How to Get Rejected Again by the SXSW Interactive Festival
When the SXSW PanelPicker application period arrived last summer, we offered Medium readers a collection of ten surefire tips that were guaranteed to ensure an unsuccessful speaking proposal. But apparently the message didn’t reach as many people as we had hoped.
Why do we think that our messaging didn’t reach enough people? Because hundreds of digital creatives from across the United States and around the world entered wonderfully creative speaking proposals. Providing innovative insights on the future, these session ideas had been scrubbed of annoying buzzwords and were meticulously proofread for spelling, punctuation and grammar. These community-contributed speaking proposals made up the bulk of content at the 2015 SXSW Interactive Festival this past March in Austin.
In fact, we received far more high-quality proposals via the SXSW PanelPicker than we had room for at the 2015 event. In hopes of correcting this problem and facilitating more failure, we offer 10 more tried and true strategies to sink your SXSW 2016 speaking proposal.
Focus on trends from 2013. SXSW Interactive tackles tomorrow’s top trends. Your PanelPicker proposal is most likely to have success if it creatively covers what our lives will be like in the future. On the other hand, a speaking idea that reveals all the cutting-edge developments from two years ago is a sure-fire loser.
Tell us what you think we want to hear. What kinds of topics are you passionate about? Using these topics to shape your speaking proposal provides your best chance for success. However, building a proposal around a topic that doesn’t particularly interest you virtually guarantees rejection.
Emphasize width over depth. SXSW audiences want deep analysis on a given topic. If you want to ensure failure, create a proposal that is a mile wide and an inch deep.
Enter the exact same idea you entered last year. Are you in a hurry? Then offer the exact same speaking proposal that you entered for the 2015 SXSW PanelPicker. That will save you a lot of time in putting together the proposal — likewise it will save us a lot of time in rejecting your idea!
type your title and your description in all lower case letters. At SXSW, we strongly believe in the power of the “shift” key. If you don’t believe in this key, then type your proposal in all lower-case letters. Then we’ll never have to meet in Austin in the spring to argue why it is good to start each sentence with a capital letter.
Offer an all-male speaking lineup. Diversity matters — but not when it comes to your idea! If you are entering an idea for a panel (as opposed to a proposal for a solo session), then make the rejection process simple by sending in a proposed speaker lineup that is all men.
Offer an all-white speaking lineup. Diversity matters — but not when it comes to your idea! If you are entering an idea for a panel (as opposed to a proposal for a solo session), then make the rejection process more simple by sending in a proposed speaker lineup that is all white men.
Offer an all-San-Francisco speaking lineup. Diversity matters — but not when it comes to your idea! If you are entering an idea for a panel (as opposed to a proposal for a solo session), then make the rejection process even more simple by sending in a proposed speaker lineup that is all white men from the Bay Area.
Enter more than one speaking idea. The directions for the 2016 PanelPicker make it clear that each person can only enter one speaking idea per event. Get a quick pink slip for your proposals by ignoring this rule and entering multiple ideas.
Miss the Friday, July 24 entry deadline. Being able to meet deadlines is an essential part of the SXSW speaking process. So if you really don’t want to speak at SXSW, then wait until after Friday, July 24, 2015 to contact us about how you can get your proposal into the mix for next March.
All joking aside, we know that hundreds of members of the digital creative community are sufficiently engaged to showcase their brilliant ideas at the 2016 SXSW Interactive Festival. If this describes you, then click on the SXSW PanelPicker FAQ for great suggestions on putting together your best possible speaking proposal. The PanelPicker link will also enable you to enter speaking ideas for SXSWedu, SXSW Music and SXSW Film — all of which share the end-of-day Friday, July 24 entry deadline.
Finally, please remember that badges for the 2016 SXSW Interactive Festival go on sale on Monday, August 3 at 10:00 am central time. Register on Monday, August 3 for the lowest rates and for the best hotel selection — most downtown rooms in the SXSW Interactive room block will sell out in the first 24 hours. Whether or not you gain a speaking slot at the event, see you in Austin from March 11–20 for SXSWeek 2016!