PMG Digital Made for Humans

SXSW and the Challenge of Technical Sessions

3 MINUTE READ | March 27, 2017

SXSW and the Challenge of Technical Sessions

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Mariana Andersen Diaz

Mariana Andersen Diaz has written this article. More details coming soon.

There’s a lot going on at SXSW.

From the music, movie, and comedy festivals, to the interactive conference sessions that span categories including government, healthcare, marketing, tech, etc. With so much going on the options of where to go and what to see can be overwhelming. As a result, in the first few days of my conference experience, I gravitated towards what I was familiar with.

The first session I attended was centered on Google Analytics and how to get the most of the platform. As someone who looks at GA easily dozens of times a day I was interested in learning more about how I could better leverage the platform.

The intention of the session was to get a room of over 100 people to follow along with implementing several “hacks” to create custom data segments. This was where it got complicated. Rather than simply showing us where in GA we should be navigating – the hacks themselves were actual pieces of code that needed to be implemented in the platform. With so many people of varying degrees of GA and coding expertise in the room, being able to understand the process – much less follow along as a group – became a challenge. Lots of questions arose, and in the end, the solution we were trying to implement became lost in technical translation. The lesson? Tread carefully when it comes to interactive sessions.

All initial confusion aside, the second portion of the session was a bit more useful. We got an introduction to Google Data Studio. I hadn’t heard much of Data Studio before the session, but the examples were shown had me totally sold. Data Studio helps transfer rows of data from different sources into custom visualizations and dashboards that make interpreting the data much easier. Some examples are included below, and they’re much prettier than the usual quick excel tables I have a habit of putting together.

This example marries AdWords and Analytics data to create a variety of views

This example leverages YouTube data and GA…obviously 🙂

While I haven’t had much of an opportunity yet, I’m definitely excited to leverage Data Studio for the next data-driven request I get! And who knows? Maybe I’ll become such a pro at it that I’ll just have to write a follow-up blog post 🙂

Overall, it was an interesting introduction to SXSW sessions. To learn from my mistakes, here are a couple of quick tips for any future first-timers to the conference

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  • Even if the title of the sessions sounds straightforward, read the description carefully

    • Make sure it’s something that’s relevant to both your work and level of expertise

  • Double check in case the session is RSVP only.

    • If it is, you’ll likely be receiving material that can be better equip you to make the most of the session.

  • There really is SO much going on and so much information and knowledge to be gained during the week of SXSW – so strap in and have fun!

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