7 Tips To Prep for Public Speaking

Tom Edwards, Ad Age Marketing Technology Trailblazer and TEDx speaker shares 7 tips about preparing for TEDx or any major public speaking event.

By focusing your time and effort on knowing your audience, framing and refining your story and following these 7 tips, you will be well prepared to take the stage and deliver a great presentation.

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MarTechSeries Interview

I was recently interviewed by MarTechSeries in advance of my speaking engagement for MarTech West on April 24th in San Jose, California.

The full interview covers topics such as my role with Epsilon, advice for B2B marketers dealing with evolving technology, start-ups I am working with, how to prepare for the impact of AI, apps and tools I use, productivity hacks and much more.

Here are some excerpts from the full interview: 

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10 Reasons Westworld Won SXSW

Westworld’s SXSW 2018 activation was one of the most talked about and highly sought after experiences in recent memory. Many elements made this the best experiential experience to hit SXSW in my many years of attending.

Here are 10 reasons why the Westworld experience is one of the best-branded activations ever to hit SXSW.

1) Authenticity – The 2 acres dedicated to recreating Sweetwater was a sight to see. From the white doors of the Mesa Gold Station leading into Westworld to the carefully crafted buildings to the actors who never broke character. This level of authenticity and interaction was a key to why this execution more than any other I have been a part of was so compelling.

2) Exclusivity – The event was one of the toughest tickets at SXSW in 2018. Most of the times were reserved prior to the start of the conference.  The options to score a spot were either the incredibly long standby lines or hitting the lottery with Lyft… more on that later… The amount of social traffic I saw by those who didn’t get into the experience almost rivaled those that were highlighting their time in Sweetwater.

3) Analog in a World of Digital
– Walking onto the SXSW conference trade floor can be a jarring experience upon first entry. Your senses have to take a moment and adjust to the lights, the sea of VR headsets and every type of digital experience you can ask for. What made Westworld so compelling was the fact that it was the polar opposite.

The only technology was what you carried into the park. No Tesla charging stations here! Having a completely analog experience that heightened your natural senses was different than tricking your mind with ever-evolving synthetic realities.

4) Personalization – From choosing the black or white hat to the letter you receive at the post office to the final note you receive via e-mail and mobile, the experience was tailored to include personal elements at every turn. I even sent an IRL postcard from the Sweetwater post office.

5) Immersive within immersive  – In addition to the incredible sets and actors who memorized hundreds of pages of dialogue, it was the experience within the experience that really won the day. Whether it was trying to find additional clues, like a 3D Westworld maze map or a mysterious keyfob to unlocking a locked door with the season 2 premiere date as the code to a secret room in the already locked secret room.

The level of detail spent creating an immersive experience within an immersive experience was Inception level “dream within a dream” scenarios.

6) Secluded – The fact that the experience was 20 miles outside of Austin and in a very secluded location added to the experience. As you get closer and further outside of the city you were not quite sure what to expect and caused anticipation to build.

7) Partnership – How I got into WestWorld was through their partnership with Lyft. While we tweeted at Westworld via social, they responded with a cryptic response about Lyft having the code.

This promotional partnership with Lyft, who had 10 luxury vehicles that starting running special “winners” to the park between 2 and 10 pm, was a great way to drive usage for Lyft and rewarding those who looked for the code.

8) Socially Engaged – Our gateway into Westworld started with Twitter as I previously mentioned. The near-real-time engagement via the @WestworldHBO handle was very well done. Kudos to the Westworld social team as they nailed the tone and persona of the property that helped to cut through the noise of SXSW and focused our efforts towards engaging with the Westworld experience.

9) Limited Time Only – The activation only lasted a few days, which really amped up the conversation and desire to enter the experience. I had friends in Wilton, Connecticut asking if I was able to get into Westworld. Word of the activation spread well beyond the SXSW Interactive Austin crowd.

10) Post Event Follow-up – In addition to the personalized content during the experience, this morning I received a final communication welcoming me “back to reality” with a personalized letter that was optimized for sharing via social. The best aspect was my letter was different than my two co-workers.

I have been asked many times, what does it take for a brand to breakthrough at SXSW? I would say a combination of the 10 factors outlined above is a good starting point, but rarely have I come across an activation that went a perfect 10 for 10. That was #SXSWestworld

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SXSW 2018 Artificial Intelligence Event

During SXSW 2018 I had the opportunity to discuss “How Artificial Intelligence is Transforming Marketing“.

The session was in partnership with Oculus360 & their CEO, John Dubois. John and I discussed our collaborations with machine learning applied to various categories, including eSports and how to align unstructured & structured data.

