SXSW 2018 PanelPicker Opens June 26-July 21

Hard to believe, but it’s already that time of year again. The 2018 SXSW PanelPicker goes live today. You have between now and July 21st to submit ideas for consideration. This year, the SXSW folks expect to receive over 5,000 submissions. That kind of competition means brands and individuals need to stand out from the crowd. But how best to do that?

Hugh Forrest, SXSW’s Chief Programming Officer, provides several clues:

  1. Review the sessions and topics resonated in 2017: Unfortunately, there’s not an easy way to filter videos from the SXSW YouTube channel since so many of the older videos have more views overall, but Hugh posted 10 great SXSW 2017 videos volume 1, volume 2 and volume 3 to help. Same goes for SXSW on SoundCloud. Hugh posted 10 top SXSW 2017 podcasts volume 1 and volume 2 to help there as well.
  2. Go Deep: Hugh makes it clear that topic depth matters more than width or breadth. That’s way the SXSW team prefers solo spots over panel sessions.
  3. Focus on the Future: Throughout its history, SXSW focuses on what’s next. But discussing current trends isn’t enough. Hugh’s timeline? Think 3 – 5 years out.
  4. Hugh’s also been pretty blunt about what not to do part 1 and what not to do part 2.

Note in the two what not to do posts, Hugh’s pretty clear that diversity matters. Diversity issues—both in terms of gender and ethnicity—will continue to be an important topic. Furthering that discussion in a meaningful way will be a priority in 2018.

One last thing you can do to improve your chances: attend one of the remaining SXSW Meet Ups. The SXSW team runs  local events in a handful of cities (the Brooklyn Meet Up happens tonight). It’s a place to ask SXSW staffers about the process or other specific questions.

I attended the Austin Meet Up on June 14. That’s where I got to ask for more detail about the selection process overall. Here’s what they told me: they put a lot of stock into original ideas, and reiterated the focus on future-oriented topics that look 3 – 5 years out. They notice if it’s someone (or a brand) that’s spoken before. In those cases, it’s important that the idea explores a new angle or represents a big validation or major progress against earlier ideas. They also look for engagement spikes in the PanelPicker (lots of votes, comments, etc.), so that does influence what they consider as well.

It’s a good reminder that the PanelPicker process is not the only thing that counts. Public votes that come from the PanelPicker count for 30%. Feedback from the SXSW Advisory Board, a group of industry experts from around the world, counts for 40%; lastly, votes from SXSW staff members count for the remaining 30% as they look to strike a balance between new and veteran speakers. See the SXSW PanelPicker About page for more details.

Visit http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/ or click on the image below. All the best to those of you who will be working on submissions over the next few weeks!

Lionel Menchaca
Lionel Menchaca

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