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Your festival compass presented by the me Convention community

Welcome to your one-stop guide to the world's most diverse and innovative festival, where tech meets creativity and business. There's so much to see, do, and engage with throughout SXSW - so we've created a tool to ensure you get the best from your experience. Featuring top tips, hidden highlights, and a curated selection of recommendations from the experts and insiders of our me Convention community, the Digital Roadmap is your essential festival companion.

Let the Future-Talking Begin

Themes, Topics, Talks & Tips: An Interview with Hugh Forrest & Todd Hansen

At the helm of SXSW, chief programming officer Hugh Forrest and head of conference planning Todd Hansen steer the legendary festival into uncharted waters, exploring emerging ideas and presenting pioneers across diverse industries and art forms. In this exclusive interview, the influential duo share their unrivaled insight and insider tips from behind the scenes at the world’s most cutting-edge cultural event. Get all the inside-scoop & have the best time at SXSW 2019!

You have access to unique insight about industry trends. What are some of the most interesting or unexpected developments right now? #

Hugh: One of the most interesting trends within SXSW is more and more international content. So many different countries from around the world now have a presence in the Trade Show. Moreover, some of our most intriguing speakers now come from outside the US (witness the incredible keynote from London Mayor Sadiq Khan at SXSW 2018). This trend indicates that the digital creative community has very strong global momentum.

Todd: One of the trends we called out this year is 'Conquering an Era of Digital Distrust' that seems to have really hit the mark. We've seen a lot of interesting news come out in the past year around large tech companies and their failure to protect user data. As technology continues to be our backbone as a society, these kinds of things will continue to shape consumer and user behavior. We are the data they are profiting off, and that's very interesting to consider. On the other side, there’s the pendulum swinging back towards human touch in the media curation process – whether that be in music playlist, movie, album, podcast or article recommendations. The movement to working alongside AI as opposed to being replaced by it seems to be a better relationship as it relates to meeting the media consumptions needs of the public.

Austin

The SXSW PanelPicker is a great tool for gauging public interest. What learnings have you taken from the recent results?

Hugh: For SXSW 2019, we saw a big increase in SXSW PanelPicker proposals in our Future Workplace track. This increase in proposals (and increase in interest) makes sense given how much the workplace is changing as a result of new technologies and new approaches.

Todd: We indeed saw a big uptick in entries for the Future of Work showing us that career and work environments are top of mind for our community. This world is evolving fast and the horizon lines for a lot of deep changes to how and where we work is coming up fast. Blockchain and Cannabusiness also saw some great traction in PanelPicker. It was our first year for both of those tracks and there is a lot of broad excitement around them both. One of our most unique tracks of programming called Experimental Storytelling continues to receive a lot of interesting proposals that spawn both the digital and analog worlds, creating a very compelling track of programming with some of our most creative and mind-bending sessions.

What would you say are the top skills people should be learning to future-proof their career during this moment of digital change?

Hugh: The most important skill that people can have in 2019 is massive creativity. Artificial intelligence and automation will be increasingly capable of doing jobs that don’t require a whole lot of out-of-the-box thinking. But humans will always be better than computers in terms of non-linear, extremely creative thought processes. Which is why events such as SXSW that celebrate and inspire creativity are so important at this point in time.

Todd: For me, it’s the adaptability regardless of the age or chosen career path. People should focus on the future and what they are doing now to prepare for it. And last but not least, empathy for colleagues and peers is a great quality to hone and sharpen as a leader.

SXSW Tunnel

Are there any particular talks, themes or topics you're most looking forward to exploring this year?

Hugh: I’m always excited about all the startup energy at SXSW. 2018 was a very strong year for SXSW Pitch, which uncovers some of the world’s top entrepreneurs and founders. One of the winners was a company called ICON that 3D prints small houses – and this company got a ton of press out of SXSW. Given all the media attention that they generated, I think the 2019 edition of SXSW Pitch is going to be even more special.

Todd: Other than that, I suggest everyone should take a look at our trends for 2019 right here.

we are the data

SXSW is increasingly attracting brands and industries – what is the story behind this evolution?

Hugh: Brands and industries like coming to SXSW for the same reason that creative, forward-thinking individuals do. The event is one of the best places in the world to discover what will be hot in two or three years, ranging from technology to music to film. As far as brand presentations go, there’s nothing as big as Westworld planned for 2019. But if you are a fan of Game of Thrones, then you’ll probably enjoy their activation.

Todd: As a large creative event covering a multitude of industries and creative fields, we create an environment where brands and industries want to see what's next. It's been a natural evolution. They’ve always been a part of SXSW to varying degrees over its lifetime. Recently we have seen a nice uptick in brand participation, and if done right, brand activations can really complement the attendee experience, and bring a lot of value to the spirit of SXSW. When you’re interested in hearing more, here are some great sessions around that topic: Experiential is the New Viral: Find Yours, Upgrade Your Experiential Storytelling with D&D, and Immersive Marketing: Beyond the Instagram Place.

Choice Cuts: Top sessions selected by our me Convention speaker community

The me Convention stages have been graced by top speakers from a vast range of industries and professions, delivering the diverse and compelling sessions that make us unique. We've gathered insight from our community of speakers from the past two years; here they draw on firsthand experience to share their top tips for unmissable sessions during SXSW 2019.

Disclaimer: The views of me Convention speakers do not necessarily reflect the opinions of either Mercedes-Benz and/or SXSW.