What can DiG take from SXSW?

Is it all about tech or music or celebrity or the future of human resources or green energy?  What is SXSW and what can we learn from it for Newcastle?

Today marks the half way of my SXSW journey, and I can break down this huge festival ofideas into five key words; Enliven, Engage, Challenging, Dream and Act.

You often hear people refer to towns and events as “alive”, I am a strong believer in the ability of events to achieve this outcome.

When I first walked out of the Hilton on Thursday and into Austin Texas, the overwhelming feeling coming from the streets, the people and the city was an absolute vibrancy – you felt as though you could reach out and touch it. It was palpable. My mind immediately went to “imagine what we can do for Newcastle with DiG!” There are blocks of streets closed off, activations everywhere – it’s a party with a purpose and an economic outcome.  For DiG to become like SXSW it needs the support and involvement of the entire community – from the creative industries through to the individuals in government who will sign off on the road closures required and the infrastructure required to bring this festival from a baby to an adult.


The minute the plane touched down, the people of Austin were welcoming visitors to THEIR City. They are so proud of this event, and rightly so, but they also feel an ownership and are proud that their City welcomes 32,000 visitors from all over the world annually.

Tuesday was spent discussing community management, governance and guidelines surrounding social media and meeting some awesome industry professionals – people from Dell, Google, Target, Wells Fargo – some of the top companies in the US were represented. The ability to learn from each other, is at the core of SXSW and we are working hard to ensure DiG delivers the same.

The SXSW organisers have managed to engage some very powerful people across all three areas of the festival; high profile, socially minded individuals who care for the cause, not the almighty dollar. This has taken 21 years but it shows what is indeed possible with a common goal and a vision of excellence for a City.

Newcastle has the chance to do the same  – but we need others to believe in the vision and what is possible  – don’t say why Newcastle, yell why NOT Newcastle!

Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, renowned astrophysicist and host of Cosmos taught me that when the tooth fairy questions start coming, never underestimate the intelligence of said 6 or 7 year old. Dr Tyson took great pleasure in explaining how his eldest and her friends at school had worked out the only time they got money was when they told their parents about said tooth – if the tooth fell out at school and they hid it there – the tooth fairy and her rewards failed to show up. Of course his kids were smart enough to work out not to advise their parents what they had worked out and just kept with the status quo to ensure their money was delivered.  He told this story to remind us of a time when we would challenge life.

The main message I am taking out of SXSW is to start to challenge EVERYTHING in our lives and stop accepting mediocrity. Why are we doing what we are doing… are there better ways to do what we are doing – and most importantly how to deal with the tooth fairy.

It’s also about challenging the systems we use and the people we manage to use those systems. The subject matter has been diverse, overwhelming and heartbreaking – but at all times challenging.

Having now experienced the event, I have enormous hope for the future of the DiG Festival and what it can do for the Newcastle and Hunter economy and culture.  I have heard lots of figures thrown out this week, the most impressive is the $200 million that is injected in to the Austin economy directly by The SXSW Festival. This doesn’t include the associated businesses that are being set up here; if we can even do 5% of this figure it will be a success.

My sincere hope and dream is that government and the corporate community can embrace the 2014 DiG Festival for the enormous economic, social and cultural impact it can have on our beautiful City and be a showcase to the world.

Unfortunately for all the highs, there is a low.
Anyone who knows me, knows I am proudly patriotic – but if Australia doesn’t move yesterday on our connectivity infrastructure, we are going to be left behind and left behind significantly. This has been proven in a very small scale with Hunter Medicare Local highlighting speed issues and its implications and the announcement this week of BarTV having to move their operations out of the Hunter.

We should be shouting and screaming and not accepting this. I have spent the last week operating my business from the States using nothing but FREE WIFI – let me repeat that! I have happily run Eclipse and my work for all my clients remotely, at great speeds and it’s FREE – in hotels, restaurants, airports  – you name it. I am currently writing this in a restaurant in downtown Austin as I have breakfast.  This is not only standard for the average American, it is expected! If a restaurant doesn’t have WIFI they move on.

Yet as Australians we continue to accept sub standard – it’s no longer good enough. Australia get it together or you will miss the IT boat – this is the next industrial revolution – and it’s already happening.

So at the halfway mark and with the interactive component complete, I now turn my attention to the film and music industries and wonder what else could be in store for the Hunter?  Do you dare to dream too?

Tracy McKelligott is the Managing Director of Eclipse Media, Events and PR and is a co-creator and partner in the DiG Festival with Craig Wilson of Digital Marketing Agency Sticky and Stephanie Hinds of Growthwise
Follow all three – @Tracy_EclipseMD, @mediahunter and @growthwise


Facebook and Twitter – Friend or Foe?

It’s a tad ironic that the topic for today’s blog is the pressure of social media on our lives….And yes I’ve been feeling the pressure of not blogging for 4 weeks!

As you all know i was recently involved in running the 2012 Herald Home Show as well as the Gluten Free Expo in Sydney. Both of these events, much like any expo, requires quite a bit of work in the days leading up as well as during bump in and those initial opening hours.

The need to be in 50 places at once is enough to make me hate both my phone and my name (and for anyone who knows me – I LOVE my phone)

Following a particularly busy Thursday bump in for Home Show; which as well as setting up a clients site involved ensuring all scripts were written for mc’s, all welcome letters completed – the usual items for a pre-opening day.

It was midnight and as I was heading to my 2am finish I received a Facebook message saying someone had just posted about Home Show and in my usual you can’t leave anything wait frame of mind I immediately went to view said message.

