April 26, 2010

Marketing Strategist Seijen Takamura’s Take on PSFK Conference 2010

Trends research and innovation company PSFK held their fourth conference on April 9, 2010, in New York. My colleague, Marketing Strategist Seijen Takamura, shared his experience of Behance’s Action Notebook in a previous post. Here is his experience of a one-day event packed with creativity:

How did you discover PSFK?
As an intern at Fallon, part of my role entailed supporting the agency’s foray into social media and trends, which meant that I actually had to start staying on top of that stuff! I’m not sure exactly how I ended up following PSFK.com’s feed, but I do remember that it was one of the most interesting of all the feeds that I was reading.

Why did you decide to go to its conference?
Right now I have upwards of 200 feeds that I follow via RSS, but I still make it a point to pay special attention to PSFK because of its interesting content. In line with this, PSFK’s conferences always have great speaker line-ups, but I was always too poor to attend on my own dime. I was lucky enough that SapientNitro helped support me for this trip as means to expand my thinking and perspective on creativity and cultural trends.

Was there anything in the conference’s communication
and branding that appealed to you in a very direct way?

I don’t think it was necessarily anything special about the promotions that gripped me. I think it was a combination of the fact that we had been in talks with PSFK to potentially partner with them for a project, in addition to the fact that I was familiar with a few of the speakers’ work. Specifically, I had recently been to a screening of Eric Proulx’s film Lemonade (which is awesome BTW) where I got to meet him briefly. I had also seen Colin Beavan’s documentary No Impact Man and was familiar with both Nick Felton’s Feltron Report and Tina Roth Eisenberg’s blog SwissMiss. All of these influences really caused me to book the trip.

What was the venue and what did you think of it?
The venue was the Museum of Jewish Heritage near Battery Park in NYC and was really great. The main conference room was beautiful and was big enough to provide space while also keeping us close to the speakers. Plus, despite having been to NYC a few times, I had never been to that district before. The waterfront is very nice, though a little quiet. Overall, very nice.

How was the “conference brand” experience like on site,
from the welcome materials to the staff?

Not really sure what this means… but everything was very smooth. PSFK doesn’t make a huge push (at least from my POV) to really inundate its readers with promotion for the conference. Leading up to it, Piers Fawkes (the co-founder) sent a few personal emails to attendees keeping us up to date on the agenda and whatnot, and the gameday operations went very smoothly. We got a nice little booklet with space for notes next to each speaker bio, as well as some neat little pins to help self-associate ourselves with the various roles who might be attending. Food was good. All in all, everything was very smooth.

What were some of the best thoughts you heard?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of exact quotes, but there were a few ideas that resonated personally with me.

Ouigi Theodore talked about his long journey of not really knowing what he would be to eventually running the Brooklyn Circus. It was interesting for me, as someone who still doesn’t really know what he wants to be when he grows up, to hear how long his journey was before he finally found his passion. I think the key takeaway here was not only to be patient, but also to be open-minded, to explore, and to follow your passions. Kind of a cliché response from me, but it was nice to hear a success story from someone personally.

Partners & Spade’s presentation was excellent, and the key idea that I took away was “The bigger a brand becomes, the smaller it should act.” They used a case study of J.Crew to explore this idea, the result of which was a boutique shop in Tribeca called The Liquor Store which is small, and lightly branded, but highly experiential and personal. I think this idea is spot on, especially in this day and age. Everyone is talking about the potential behind social media and how brands can interact more directly with customers and blah blah blah. But really, this opportunity has always been there, and I would argue that in reality, most big brands still aren’t acting on a personal level and social media has actually resulted in more mass messaging with the hopes that these messages “go viral.”

Zach Lieberman’s presentation was probably of the coolest of all of them. I think it really vividly demonstrated how technology can really be used to amplify and improve human experiences, particularly as it relates to art. It’s really hard to sum up his presentation in a sentence, so instead, I will redirect and say go to YouTube and search Eyewriter. It’s just a really amazing combination of art + technology and illustrates the impact that this type of innovation and creativity can make on someone’s life.

Were there any surprises, good or bad,
from what you experienced?

The only surprise to me was how difficult it was to find a bar to get a drink on a Thursday night in the financial district around 11pm.

What tools did you use to capture the event?

Just a Moleskine notebook and a pen. I tried pretty hard to focus my attention on listening to the speakers as opposed to capturing everything they said. I knew that there were probably 50 people in the room live-tweeting and while that is great, I question how much one can really multi-task in that type of situation without losing something.

How would you make the conference better?
Maybe I’m bad at networking, but I think it could be fun to have a little interactive element somewhere during the conference. Force people to get into small groups for 10 minutes and brainstorm about something. A lot attendees came to the conference with colleagues or are already well-networked. But for us newbies, it’s a little intimidating. One of the key points that PSFK made was the need to bring creative minds together to interact. I agree, this would be invaluable, but sometimes we just need a little help.

Who would be interested in the PSFK Conference?
Seriously, the content and the messages of the speakers were pretty universally inspiring. It was definitely not a conference just for marketing professionals or just for artists or just for entrepreneurs or just for anybody. It was for people looking for inspiration… which is pretty much everyone, no?

One of the big improbable challenges of conferences
is sustaining the takeaways once you left the conference.
How do you plan to do this?

Good question: I need to decrypt my notes (ugh) but beyond that I’m haven’t really thought about it. That’s terrible. Let me think and get back to you.

Would you attend another PSFK Conference?

Other than PSFK, what would be your next conference
to attend?

I really want to attend the 99% Conference hosted by Behance.