South By Southwest, known as SXSW for short and South By for attendees is the world’s largest conglomerate of film, interactive media and music. The festival dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals through a two-week long FOMO intensive of workshops, speakers, parties, concerts, screenings, start-ups and mentoring from the greatest and most proactive minds in the widest range of areas. South By is known for being a networking opportunity for industry professionals and is one of the year’s most anticipated milestones for several creators and intellectuals.
Although it might sound quite elusive, attending SXSW is the destination for unexpected discoveries and incomprehensible knowledge. The festival is organised in such a way that the interactive and film sections overlap during the first week and while the screenings slowly fade into the music festival, the last few days are dedicated to gaming; and in the meantime, every minute available is filled with more than 80 sessions held per day. While just the thought of having to create a mere selection of 6 sessions to watch on any given day might spring up the most fundamental feeling of FOMO, it is also impressive how much diversity of topics are covered at the convention.
I was fortunate enough to attend SXSW in 2019 and on my first day I began by meeting with Jonah Peretti (Buzzfeed’s CEO) for a featured session on the future of web and the Buzzfeed community. After that I heard from industry experts on the development of AI and how history has prepared us for this new moment, followed by a peak into Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new investment start-up company and a keynote speaker on the biggest trends to look out for in 2019. My extensive day was then filled with another lecture on “Hackers Heroes or Villains?” and I even moved to the Comedy panels for some early night Stand-up Comedy at The Hideout Theatre.
Yes, it sounds as hay-wired as it was and by the time I laid down on my bed on that first night my mind kept racing, trying to encompass all the things I had seen, people I met and immense pool of knowledge that was spread just in front of my fingertips. If you are as curious as I am, then South By is the place to be. The following days followed the same haphazardous structure but included a Masterclass with the astounding Jodie Foster, and featured sessions with Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Neil Gaiman (writer and creator of Good Omens and American Gods).
Maybe this entire article has been one extensive name bomb after another, but crucially SXSW is solely a collective of the most impressive names in all the different sectors talking about what they are passionate and being heard by an even more enthusiastic audience. 2019 trends predicted what we will be talking about this year and what firms should strive for if they want to achieve success and create a good brand image (from return to traditional values and trust to the careful movement of AI incorporation in daily life and the importance of innovative ideas). Malcolm Gladwell talked about self-driving cars and raised some of the most important questions about the risk factor and what will become of traffic jams once they are no longer a nuisance to people. Neil Gaiman said fiction has to convincing and realistic in ways that real life does not, moving a ballroom of nearly 2,400 people to question everything they know about novel writing and what is real and what isn’t.
Ultimately that is the magic of SXSW, it proves that the most unexpected discoveries can happen when diverse topics and people come together. South By is just a moment of pure bliss for everyone who works night and day to create and innovate as it is a collective of nearly 300,000 engaged, intelligent and extraordinary minds that serves the purpose of propelling learning and thinking skills. The magic of SXSW is the ability to learn and teach and create for two whole weeks around the best people you are bound to encounter.