The person involved was complaining that our Facebook page had been quiet that particular day. This didn’t go over very well as you can imagine 🙂


So as we were getting ready to open on Friday, and indeed for the rest of the weekend, I felt this enormous pressure to ensure I communicated regularly via twitter and Facebook. Not only did I now have the normal worries of an event – stages, cooking demos, exhibitor and  visitor issues, you name it – I now had this pressure put upon me by people I didn’t even really know.

But it did get me to thinking – isn’t social media supposed to be working for US –  not us for IT??

It’s a bit like being mum to Miss 5 (yes she turned 5 last week)  The pressure to be all things to all people – but at the end of the day as long as I’m a good mum to Miss 5 and ensure that, despite my shortcomings, she knows she is loved and adored – isn’t that what we all aim for? The 24/7 demands and pressures deserve to be coming from Miss 5 not from a medium designed to inform and entertain us.

We seem to have the demands on our time, and our reactions to these demands, a little off kilter. I wonder if it’s the wonderful technological world we live in – the one where both my iPad and i-phone sit beside my bed charging and if that email comes in – yes of course I can jump right on it and answer whoever is chasing me at any ungodly hour. Once again the dilemma of work life balance hits – this is supposed to be my down time, my time with my beautiful and quickly growing Miss 5.

Some tough boundaries are required for Miss Tracy.

So I’ve now decided that yes twitter and Facebook I love you dearly – but I am not going to add you to the list of things that rule my life;  that take pleasure from what I do for a living.

I did a great job at the Gluten Free Expo of enjoying setting up and opening the event; I tweeted and FB’d when I could – but my focus was not on getting the tweets out then and there,  it was about the event.

I allowed the pressure valve to be lifted.

I didn’t allow these two communications tools (and at the end of the day that is what they are) to rule my life.  Once again I enjoyed the chaos and madness that is bump in and day 1 of an expo;  which at the end of the day is what I do.  I create events that people want to come and visit IRL – and that’s just fine with me.

So a note to my friends – “Dear FB and Twitter – your constant 24 hour demands were too high – i am sure we can remain close friends and still communicate – i just cant do BFFs – I hope you understand. @Tracy_EclipseMd”

Until next time….


The weight of expectation

Its been a big few weeks for us at Eclipse and PJ Promotions with one of our largest events, the Herald Newcastle Home Show held last weekend.

The London Olympics started the same day as we opened Home Show and it got me to thinking about the weight of expectation on us all.

No matter whether we are performing at the Olympics, being a mother, a wife, a boss or an employee just doing our daily jobs – the weight of expectation sits heavily at times. When you have others depending on you for their livelihood and to pay the bills that weight can feel debilitating at times.

Watching the reactions of our swimmers over the past week has been incredibly disappointing. And no its certainly not that that they lost, but their reaction in defeat. If someone told me I could be second in the world at something I would be jumping for joy – yet the weight of expectation placed on these athletes; whether by the media, coaches or themselves, makes them feel second is a failure.

Is it the world of immediate gratification, and immediate responses,  that we now live in that adds this pressure to us all? I’m not sure.

All I know is that I delivered on my audience numbers last week; I delivered for my sponsors, my exhibitors, my business partners and my family but it wasn’t just me – it was gold to a team of people who believe in what they do and work extremely hard.

But if we didn’t deliver I wonder how that weight of expectation, or rather failure, would be sitting with me a week on.

I think it’s well time that we stop carrying this weight of unreal expectation no matter how or where it’s coming from; and know that we are all doing exceptionally well at just being ourselves. That doing a job to the best of our abilities is worthy of praise – not criticism or condemnation.

I think we all deserve to feel golden – medal or no medal!

Event Management and PR – Much like Motherhood!

For my inaugural blog I thought I should give you all a little bit of me…. those key facets of my life that shape who and what i am;  motherhood and my work.

For near on a quarter of a century, in one way or another, I have been involved in event management and/or PR. It’s a wonderful way to earn a living – its glamorous, you get to meet lots of famous people, and you spend all of your time eating, drinking and hob knobbing with no real work or pressure to bear on you ….. YEAH RIGHT! And i have a $3 note to pay you with.

Since becoming a mother almost five years ago, I have become increasingly aware of how much like my work, motherhood and bringing up Miss nearing 5, really is.

From an early age, us daughters of the baby boomers have been sold this perfect picture; the you can have it all ideal – husband, child and work – you can have it all and not give up anything – your baby sleeps through the night, obeys when told to and sits quietly in the corner – she will fit perfectly into your well organised and well managed life.  Much like the world often sold of event management and PR.

But the truth is far from this!

Sure I’ve had some awesome times and met some amazing people – David Beckham and Prince Charles at the top of this list – but that is few and far between. For the main – its a damn hard slog – 27/7 phone calls, just when you think things are ready to go the world explodes, the client just won’t say what you have advised them to say, that 1am finish is now looking like 5am and you have just missed your magazine deadline………

Being a mum is much the same – calls from the next room at 11am, 1am and again at 3am to tell you they love you and want to come in to bed with you, or as you are about to walk out the door the prefectly dressed little madam has just poured a drink of apple juice down her front and you have a 9am, and as you are on site listening to a presentation she wants to tell you how hungry she is and no she WON’T wait 5 minutes for McDonalds!

It’s the unpredictability of event management and PR that has prepared me (or it should have) for motherhood!

Don’t get me wrong, I adore my little girl and wouldn’t know what to do without her.

So if you are wanting to join the world of PR and Event Management – be ready – it’s just as unpredictable as having a child! But the rush you get when it all turns out all right on the night – for motherhood and event management – makes it ALL worthwhile.