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SxSW, Nuclear Tacos, and Other Authentic Experiences

Nucleartacos_1 Last night I had nuclear tacos.  You’ve probably never heard of them until last night, but as part of Mozilla’s BBQ event, the nuclear tacos were out in force.  Today there are lots of images of Flickr of people experiencing nuclear pain and several images of the actual tacos and event (including the one at left from the gallery of Arvind Grover).  Encouraging this sharing was the smart placement of a sign asking people to "interact" by tagging images "nucleartaco" on Flickr and other sites.  Nuclear tacos are a sign of the vibe here at SxSW.  Companies are giving away voodoo dolls in the conference bags (Ryko) and sticking balloons to index cards to promote the premiere of Twisted, the first ever "balloonamentary."  At any other event, these would probably stand out.  And here they do too – but the experiences people will be talking about are the ones that have the nuclear tacos.  The experiences that you just had to be here to experience.  That was also the feeling at the 20×2 event last night. 

Whatifthumb It is another example of the popularity of our snack culture with "bite sized entertainment" that Wired magazine recently explored in their cover story this month.  At 20×2, 20 speakers had 2 minutes each to answer the single question "What if?"  The answers went from optimistic and hopeful, to cheesy, to desperate … but each was watchable because they were linked by a theme and short enough to keep things moving.  This was the type of experience that people will remember – and everyone at the event knew it.  But why does this stand out where others don’t?  The main reason is that the experience is limited.  It’s the same for nuclear tacos.  If you could get them at your corner store, or everyone had seen or known about it, they wouldn’t be the same.  There may have been 20×2 events in the past, but the topics change and as result the event stays fresh.  People seek those authentic experiences, and at an event like SxSW they seek them more then ever.  If you can stand out here, you can stand out anywhere.  What’s the secret?  Be unique and offer something limited and exclusive.  Ask people to share their experience and most importantly, give them the help or guidance to do it.

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