SXSW is one of the key events in the digital world, when the great and the good descend on Austin for 5 days of panels, conversations and parties.  This is my first trip to the event but according to SXSW old hands, this year is bigger than ever before (I can believe it, the list of talks is mind blowing).

For me, yesterday’s winner was ‘Try Making Yourself More Interesting’, on the face of it a slightly fluffy title with the potential to involve lots of cool folk talking about how awesome their online presence is. In reality, it was a fascinating conversation about how anyone – individuals, businesses, brands, can produce work with that intangible ‘ah’ factor. 

Lane Becker, co-founder of both consultancy Adapative Path and web startup Get Satisfaction, was clear that there are no short cuts to producing work that gets people excited.  In his conversations with clients he reiterates that businesses have to move away from considering customers transactionally, to a model in which they focus on relationships.  This is the first step in ensuring that whatever you produce resonates with the target audience. 

There was a feeling from some of the panel, particularly Bryon from Bike Hugger and Amit Gupta from Photojojo, that no-one should dirty their hands with the sordid business of concentrating on whether you’ll make money out of a project or if you should measure ROI.  Their contention was that if you focus on the work delivering “love”, the rest will follow but Kristina Halvorson from web content agency Brain Traffic was more realistic, reminding the rest of the them that,”some of these folk will work in insurance or law firms and they need to know how they can apply this stuff to their own environments“. 

The overwhelming consensus and take away message was this: there are no shortcuts, and marketers can’t buy ‘being interesting’ off the shelf, do your homework, work hard, hang on in there if it’s going badly and focus on the delicious details.