessions on XR technology featuring thought leaders like Shari Frilot, Chief Curator, New Frontier, Sundance, and Félix Lajeunesse of Felix & Paul Studios, the world’s leading immersive entertainment studio. It’s inspiring to experience how SXSW designers and programmers use XR tech to connect online attendees during virtual presentations and performances.

Like many marketing and media pros, I’ve been taking part in virtual summits throughout the year of COVID-19. Recent virtual events like ADOBE MAX and Sundance break new ground when it comes to XR connectivity. I think attendees will say the same thing about the 2021 online SXSW Festival. The experience continues to be inclusive, innovative and welcoming.

What I’m Watching:

‘WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn.

Showing in the Documentary Spotlight section at the 2021 SXSW Festival, ‘WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn‘ filmmaker Jed Rothstein pulls back the curtain on the most important tech business story in recent memory, the rise of coworking startup WeWork to global dominance and a $48 billion valuation and immediate fallout during the leadership of co-founder Adam Neumann. Rothstein offers new insights behind the WeWork breakdowns via interviews with employees like Megan Mallow and Don Lewis.  Rothstein maintains a swift pace via compelling interviews, detailed reporting, and lively visuals. More importantly, he emphasizes the human elements of the story. Beyond the investments by SoftBank Group and others, Rothstein focuses on emotional and financial fallouts to WeWork employees. Neumann refuses any cooperation with the movie. However, that does not stop Rothstein from delivering some pointed criticisms at the WeWork co-founder.

Author, educator, and podcast host Debbie Millman joins Adobe Chief Product Officer Scott Belsky for a conversation on creating through a crisis.

What I’m Learning:

Creating Through a Crisis

Author, educator, and podcast host Debbie Millman joins Adobe Chief Product Officer Scott Belsky for a lively conversation on the best creative practiced learned while social distancing in the time of COVID019 and how writing leads to self-discovery. Millman and Belsky are longtime colleagues and friends. It shows during their inspirational chat on various design topics, including the creative benefits of work restraints and digital meetings.

‘Creativity is the world’s greatest recycling project.’ – Scott Belsky, Chief Product Officer, Adobe,’ on igniting creativity in the time of COVID-19.

What’s New:

Digital Music Performances replace wait-list lines outside 6th Street music venues. Music acts face new challenges generating festival buzz with talent reps and SXSW attendees packing the clubs. However, the virtual performances reach online audiences larger than 6th Street crowds.

What’s the Same:

The 2021 SXSW slate of keynote speakers are every bit as impressive as pre- COVID-19 editions. This year’s online attendees have the opportunity to watch presentations from the U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Stacey Abrams, author and founder of Fair Fight, an organization committed to voting rights, legendary music artist Willie Nelson, author and screenwriter Charles Yu, and author podcast host Priya Parker. I’m surprised to hear pundits describe the 2021 SXSW festival as “pared-down.” When I see the keynote slate, I do not see this is not a “pared-down” festival regarding ideas and innovation.

Behind the Screens:

I have a nerdy confession to share. I have my favorite places to sit in festival auditoriums. Attending the online SXSW Sundance requires reimagined formats for presentations. I’m watching presentations at my NOVEL Coworking office in downtown Cincinnati and my nearby home office. I admit  I’m missing the audience crowds. I love the commute.

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