SXSW 2018

Here is a recorded webinar that we recorded February 28th, 2018 that we reprised during SXSW.

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SXSW 2018 Sony Wow Studio

Over the past few years, one of the most consistent brands across trade shows (CES, MWC, SXSW) has been Sony.

I have been impressed with their strategy to evolve experience interfaces beyond mobile through voice, vision and touch.

At SXSW 2018, Sony’s experience is a showcase of multi-modal interfaces. From interactive projectors, AR & VR experiences, Robotic assistant Xperia Hello!, CES 2018 Star Aibo, and one of the weirdest yet immersive experiences I have been a part of at SXSW.

The Wow Studio is a preview of what’s to come as our environment becomes more of an interface and technology begins to adapt to us vs. us adapting to the technology.

I have experienced the Xperia Hello! At previous shows. The Xperia Hello! Is Sony’s version of a robotic assistant. Think of an echo style form factor with a 4.55 inch screen. The robot assistant responds to voice, gesture and facial expressions and one of the primary use cases I personally tried was tied to Skype and F2F communication.

One of the most unique experiences was the Sonic Surf VR experience. This was a fully immersive experience that did not require a headset. This is a new technology that will allow creators to make sound appear to move on its own. See below for a sample of the experience.

Audio as an extension of Enhanced Reality (AI + AR/VR/MR) is one of the key themes I have observed so far.

One of the final experiences was upon exit of the Wow Studio. This section featured a digital message/graffiti wall. The unique aspect is that the experience was driven by an interactive projector light based interface to create the experience.

Here is the evolving digital artwork.

Sony continues to provide a preview for how consumer centric experiences will continue to evolve. From AI & Robotics to gesture and touch based interfaces to the rise of enhanced audio in support of spatial experiences tying physical and digital together. Sony delivered on the promise of the “Wow Studio”.

On to the next experience…. Westworld

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SXSW 2018 – Augmented Reality Audio

As the experiences for SXSW 2018 begin to kickoff, one of the first stops was at the Bose Augmented Reality Audio experience.

The experience starts with a video outlining various use cases tied to voice based Augmented Reality.

The trick here though is that there is not a visual aspect to the experience. It’s all driven based on various inputs such as location tags, GPS and extended phone functions.

By wearing the glasses, you get Audio queues such as reviews of a restaurant or landmark simply by looking at an object. The AR aspect is tied to invisible environmental queues that activate experiences.

This could be an interesting bridge to full AR experiences as consumers may accept pervasive voice as an extension into enhanced reality that integrates voice, vision and touch.

The form factor felt more like Snapchat Spectacles and less Google Glass. The push for form and fashion is key for mass adoption.

Looking forward to the SDK this fall as my questions were less about the hardware and more about the location tagging and environmental triggers where there will be a third party dependency.

On to the next experience!

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In The News: AdAge SXSW 2018 Preview

I was recently asked by Advertising Age to provide my thoughts on a number of topics related to SXSW of years past and what to expect in 2018.

Here is the commentary that was included in the digital and print version:

Here is the full commentary I provided to AdAge:

AdAge – How many times have you attended SXSW?

I have attended SXSW a dozen times over the past 18 years. I am definitely a SXSW veteran. I used to attend SXSW to look for the “next big thing”. From Twitter, Foursquare, Highlight, and Meerkat, SXSW used to be the launching pad for consumer-centric platforms that held the promise for new ways to connect with consumers.

Now in 2018, it’s less about apps and more about intelligent systems and the ever-evolving ways we interface with technology. That and of course SXSW is one of a handful of events where most of the industry converges on a single location.

AdAge – What do you think will be different this year versus last?

SXSW used to be about the spectacle of brand installations from a 56 foot tall Doritos Vending Machine and a 20-foot tall TIE-fighter, celebrating the launch of The Force Awakens Blu-Ray, now it’s shifted to more about the “off-cesar chavez” events held by partners that are just as entertaining and enlighting if not more-so than some of the official programming and experiences.

AdAge – What will people be talking about, or are there any trends you expect to take over?

I am very interested to see the progression of AI-based topics heading into 2018. In 2017, there was a lot of discussion around intelligence augmentation, leveraging machine learning and exploring emotive robotics.

This year, I am looking for interesting use cases of Computer vision, signals leading to the proxy web (virtual assistants as agents to consumers) as well as new ways to develop tangible user interfaces, new methods, and platforms to action against large datasets.Finally, I am looking for new and compelling marketing use cases for blockchain (similar to Kodak at CES and Unilever/IBM’s new blockchain media product).

AdAge – Are there any events you’re excited to see?

