March 19, 2018, posted by Carol Montoto

5 Buzzwords from SXSW to Use at Your Next Big Meeting

One of the things SXSW is best known for is all the new marketing and tech jargon. Session after session, it’s fun to hear so many new buzzwords and phrases, and then count how many more times you’ll hear those same words.

I’m always amazed at the skill it takes to drop them in mid-sentence and with a straight face. For a few days after I pick up on a new buzzword, I do laugh quite a bit. Once I’ve gotten that out of my system, I do try to understand what’s behind all the buzzwords, and how it will affect my work over the next few years.

At SXSW 2018, it was interesting to note new buzzword themes, and which trends which seem to be taking a backseat this year. So, with that, here are my top five 2018 SXSW buzzwords:



1. Blockchain

The top buzzword at this year’s SXSW. You couldn’t walk 10 feet without seeing it on a session title or a poster, or pass by “Blockchain Bros.”

Blockchain Bros | Digital Ad Agency | IQ Agency

After attending several sessions featuring “Blockchain” in the title, I came away with a solid understanding: Blockchain is a decentralized technology, similar to Bit Torrent. What Bit Torrent did for the digital movie industry, showing the need for Netflix, HBO Go, and Amazon Prime, Blockchain will likely do for financial institutions, decentralizing currency. It has the potential to be the new internet. Web 3.0. Get ready.

2018 Meeting Buzzword Tip: Talk about “Blockchain” instead of “The Cloud.”


2. Cryptocurrency

Also referred as “Crypto.” Bitcoin is a form of cryptocurrency, which is digital currency (built on Blockchain). Thousands of other cryptocurrencies exist, such as Ethereum which was a really big deal at SXSW. There are many companies out there offering to help you create your own cryptocurrency tokens.

2018 Meeting Buzzword Tip: Consider “Cryptocurrency” instead of Paypal, Square, or Venmo.


3. Voice UI

Voice UI (Alexa, Siri) is the evolution of AI. Beyond the technology, it’s interesting to think about sound becoming an integral part of your brand. Brand recall is increased by 5X with sound. What does your brand’s actual voice sound like? Is there a tone, series of notes or chimes that conveys your brand to listeners? How can you get your brand message across in 5 seconds? It’s only a matter of time before we can speak to all the objects around us to get answers. That means so many more points of interaction for brands. Brands are just getting started with Alexa skills, but no one has truly cracked that yet. And sometimes she’s there to just chuckle creepily at us.

2018 Meeting Buzzword Tip: Plan for “Voice UI” (and Sound in general) as part of your brand standards, which is a lot more feasible and less Terminator than “AI”.


4. Empathy

Things got a little emotional at SXSW 2018. There were sessions around mindfulness, group therapy (a lesson in Tapping Therapy!) Many panels centered around empathy in AR, VR, and AI. Headspace had a strong presence. The thinking here is that empathy is our most significant business advantage. We can combine human mindfulness with VR and AI. Ease of use (UX) may no longer be the measure of apps, content, and brands. Instead, they will begin to be measured by how much they care about what you care about, emotionally connecting with you on some level.

Consumer Empathy Map | Digital Ad Agency | IQ Agency



2018 Meeting Buzzword Tip: “Empathy” is the new “Storytelling”

Listen to “Empathy Is the New Tech Superpower”


5. Democratization

This word was used in all sorts of contexts and was my personal favorite. It’s not a new technology, a trendy startup, or a Blockchain band. It’s just a ฿10 verb (sorry…Bitcoin joke). Some examples:

The Democratization of…

  • …AI
  • …a centralized web
  • …developer tools
  • …visual effects
  • …the creative process
  • …the paradigm of lunar exploration

It’s a fancy way of saying “making accessible to everyone.” I’m still amazed at how effortlessly this was dropped mid-sentence into so many different topics.

2018 Meeting Buzzword Tip: Say “Democratizing” instead of “Disrupting.” It sounds important, yet, is for the greater good. It’s like “Disrupting,” but in a more empathetic way.


SXSW is fun to make fun of, and even more, fun to be a part of. Beyond all the buzzwords, there’s substance and real technology to learn. Immersing myself in a few days of buzzword-filled sessions helps me understand what trends will be affecting my work a few years out, so I can be thinking ahead for our clients while practicing my newly discovered buzzwords – and democratizing them through posts like this one.

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