ReadyTalk goes to SXSW so you don’t have to

sxsw 2016As I’m packing my bags for SXSW Interactive 2016, I’m eager to see what emerging technologies and fascinating people I’ll cross paths with this year.

Things have changed a lot since I first attended in 2009. I was a front-end web developer. Social media was gaining traction among individuals, but businesses didn’t yet appreciate the potential impact of this new communication medium.

I’ve attended the show almost every year since then, and have always left inspired and excited about how rapidly our world is changing. For some, though, it’s overwhelming to see all the hungry startups (and now corporate sponsors) vying for eyeballs and coverage. What do you need to care about, and which flash-in-the-pan ideas are just enjoying their 15 minutes of fame before petering out?

So I go to SXSW so you don’t have to! Check back on this blog (as well as my twitter feed: @afhill) for some of the cool insights and tech trends I’ll be checking out, and my take on what it means for how business and communications are changing.

Although of course if I’m given the chance to check out a self-driving car, I won’t hesitate!


A few of the sessions/topics I’m most excited about:

HAL to Her: Humanizing Tech Via the Power of Voice
Voice is powerful. Voice is human. From Amazon Echo to Cortana to a real life Star Trek communicator badge – technology has finally begun to find its voice. Hear from a panel of experts as they speak about how advances in AI and hardware will transform the way we interact with the people and devices around us.

For decades, sci-fi fantasies have outlined a voice activated future where people interact seamlessly with the world around them, not a future where we all stare down at screens. As we move into a more tech enabled society, come hear how screens will fade to the background as voice takes the lead.


Get the Message! The Rise of Conversational UI
We’re all familiar with the worldwide adoption in text messaging, but in the past year we’ve seen a rush of new product/services that rely on person-to-person or machine-to-person interaction not through an app, but via text and voice. As designers we’re being forced to reconsider fundamental, desktop-induced assumptions about interaction models on mobile, which is already having a profound impact on developers, app stores, consumers, service providers, and retailers: How much can we expect machines to supplement human interaction? Are we sure that we want to interact with machines the same way we do with humans? When is it appropriate to replace a bot with a human, and vice versa?


Face Recognition and Online Identity
Biometric technologies are seeing widespread usage through social networking services (SNS) such as Facebook and Google+. These SNS are using face recognition to help users organize photos and tag the individuals in each photo, making face images more searchable and discoverable. Surprisingly, these algorithms are able to deal with images considered extremely challenging for traditional face recognition systems. The presentation will discuss how well online face recognition algorithms actually work based on in-depth performance tests, whether they are improving over time, their vulnerabilities and limitations, and what online face recognition means for privacy and security.

Ultimate Empathy Machine: 360 Storytelling in VR
The VR industry has seen explosive growth over the past couple of years, with companies like Oculus and Valve consumer VR headsets in 2016. While there a number of companies are tackling the VR hardware problem, there simply isn’t enough content to support all of these devices. 360 video is an efficient and effective way to create content for VR, and we’re seeing a new medium for storytelling emerge before our eyes. Join our panel of VR storytelling pioneers as we discuss the advantages, challenges, tradeoffs and techniques of working in this new medium. Hear from our successes and failures so that you may leave inspired to succeed in this new medium.


Crowdsourcing the Hyperloop
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn will discuss Hyperloop as both a completely new transportation system and the revolutionary use of crowdsourcing to create an entirely new model for how companies can be made. In August 2013, Elon Musk published the original Hyperloop Alpha white paper detailing a new mode of transportation: a passenger capsule levitating in a tube that travels at 760 MPH. Musk asked other entrepreneurs to take on the project and JumpStartFund, a new crowdsourcing platform, took the project on with 100 engineers, becoming the first Hyperloop company, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Inc. (HTT) in November 2013. Today, HTT has more than 500 team members, including Fortune 500 companies, working worldwide to build the first full scale passenger-ready Hyperloop along a five mile stretch of the I-5 Freeway in California’s Central Valley. What does it takes to build a new mode of transportation? How will the Hyperloop change the way we live?


What’s interesting about these sessions in particular?

