Southstart 2021… a different energy to previous years.

Whilst still being Australia’s leading impact & innovation festival, the energy and the feel shifted post Covid lockdowns of 2020 and the Convention Centre feel of 2019. It was a shift that left me feeling energised to take on this next year, and shed the load of what last year piled on.

The format had some major changes to include things like salons and conversational tones to the catch-ups, but the value remained the same. From connections made over late-night dinners, to parties, masterclasses, intimate sessions, a road trip to a world-renowned wine region and a conference featuring some of the world’s leading minds in technology and innovation. Southstart 2021 was something special and exactly what the community was looking for to reinvigorate from the year that was 2020.

The National Wine Centre alongside Stone and Chalk made for an impactful setting for the festival. Compared to other conferences and summits, the Southstart 2021 offering brought about less boring, stagnant conversations and more interactive, lively activities.

As a sponsor and speaker at this year’s event, the outcomes around learning, growing & connecting with others felt right. Neon Treehouse also enjoyed the setting, with our now 16 person team getting the opportunity to come along to learn and grow amongst the content and connecting opportunities.

If you haven’t been to Southstart, and you’re wondering if you should attend next year’s event…here is my message for you.

Southstart is:

  • A worthwhile use of time for anyone who has considered genuine connection with the business community important.
  • For anyone who is interested in learning about the direction the world is headed, and about the things people are doing about.
  • The place to be if hearing from world-class speakers about interesting topics is your thing.
  • For anyone who loves immersing themselves in an experience and making some friends along the way….well, goes without saying, but that’s all possible at this festival of ideas.

For those who missed it, I have wrapped up some of the wonderful things Southstart 2021 had to offer.. The event had more speakers than our team could even split up and take in! So, this is a highlight reel of a few things that myself and the team enjoyed.

Day 1: Masterclasses at Stone and Chalk

I kicked off the week at innovation hub Stone and Chalk, speaking to a room of bright eyed and eager faces in my masterclass, Turning Heads and Changing Minds. My goal was to provide insight about what to expect in the digital space in 2021 and how to best navigate the ever-changing landscape and maintain the ability to grab attention and drive action. Ultimately, it’s those who keep a steady hand, a creative mind and a curiosity for the untapped that will be able to turn heads and change minds through digital marketing moving forward.

You can access the PDF of my slide deck here.

Now the hard work was over, it was time to sit back and hear from industry leaders, starting with Daniel Leans from social media marketing and manager tool, Hootsuite. In his masterclass, Social Media and Digital Trends, Dan spoke about five key social media trends of 2021 coming off the back of the pandemic. Dan delved into the most popular social media sites for business, the importance of understanding target audience and the power social media has to drive consumers to other platforms. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the Hootsuite Social Trends of 2021 Report.

After a quick lunch break, it’ was time to hear what designer and creative genius, Murray Gailbraith had to say at his masterclass, How to be Super Creative. Engaging the audience through interactive activities, Murray showed everyone the key to being super creative was identifying unexpected solutions to obvious problems or obvious solutions to unexpected problems; summing up the session perfectly with this quote: “creativity requires action otherwise it’s just imagination.” Learn more about Murray and his services here.

Day 2: Bright Ideas Summit and Ecosystem Summit

Day 2 took us to the renowned National Wine Centre for the Bright Ideas Youth Event and Ecosystem Leadership Summit. In partnership with the University of Adelaide and Future Anything, the Bright Ideas Youth Event was a morning filled with inspiration and enthusiasm. Leading creators and connectors, from as young as nine, encouraged South Australia’s students to be the change that is needed to walk into a bright future through interactive activities and conversations.

Over in the Exhibition Hall, attendees of the Ecosystem Leadership Summit were welcomed by Premier Steven Marshall to a day of personal and collaborative growth alongside some of Australia’s leading startup ecosystem builders. Speakers presented ideas to the group and the conversation was opened up to attendees to collaborate and produce solutions to some of the industry’s talked about issues. After a day of discussion and problem-solving, the group discovered sometimes there are no easy answers.

The NTH team also enjoyed more masterclasses including Death by Doing by Ben Campbell, highlighting the importance of taking control of your time and Unlocking your Leadership Potential with Katherine Boiciuc and Brent Duffy, channelling an executive mindset to create collective courage within groups.

Day 3: The Conversation

The biggest and arguably the most exciting day of Southstart 2021 began with a welcome address from Premier Steven Marshall, alongside industry leaders Moira Were, Karl Telfer, Simon Thomsen and Mark Twidell. Throughout the day, over 50 speakers from across Australia took to various stages to explore the intersection of technology and humanity. Attendees connected with like-minded entrepreneurs, investors, technologists, creatives, field experts and other curious minds, to foster the networks, skills and knowledge required to move forward through these times, together. Topics included How do we navigate the path to gender, climate and race justice, The technology of creativity, Space beyond: Investigating the impact of human spaceflight and The investor process. After a long day of talking, learning and more talking, attendees were treated to a happy hour winddown event in the courtyard overlooking the botanical gardens.

Southstart wouldn’t be Southstart without a number of dinners, mixers and parties. Starting the week off right, Twilio powered the Social Mixer at Lot Fourteen, inviting guests to drink and mingle, with a special guest appearance from Premier Steven Marshall. On Tuesday, Golden Boy and Africola restaurants played host to the Supper Party for a night of connection and celebration following a year of Zoom meetings and physical distancing. Wednesday, attendees were given an abundance of choice with industry dinners across Adelaide, including Peel Street Restaurant, La Ramblas Tapas Bar and Aurora, followed by an Afterparty boogie at The Lab, Adelaide’s newest multi-genre music and arts venue. If that wasn’t enough, on Thursday guests were invited to unwind from the week on a Winery Adventure, eating and drinking their way through the Barossa Valley.

Southstart 2021 was everything I expected and more. The impressive industry expertise combined with the motivation and enthusiasm to learn was unmatched. As a speaker, it was wonderful to see the eager faces and determination of this years’ cohort to get involved and connect once again with each other. When you are sharing information and thoughts from an industry perspective, it’s always nice to see an engaged audience and questions at the end/people touching base through the conference! It’s been a long time between drinks, SouthStart!

The Neon Treehouse team had a fantastic week and I can’t wait to see what is in store for next year. See you there, friends!

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