“…Pause Fest attracts a powerful mix of industry professionals, startups and early adopters from a broad range of digital disciplines…”
You’d think that would be the perfect epigram for Pause Fest. In fact, Pause Fest can’t be described in a sentence. There’s too much going on inside it. So The Stable asked, Pause Fest programming and partnerships director, Murray Galbraith to tell us more about the “massive week of contagious ideas presented by some of the biggest names in advertising, technology and startups”.
The Stable: What are the most significant changes you’ve made to Pause Fest this year?
Murray Galbraith: The great thing about Pause is how much it changes each year. I got so sick of seeing the same people rehashing the same ideas at conferences aimed at a very specific industry. That’s not how the internet works, so we’ve tried to design a program that feels as random and exciting as a well curated Twitter or Facebook feed.
In the conference there are 5-6 streams per day, each curated around a broad topic like Creativity With A Conscience, Hackers, Makers & Breakers and 8 Billion Stories. But within these, I’ve tried to make sure you never see too much of the same thing, so the aim is to jump from agency to artist, from CEO to NGO. Some of my highlights would be Alexander Chung, ex Sydney boy, now ex Big Spaceship and Director at Undercurrent NYC, Nick Crocker from My Fitness Pal and We Are Hunted, my friend and fellow rad dad, Ben Keenan, from Clems and the 8 incredible mentors from B School. But as a fanboy for many years, there’s no going past This American Life.
That’s in addition to the mountains of meet-ups, masterclasses and a million other things, including a massive interactive installation coming direct from Burning Man.
TS: There’s being connected and making connections…Tell me about the importance of Experiences You Can’t Google – and how and why that became your guiding light for PF2015.
MG: There’s no question we’ve taken much of our inspiration from SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas. It’s like mecca for digital creatives and has really helped us shape the vision for Pause. There’s just so much going on – everywhere – ALL THE TIME and we just really believe that Australia not only deserved something awesome like this, but that we have the unique cultural and geographical environment to make it fun in totally different ways. A world class event, with enough time and space to actually grab a beer with the international presenters afterwards? That would be almost impossible in the US.
The other part to our idea of ‘stuff you can’t Google’ is the incredible content created specifically for Pause by creative agencies all over the world. For the past 5 years, George has worked tirelessly to connect animation, VFX, design and sound studios to create some next level stuff. Take our opening titles from last year for instance. That’s Syndrome in LA – an agency that does all the video clips and tour visuals for Eminem, MTV and many others, put in touch with Echoic – an amazing team of sound designers from London – to create a piece of content you would normally only see as opening titles for a film…And probably cost $100k or more. That’s something special that could never have happened otherwise…And even though you can Google the video now, you definitely couldn’t search for the feeling of those guys meeting and having a drink for the first time in person at Pause.
TS: You must have banged your head on some nasty road blocks…tell me.
MG: My top 3 worst headaches so far this year:
- Receiving 1/8 the funding we asked for.
- Trying to explain why Australia deserves a more robust and representative digital eco-system.
- Realising my wife is due the same week as Pause in Feb.
Running an event is hard work. Anyone who has thrown a big party knows that… But this is definitely the biggest party I’ve ever thrown! George has been doing this for 5 years (and many more years in Europe before he started Pause here) but I’m pretty new to all this, so yeah it has been intense for sure. There’s the annoying stuff you can’t fix like a headline speaker dropping out to go to a family reunion, but the most difficult thing for such a small team are the ridiculously high expectations we set ourselves. You can’t fix that, you just have to battle with it everyday, and then decide which things will get the love and attention they deserve and which items on the to-do list will just get ticked off.
TS: What parts of PF 2015 are special to you and why?
MG: Dammit, I knew you’d ask me this question. Besides connecting with Brian and Miki from TAL, to be honest I’m most proud of the effort we’ve made to try and showcase stuff beyond just hashtags and native advertising. Jirra Harvey from Kalinya Communications is flying back to talk about how she is helping fellow Koories to better understand and market themselves in the digital landscape. And Dr Katie Mack will be talking about how she uses Twitter and YouTube to share her knowledge and passion for black holes in space. That’s an indigenous marketing expert and a theoretical astrophysicist, on the same stage as some of the world’s most innovative hackers and entrepreneurs…If you don’t learn something new and awesome about the world at Pause, we have failed.
TS: Tell me about Web for Good
MG: Web For Good was one of the most popular sessions at Pause 2014. People actually stayed back until past 10pm on Sunday night just to engage with all the great content there. Our mission is definitely to try and encourage as much ‘conscious creativity’ as possible. I sum it up as simply as possible, like this:
If information is power, and with great power comes great responsibility…then surely our generation has the greatest responsibility in history. Utilising technology to drive positive outcomes for society seems like a nice place to start.
TS: Startups are hot property right now. Tell me about Startups & the Digital Economy.
MG: Startups are definitely hot right now. 10 years ago everyone had their own t-shirt label (including me!) but now everyone is setting up a startup. We are featuring presentations from a bunch of people who have been through the best and worst of it all like selling out to Twitter and even merging with PayPal.
But we are just as excited to fill Fed Square with rad new tech and startups for a whole week…Tech_Bar will be beers and 3D printing and the Startup Expo on Sunday 15th will be 40+ new businesses making their big pitch to the general public and Pause attendees.
TS: This is a networking opportunity that’s hard to beat. Tell me about Tech_Bar.
MG: Tech_Bar is actually a concept that came from within the Pause network of contributors, a massive pop up concept store with projection mapping and crazy stuff… George and I had to spend a long time whittling it down to something much more manageable and our event producer Tim has designed an incredible week of content in there, from cinema 4D meet-ups to parties and even interactive screenings where you can become part of a new film project.
So yeah, it’s all very cool stuff to see and do, but obviously if you’re into connecting with rad new people then Tech_Bar is definitely the place you want to be.
TS: Can Australia become the next Silicon Valley?…Tell me about Alexander Chung.
MG: I actually interviewed Rick Chen (co-founder of crowdfunding platform Pozible) earlier this year on exactly this topic and yes, I think it’s entirely possible. It’s far more likely that it will be Shenzhen in China, but we have a huge opportunity to take the lead in Asia Pacific right now, which is exactly why so many brands and agencies are excited about Pause…We are super grateful to be in the right city, at the right time to help showcase the ideas and people that might just change the world.