Editor Note: SEJ will be covering SXSWi again this year! Check out Kelsey’s past posts about SXSWi and follow along on our Twitter with the hashtag #SXSWi.
It’s nearly time for the ethereal action-packed Texas conference known as SXSW Interactive. As an Austin native turned San Franciscan, and long time SXSWer, many folks ask me, should I or shouldn’t I go? My answer is almost always an emphatic YES. Headlines for 2015 have suggested that support for SXSW could be wavering because big sponsors like Chevy and Doritos pulled out. However, this change isn’t a bad thing, because it allows for new sponsors to join. While a select few critics pan the conference every year, you can safely ignore them. The show will definitely go on. SXSW is unique and amazing, but admittedly the intensity of the conference is not for everyone.
It continues to amaze me every year just how many spectacular people make SXSW happen. Rather than drone on about big brands and the good ol’ days, I’d like to share with you five awe-inspiring women you need to know if you want to make a splash at SXSW Interactive. This list is in no particular order, they are equally awesome ladies to know.
With over 15 years of experience in key executive sales and marketing management, Lana is a seasoned professional with a proven track record. She currently serves as a Principal with blast! PR, a full-service communications and strategic marketing firm. In March 2012, she opened the firm’s first Austin office which has given her a big advantage for making SXSW connections and driving results. She has written about SXSW a number of times, including the SXSW Survival Guide. She was also quoted in Huffington Post with tips about getting the most out of SXSW, including, ¨Have fun. It’s Austin. It’s weird. It’s smart. It’s creative. You are off the coasts.”
Although to be fair, many Texans consider Texas to be the third coast.
Linsey Krauss McNew
This Texas native resides in Austin, giving her an advantage as she is immersed in the culture year round. She utilizes her vast and trusted network in both Austin and around the country to put her clients in front of the right people at SXSW. She has 10+ years of experience in communications and Public Relations and currently leads up Media & Engagement for Technology at WCG, a global communications company. Linsey represents a number of impressive clients and knows quite a few influential members of press. She has also been involved in the festival itself, serving as a panel liaison on SXSW Interactive. Linsey has been described as a ¨highly organized, proactive, and creative critical thinker, [with a] a fierce dedication to hard work that delivers results.”
Laura Beck worked in technology Public Relations and Marketing for 20+ years and is highly known and respected in the field. She spent 14 years working for PR firm Porter Novelli and opened the Austin office. She grew it to $3 million business with 16 people, and ran the SXSW Interactive account, including all media. In 2010, she left the PR-centric world to start her own clothing line. Despite her career transition, she still plays a major role at SXSW each year and runs the Entrepreneur Lounge at Fogo during Interactive, in which she coordinates 800 VIPs from big brands, the media, and entrepreneurs to be in the same room. She’s been called a mover and shaker in the Austin technology industry.
In talking about Austin, she says, “This city gives you a big hug every day. I came from Boston: ultra competitive. We raise each other up and care about what’s going on here. We hope for someone else’s success nearly as much as we hope for our own.”
Laura Mignott and Sara Walker-Santana
This New York-based duo is composed of the co-founders of DigitalFlash, an innovative agency that focuses on the digital and tech experiences. Why mention these two women together? Because their hearts beat as one. Since 2009, this team has produced an ongoing event series bringing together a venerable roster of the brightest talent in digital for interactive panels and networking. Laura and Sara are very well-known among those who work behind the scenes for a number of reputable clients at SXSW. Last year, they organized the Samsung Blogger Lounge in the heart of downtown Austin during Interactive, bringing in plenty of foot traffic and serious buzz on social media.
Kelly Krause works as the Head of Press and Publicity for SXSW Interactive and SXSW V2V in Las Vegas. In this role, she does all the reading, categorizing, and processing for media on-site, and also connects panelists with panels. She is originally from Nebraska, lived in Los Angeles, and now resides in Austin. She’s been working for SXSW since 2010, and a fun fact is her birthday is on March 13…the opening day for SXSW Interactive! Due to her relationships with A-list technology firms and media outlets, Kelly has been named one of the Top 50 Most Connected Women in America by Marie Claire magazine. A good fundamental concept to abide by for SXSW is to dance with who brought you. It’s smart to start following SXSW staffers on Twitter and who knows, maybe you’ll meet someone on Twitter who is associated with running the festival.
Whether you decide to attend this year or not, consider your goals and motivation for the conference. If you’re not a good planner, then relax, kick back and remember to start planning for SXSW 2016 a bit sooner. Sometimes it makes sense to take a year or two off, but I know you’ll come back eventually!
Featured Image: Taken by author on March 9, 2014
Image #1: Photo of Samsung Lounge taken by author on March 9, 2014