Our smart devices will are becoming even more smart, and will support our activities in an invisible way. We’re suffering (yes, truly suffering) with too many apps that perform similar activities, which adds to our cognitive load and decreases our productivity. As our devices begin to recognize us so that we don’t have to actively authenticate or direct them to do routine tasks, we can focus on more creative, meaningful activities.

Although VR is being primarily lumped in with gaming and entertainment for now, there is a lot of potential for it to shift how we collaborate. I view it as we approached social media back in 2009; it’s currently being dismissed as ‘consumer entertainment’ but companies need to be thinking about how it has the potential to shift consumer content consumption-especially given the companies that are making big investments in the space (Facebook, Apple, Google, etc).  Virtual reality has the potential for a much more immersive experience that could shift our entire paradigm of “conferencing” and “collaboration-as-real-time-document-editing” (although I believe that it will really shine in more emotional and engaging settings). This new media will require partners all along the value chain to be in sync: content producers, online storage and server providers as well as hardware manufacturers, but I’m confident that technology will be available – at a non-prohibitive cost – in the next few years.

And the hyperloop session? It’s about 85% a personal interest in the project, but 15% of me wonders if this ease of transportation could see a shift in remote collaboration. Web and audio conferencing really was bolstered by increasing travel costs over the past decade. As we see transportation changing (autonomous and on-demand lowering effort and cost), we may see a shift back to more in-person meetings.

And as much as any formal programming, I’m looking forward to exploring the event and seeing what unanticipated new products or services may surface.

Want to see what’s going on while it’s happening? I’ll be holding live blabs over on everyday at 9:30am Mountain (10:30 Central). Sign on to chat (video or text) about the event while it’s happening!



‘How to Launch a Product’ Blog Series: Get Everybody on the Same Page

4 people around a table from abovePreviously we talked about different development methodologies and types of product launches, today we will talk about why establishing goals, metrics and solidifying a messaging strategy document (MSD) will get everyone on the same page.

At the kickoff meeting, we establish the goals and desired metrics for each launch.  Here are some example goals for a launch: generate leads, awareness, new user acquisition, drive revenue, number of units sold, or drive adoption.  It is also important to set metrics, that way you will know if the launch is successful or needs some additional tactics to achieve the target metrics.  Metrics can include: web traffic, content utilization, new prospects, MQLs, SQLs, new customers acquisition, or new revenue.  It is really important to determine both goals and metrics up front, then everyone is marching towards the same target and understands what success looks like after launch.  If you don’t establish this in the beginning, it makes it a lot harder to determine what types of tactics you will need for your launch.  For example, if driving adoption is the goal, then you can align your launch tactics around gaining users and usage.

Another item that is important to get alignment up front on is the messaging strategy document.  The MSD identifies the following pieces of information:

  • Target audience
    • Who are you targeting with this product? Is there a specific persona that you should be marketing to?
  • Main benefit statement
    • What is the primary benefit to the end user?
  • Pain Points
    • What challenges is the user struggling with?
  • Key benefits of the product
    • Reasons why someone would buy the product and if it s a differentiator
  • Release type
    • Major, Minor, Lean
  • Features
    • This is different from benefits, could be a technical function that would improve performance of a process or an actual feature.
  • Product descriptions
    • Write up 25 and 50 word product descriptions that include what the benefit is.
  • Competitive situation
    • Identify 3-4 competitors, what do they offer, is your product on-par, below par or above par of each competitor?  Include any details such as features, pricing, etc.
  • Pricing and Packaging
    • What are you charging for the product, how is it packaged? Is is part of a subscription or can you buy it on its’ own?
  • Screenshots
    • Include any screenshots that showcase the product.  These can be used in banner ads, emails, blogs, presentations, etc.
  • Goals/Metrics/Business case
    • Include what the goals and metrics are in the Messaging Strategy document so that it always top of mind.

If you can establish the goals, metrics and complete the messaging strategy document up front, it will guide you and your team as you move through the launch and everyone will be talking about the product benefits and differentiators in the same language. Next up, we will be discussing how to enable your sales and account management teams and get them ready for launch.