South by Southwest, better known simply as SXSW is a rapidly-growing collection of film and music festivals, technology conferences, and trade shows that run co-currently over 10+ days in Austin, Texas every March. Since it's launch in 1987, SXSW has quickly gained the reputation as being the tech conference to attend - in fact, it's widely considered to be the best conference for anyone who's interested in technology, the arts, and all things in-between.
Highlights from the SXSW 2018 included:
- Keynote by former first lady Michelle Obama, discussing her Let Girls Learn initiative
- The launch of the Anheuser-Busch Escape Room Challenge - an interactive 15-minute immersion that challenges participants to solve real-world obstacles encountered on the job
- A keynote session with Alex Rodriguez, moderated by Mark Hoffman (CNBC)
- Extreme Bionics - A panel exploration of advancements in genetics, regenerative medicine, and the future of technology in relation to human ability
- A Q&A session with Senator Bernie Sanders, hosted by Jake Tapper (CNN)
- Don’t Call This A Panel of Female Coders - a moderated discussion among industry-leading coders who happen to be female
- A complete 2-acre recreation of the Town of Sweetwater (of HBO’s hit series Westwood) where guests could explore iconic locations and interact with characters from the show
Elon Musk Makes A Surprise Appearance
Elon Musk wasn't officially on the schedule for the 2018 tech conference - that is until an email was sent out to all SXSW tech conference attendees in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
The late-night email announced that Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, would appear at SXSW for a surprise Q&A session later that day. By 8:30 the following morning, the Moody Theater was sold out; by noon, when Musk was scheduled to take the stage, the arena was packed.
As the CEO of both Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk focused most of his time on talking about the possibilities of establishing cities in space, although he also talked about how Tesla was close to going bankrupt back in 2018.
The only time Musk took a break from his otherwise optimistic banter was to discuss his concerns about artificial intelligence, warning the audience that AI was developing much faster than the general public realizes. According to Elon Musk, "This is a case where you have a very serious danger to the public, and so there therefore needs to be a public body that has insight and oversight that everyone is developing AI safely," said Musk, adding that, "This is extremely important".
The SXSW Music Scene
One of the things that's made SXSW the tech conference of choice among top innovators is the fact that SXSW isn't just a tech conference - it's also a top-rated music festival (among other things).
Unlike traditional music festivals where the focus is solely on live performances, SXSW also hosts a number of industry networking events, including music-focused panels where fans can get up close and personal with their favorite artists, writers, and influencers. Keith Urban, Priscilla Presley, and Young Guru were among the featured speakers at the 2018 SXSW event, while Pussy Riot, Superchunk, Starcrawler, and Lali Puna took to the stage for the SXSW music opening party.
SXSW Film & Comedy Festival
2018 marked the 25th year for the SXSW Film Festival with 9 full days filled with screenings from everyone from emerging independent filmmakers to established Hollywood studios. The lineup for this year included an impressive 86 world premieres, 11 North American premieres, and 5 U.S. premieres, and headliners included A Quiet Place (directed by John Krasinski), Paradox (directed by Daryl Hannah), and the much-anticipated Isle of Dogs (directed by Wes Anderson).
The rapidly-growing SXSW Comedy Festival also drew an eclectic mix of both big-name artists and emerging talent, including Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live, South Park)and stand-up comic Jim Gaffigan along with featured sessions on audience engagement through social media, and the issues related to diversity in the industry.
Know Before You Go
If you’re planning on participating in SXSW 2019, here’s a few tips to help make your visit to what’s arguably the best tech conference, if not the best conference - period:
- Book early - tickets (wristbands) for SXSW 2019 are already on sale
- Reserve your accommodations now - hotels book up months in advance of each SXSW event
- Start saving - attending SXSW is expensive compared to other conferences
- Get ready to network - SXSW is the place to meet industry influencers
- Be ready for anything - who knows, Elon Musk might make another surprise appearance!
The Convention Nation is available to make your trip the experience of a lifetime. Check back with us in coming months as we share the best access points for your trip registrations. Don’t ever be left out in the cold when there is an important gathering of your industry peers taking place! Statistics show that attendance at in-person events is an important investment in your career.