Friday, July 8, 2016

Send your best idea for a SXSW panel

Developing an idea for a South by Southwest panel discussion or solo presentation sounds easy enough. According to SXSW staffers, it is - as long as one follows a few simple tips.

But essentially, when formulating an idea for the SXSW PanelPicker, you are creating a business proposal. You're explaining why your idea/issue/service/technique is worth up to an hour of people's time for discussion and contemplation. And remember, your proposal would be competing with those submitted from thousands of people.

SXSW staffers are visiting several Texas cities, sharing those helpful tips with people who might be interested in submitting a proposal for the 2017 SXSW festival. More than 20 San Antonians showed up at the Geekdom Event Centre on July 7 to get the lowdown.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the panel selection is a community-driven process. The submission window for the 2017 festival began June 28 and ends July 22. This includes interactive, film and music portions, and SXSWedu.

The public first takes a crack at voting on the most worthy proposals Aug. 8-Sept. 2. Then a panel of experts in the programming subject tracks will vote on the submissions, followed by SXSW staff. Oct. 17 is the day when everybody finds out which proposals have been chosen for programming.

SXSW staffers said it's important for submitters to realize that this is their chance to help keep the festival feeling fresh with new ideas. The festival seeks cutting-edge topics that are exciting not only to the solo presenter/panel of speakers but to the audience.

Your proposal should focus on the future -- how your app or service or emerging industry or issue impacts us now and could affect us down the road.

It should be a subject, staffers said, that will keep the audience engaged for 45 minutes to an hour and afterward. It should be something that creates chatter. The title, however straight-forward or quirky, should reflect the subject and presentation around which you're crafting your proposal.

The proposal itself should be in-depth and specific as possible. If it's a panel discussion, the submitter should know now who the speakers would be. Indicate whether the panel (or solo presentation) will include a video or PowerPoint.

The staffers noted, perhaps not surprisingly, that a video - even a brief, non-professional piece - will help keep the audience's attention.

If it's a solo session, the same rule applies in terms of picking an interest about which you're most passionate. At the same time, it's a topic that will feel totally new to the audience or at least have a different angle.

The South by staffers acknowledged the diversity matters. Racial, sexual preference, spiritual, socioeconomic -- it doesn't matter. A difference of opinion among all the programmed speakers is welcome.

And while it sounds too easy to remember, sometimes people take it for granted: Spelling and grammar. Yes, of course these are important to the proposal. It should look professional, no different than a business.

Staffers said this helps further show the submitter's dedication, effort and seriousness about the subject matter. The festival wants you to look your best.

So, get to writing that profound proposal for the PanelPicker. It does not have to a groundbreaking debut for an app such as Twitter or Foursquare. But it should be reflection of your passion and its potential impact on the world.

Plus, it's a chance for you -- hello, San Antonio -- to represent your community to the world at SXSW. Be a part of San Antonio's formal participation at the festival.

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