SXSW Interactive Proposal

I recently accepted a challenge from my colleague and friend Cindy Royal to submit a panel proposal for SXSW Interactive 2015. As a guy who considers himself a “jack of all trades, master of none” (or something like that), I felt like proposing a session was very daunting and at least a little bit self-serving. It sounds weird writing that now, but I honestly thought, “No one cares what I have to say, especially at a major conference like SXSW Interactive, and what the heck do I have to talk about?!” Then I realized proposing a panel discussion wasn’t about me at all; it’s just about bringing people together who share similar passions and talking about what interests us. I realized my time at Texas State University has blessed me with opportunities to meet some really cool people, and they would probably have some interesting things to say. So, I came up with my panel, and I’ve invited Annie Werner of Tumblr and George Kiel of to join me. The panel is titled “Millennials, Communities, and the Future of Brands.” Here’s the description:

As one of the most fragmented and diverse generations, Millennials are usually the most difficult to reach, engage and convince. Skeptical of “big business” and insincerity, this age group is quick to call foul and run from brands, corporations, news organizations and even educational systems that don’t seem genuine or relatable.

With increasingly powerful online purchasing power and booming creativity, Millennials have bypassed many of the traditional communication strategies and have made their own way on the web — discovering breaking news on Reddit, finding new music on Tumblr, getting educated on YouTube.

This panel will discuss how up-and-coming brands, news organizations, and social media companies are using online communities to connect with Millennials. It will investigate the characteristics of Generation Y and illustrate how online entities can communicate effectively to such a diverse age group and turn passionate communities into loyal brand advocates.

As a youth pastor and university lecturer, most of my time is spent with Millennials. And being on the cusp of this generation myself, I can’t believe amount of interaction brands can have with today’s young people, even since I was in high school 12 years ago. The viral nature of videos like KONY 2012 and the recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, show us how brands can leverage the personalization of social media to build community and connect with new audiences. Annie has been working with Tumblr for several years now, watching these very things unfold daily, and George recently leveraged the power of social media and the sneaker community to pull of a very successful nonprofit event in Austin. I’m very excited to hear what they have to say on this topic as well.

The panel is currently open for voting, so I would love to hear your thoughts on it!