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All last week my friends, families and co-workers were asking me “how was SXSW?” In situations like these, you never really know how to answer other then a polite, “It was really amazing to get to catch up with folks who I haven’t seen in awhile” or “I saw some really interesting panels.” The truth is that festivals like these are such an overwhelming experience that it’s near impossible to boil down into a few friendly sentences.

In an attempt to communicate what I learned from this year’s south-by, I thought it best to pinpoint the key themes and buzz words that I heard over and over at the conference. This is what I’ve got so far:

1) Decide on an idea and go for it.
Talking about an idea will not make it real and if you don’t make it happen some one else will. This talking point came up in several marketing and social networking panels, including garyvee’s discussion on video blogging.

Personally, I’ve always been a believer that you have to jump off the ledge or you’re never going to know if your wings work. That said, in a sour economy, it’s often difficult to convince others to invest in your idea or to afford making the leap by yourself. The flip side of this conversational coin is that there are just so many ideas! How do you pick which to poor your heart and soul into? My advice: pick one and don’t get distracted by shiny new ideas. If you’re convinced your path is the right path, others will believe and follow.

2) Important of branding
This one sounds obvious but is far deeper than any one person may imagine. The overall message is you’re a brand, the company you work for is a brand, the product or service the company provides is a brand, and the company that supports or sponsors your company is… you guessed it, a brand.

So obviously with all these brands, you risk becoming a shadow in a vast sea of logos if you don’t have a strong brand to bring to the table. To achieve brand status, I suggest that you set a goal, eat live and die your message, and establish a name for yourself if you want to survive. Then start marketing the hell our of yourself. You don’t wait for some one to ask you who you are to become relevant. But you need to know who you are and what your about before anyone will listen.

3) Democratizing Content Will Weed Out the Weak
With media technologies merging, there’s a lot of chatter about whether or not TV will reign supreme, especially when studio-owned and independently-produced programming are being consumed on the same television via the same set top box.

This was a hot topic on the Comedy on TV and Web panel. A few of the speakers pointed out that it’s becoming and less relevant who made a video, TV show, or movie. What matters to the consumer is that the program they are watching is good and will hold their interest for longer than the next video waiting for them in their queue. I couldn’t agree more.

Other topics and conversations overheard in the hallways: ATT = major fail, twitter, twitter, twitter, foursquare, and Zappos is an inspiration.

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sxinteractiveSo everyone who’s been following their Twitter feeds knows that SXSW is chalk full of good food, a few parties, and lots of meeting cool people. I was lucky enough to find all three. But, I also learned that there’s another side of the interactive festival that you don’t hear as much about: the presentations.

I think part of the reason why, is because you really have to be there to join in the conversation. Many of the panels are designs is to encourage people to participate. It’s called interactive, right? But seriously, it was really interesting to hear people talking most about ask the panels where the audience submitted questions or the core conversations were the audience answered them.

How’d these presentations stack up compared to traditional panels? Well, the audience had energy. You could feel that people were paying attention. Many still had their phones out and where check-in in frequently with sharable quotes and the whereabouts of their friends, but it was more than being restless than being rude. But the one thing I realize now is that in many of these sessions, I didn’t actually have a chance to learn from the speakers.

In a way, it sort of reminded me of the interactive space as a whole. By opening up the floodgates and giving everyone a platform to voice their talents and opinions, you create organized chaos. There are so many voices fighting to be found, whether it was by posting a retweetable twitter or walking up to the mic to ask a question. But how do push your way to the head of the crowd? And once you’re there who do you know who to listen too?

Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve done a lot of talk and a lot more listening but I still don’t have an answer to the one question that I’ve been itching to resolve. So, to take matters into my own hands, I’m just keep screaming louder and continue to and be one of the voices. I have over four years experience in the online video space. I’ve managed projects ranging from the YouTube Awards to the recently launched $99 Dollar Music Videos. I created two web series that sold to “name brand” sponsors. I’ve meet with the interactive leaders at nearly every major media studio. And most important to me, I genuinely care and am incredibly passionate about online video.

So ask me a question. Challenge me and my thoughts. In return, I’ll share your voice and will continue to look for answers.