SXSW AI, IOT, BOTS AND BREW on March 11th, 2018.

AdAge – Do you think there is SXSW fatigue this year? Why or why not?

My reason for attending and my view of SXSW has changed over the years. Before I would seek out the brand installations and attend partner events (Facebook, Twitter, etc…) for behind the scenes access to how platforms and marketing solutions are evolving.

Now I primarily attend to gauge how the trends I track over the course of the year manifest themselves in a more consumer-focused way. CES is all about the technology and SXSW is more about the application of technology with a focus on consumer experiences and that is where there is still value for me as a marketer.

It’s not as overt as in years past but you can begin to see broader shifts in technology and emerging technology that is going to impact marketing and advertising. It’s less about the next big app and more about connecting the dots between new ways to connect with services and consumers through intelligent systems.

AdAge – How will you be dressed?

The SXSW uniform – Skinny jeans, trendy shoes & frames, some sort of sweater jacket and a light “man bag” for minimal swag.

AdAge – Any survival tips?

Can’t understate it enough, pack light for mobility, drink plenty of water, carry battery backups and a very portable umbrella as it’s rained on and off the past few years.

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ZDNet Interview: Humanizing AI

I recently had the opportunity to be a guest on the Tonya Hall show. Tonya is a contributor to CBS Interactive properties such as ZDNet and Tech Republic.

Our discussion touches upon a number of currently trending topics such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain, emotive robotics and more.

Here is the full interview.

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In The News: Adweek & SXSW 2018

I was recently asked by Adweek to provide thoughts around SXSW and whether it is still worthwhile for brands to activate there.

Here are my full responses and the first was used in the article.

1. Do you think SXSW is still a valuable place for brands, marketers to be? Why or why not?

I have been a regular at SXSW over the years and I gain a unique perspective each time around. What I find valuable is that unlike other shows, SXSW is really about consumer-centric experiences. CES is about the technology, Mobile World Congress is about the upcoming infrastructure and hardware, but SXSW is truly set apart by the branded experiences.

2. What about agencies?

For agencies in attendance, it depends on the goal of the show. For my innovation team and I, it’s about the analysis of tech trends and experiences that may further validate our positioning on the topic. It’s also still a valuable experience as clients, media and industry associates all converge on Austin and it’s great to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time.

Here’s last years SXSW 2017 Trend Recap Video

3. What are some things brands should keep in mind when creating activations at SXSW?

Activations have evolved over the past few years. What was once about getting attention through over the top activations has shifted to providing utility and making the conference experience better. From Chevy’s ride sharing to Mophie & Samsungs battery activations, what stands out is creating some type of value for me as a conference goer vs. just trying to get my attention. Let me seek you out.


4. How do you cut through all the clutter and stand out?

Cutting through starts well before you ever step foot in Austin. Communicate with a clear value proposition, or something of interest ahead of the show, then while there provide a space to recharge, offer something of value, that can be through off conference events, utility such as ride shares and batteries and most importantly is to follow up post-event with either a recap, captured content or key takeaways.

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5 Reasons Why I Still Play Destiny 2

With so much discussion around the Destiny 2 player base and it’s relationship with the game’s developer Bungie over the past few weeks, I wanted to publish why I still and will continue to play the game.

In this video, I outline the five reasons why the Destiny franchise still matters to me.

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Celebrating 500 BlackFin Posts

This post is number 500 for the BlackFin360.com/blog. Starting this blog was one of the best decisions I have made professionally. It provided me with a platform to share original thoughts, cover industry trends and serve as a repository for speaking and media coverage.

It has evolved significantly from the early beginnings in 2007. The blog was originally under the domain TheBlackFin.com. Now that domain is simply a redirect to BlackFin360.com. “BlackFin” was a nickname given to me by a co-worker at the time and the blog name came directly from my Xbox Gamertag “TheBlackFin“.

Here is a screenshot of the original look for the blog from 2007-2009. Why green for a blog named the “black” fin is something I still wonder about to this day.

Over the years the look and feel of the blog has changed but the core content focus on marketing, emerging technology, and gaming has remained to this day.

I officially moved the blog from theblackfin.com to blackfin360.com in 2009. By 2011 at least there were black/techie elements in the look and feel.

Now in 2018, the blog continues to serve as the primary entry point for speaking engagements, advisor opportunities, university lecturing, media coverage and over the past year it has shifted to more of a Vlog.

The look of the site will continue to evolve in 2018 and beyond.

Whether this is your first time here or you have been a subscriber since the beginning, I sincerely want to thank anyone who has stopped by and spent time with my content. I am incredibly grateful for this platform and I would highly recommend to anyone to find their industry voice and build their personal brand in addition to their professional.

