Thursday, March 12, 2009


It’s a chilly Thursday morning (which is a disappointment after 70 degree weather) and I’m sitting in the airport en route to Austin Texas and the infamous SxSW (South by Southwest) Conference & Festival. SxSW hosts three industries for 10 days of cutting age workshops, networking and one of a kind learning opportunities. The first half of the Festival is the Film & Interactive conferencing.

But it is the music that is making SxSW famous. SxSW has a huge underground following that is creeping towards the mainstream with fervor. It’s a must among music types as one of the best music showcases for up and coming, established and legendary musicians. It’s where many of my personal fav’s first showcased for the U.S. music industry (wolfmother, white stripes, mars volta) and also provides a forum for legendary acts re-kindling their rock star status (Devo, B-52’s, DeLaSoul).

But music is not the mission of this trip. This is a mission of SMILES. Smiles bigger than those that even the greatest Rock & Roll can provide. Smiles that the organization I work for has spent almost 26 years giving to children who otherwise would have no chance to laugh, speak, and yes sing.

This year as part of SxSW’s Interactive conferences Operation Smile will host SxSW SMILES, an Interactive, fund raising and awareness builder. On Monday 3/16 we’ll be featured in The Beacon Lounge sponsored by Beaconfire consultants which is a non-profit design firm. Beaconfire does really cool web applications and campaigns for some of the top non-profits (Heifer) and we are hoping to work together on some fun things like Blog Fundraising widgets and Facebook apps.

How did SxSW SMILES come about? In my 2 years at Operation Smile as Donor Relations roles I have longed for off-line, real life in person promotions. Ironically in my new role as Social Media Strategist; which is seemingly all “Virtual Donor Relations”, I realized a great opportunity to have Social Media drive old school promotions like you have for radio stations, products and bands. I researched opportunities that would provide a great test and have additional value. Enter SxSW!

While we will not be working with the music element of the festival, the attendees for Interactive and Film will be great to test the interactive “Makes Me Smile” concept as well as our SMS TEXT process. Plus, the workshops, networking and learning opportunities will be invaluable to help inform my position and bring new life to Operation Smile as we move into the “web 2.0” world.
Their boarding my plane now—more this afternoon when I arrive in the Lonestar state! (oh yeah-check out the SxSW SMILES Page

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