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In The News: Entrepreneur.com RE: What’s Next?

Entreprenuer.com & C-Suite Network recently republished my interview with Jeffrey Hayzlett discussing the balance of marketing to the needs of today with an eye towards the future and the pending impact of emerging technology.

Click the image below for the full interview.


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Webinar: Using AI to Conquest New Markets

Looking forward to taking part in the upcoming webinar: Using AI to conquest new markets on February 28, 2018, at 12pm CST. Be sure to register today!

Today’s marketers have access to an incredible volume of consumer information, but most are simply not equipped to make sense of it all. With artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, we can quickly sift through all this varied, scattered input and identify invaluable, consistent consumer trends and actionable insights, something that would nearly impossible to accomplish manually.

Savvy marketers can use these insights to conquest new markets by understanding the audience affinities for various segments within their new market. Join the CEO of AI software company Oculus360, John Dubois, and Tom Edwards, Chief Digital & Innovation Officer of Epsilon’s agency business, in a dynamic discussion about how brands are using innovative machine learning technology to identify, target, and succeed in new markets. Ian Beacraft, Vice President, Digital Strategy at Epsilon will host and moderate the discussion about:

  • How to use AI/machine learning to identify opportunities for brand extension and expansion
  • How audience affinity models can be applied to identify the products and brands most closely aligned with different customer segments
  • A real-world example of these strategies in action

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TEDx Oaklawn 2018

I am incredibly excited to have been accepted as a speaker for the first TEDx Oaklawn event in Dallas, Texas on March 17th, 2018.

Tickets for the event are available now.  This event will sell out quickly. Best to reserve your seats as soon as possible.

Here is a preview of my TEDx topic via my speaker submission video.

Hope to see you there!

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In The News: Entrepreneur.com 2018 Trends

I was recently asked to contribute to Entrepreneur.com India discussing key marketing trends for 2018.

The article highlights major trends that will continue to advance in 2018.

  • The Camera As a Platform
  • Messaging Apps Evolve
  • System Based Marketing
  • Integration of AI Assistants into Everyday Life

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Future of IoT Discussion at CES 2018

During CES 2018 I had an opportunity to sit down with the Ecovacs team, a leading robotics manufacturer. We talked about the future of Internet of Things (IoT) experiences, the role of data, blockchain and artificial intelligence impact on how IoT experiences will evolve.

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WMD Podcast: Balancing Personal & Professional Branding

This is the second part of my interview session with the Words of Mass Disruption podcast with Eric Hanes.

During this discussion, we dive into finding the right balance between personal and professional branding , 4 steps to a better digital you and the importance of creating and sharing content,  and adding value to your professional networks.


1. How important it is to develop and share your own perspective and point of view.

2. Be open with your network connections.

3. Find the right balance of Personal Brand (the Digital You) and your Professional Brand (the hand that feeds you).

4. Diversify your network.

Here was part one of the podcast discussing all facets of Artificial Intelligence.

WMD Podcast via iTunes

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CES 2018 Trend Recap

Tom Edwards, Ad Age Marketing Technology Trailblazer and Chief Digital Officer, Agency and Ian Beacraft, VP, Digital Strategy at Epsilon Agency recap key trends from CES 2018.

Key areas discussed:

  • Shift from Smart Everything
  • How IOT is evolving from platforms to experiences through emotive robotics
  • How artificial intelligence, specifically computer vision made an impact on the show
  • The impact of Blockchain at CES
  • The evolution of immersive experiences

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Follow Ian Beacraft @Ianbcraft



WMD Podcast: Discussing the Future of AI

I recently had the opportunity to join Eric Hanes on his Words of Mass Disruption podcast. We discussed artificial intelligence for everyday conversation.

My goal was to help those who may not be familiar with artificial intelligence to develop a perspective on the topic. We talked about AI, Machine Learning, IOT and digital assistants.

Thanks in advance for listening! It was a fun conversation.

Words of Mass Disruption Podcast: EP 119 Tom Edwards on Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

WMD Podcast via iTunes

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Follow Eric Hanes @WordsDisruption

In The News: Marketing Dive 2018 Trends

I was recently asked by the Marketing dive team to provide insight into 2018 trends that will impact content marketing.

My commentary was tied to the integration of both social messaging and the pending shift of mobile user experiences.

For more detail about 2018 Trends please review the full trend analysis.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

BlackFin360 is the thought leadership site of Tom Edwards. Tom is a professional futurist and keynote speaker covering data, digital, artificial intelligence, and emerging media trends that bring innovation to reality.