Getting Your PanelPicker Picked

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It’s no secret that SXSW is one of the largest marketing events in the world for those wanting to promote their innovative ideas. With a bevy of ways to get involved – from hosting a booth, a lounge or even a party – a majority of attendees are quick to overlook the excellent opportunities available that would allow them to showcase themselves as thought leaders within their industries.

Our team at Leverage PR has led numerous clients through the PanelPicker process, and we have even taken the stage ourselves, represented by firm principal, Joy Schoffler. With our unparalleled perspective and insight, our team is pleased to share our unique understanding of exactly what it takes to increase your odds of being selected.

How It Works

PanelPicker is an online process that allows the SXSW community to collaboratively review and vote on speaking proposals submitted in order to determine what will eventually become the official SXSW lineup. This process provides innovative thinkers the chance to showcase themselves while at the same time giving the community a voice in deciding which ideas will ultimately be chosen. It is an extremely competitive process and just one submission idea is allotted per company. But for those who are lucky enough to be selected, a place in the lineup is a life-long resume builder. Bearing this in mind, it is critical that your application reinforces your position as a true game-changer in your industry…and we’re here to show you how.

Increase Your Odds of Getting Your PanelPicker Picked

There is a small window of opportunity for submissions, and we recommend setting up a game plan as early as possible so that you can ensure you’re putting your best foot forward. Applications will only be accepted between June 26 – July 21. After the closing date, the decision is divided between community votes (30 percent), the SXSW Programming Committee (40 percent), and the SXSW staff (30 percent). That being said, the initial application is only half of the battle.

In this highly competitive space, it is essential to do everything you can to make yourself stand out. We suggest you focus on the following fundamental elements when creating your submission.

  • Select your format. Format is key at SXSW. Decide where you’ll be both providing the most value and can best assert yourself as a thought leader in your space. Will it be by participating in a panel session or by running a solo presentation?
  • Choose your friends wisely. If you elect to participate on a panel, select your cohorts wisely. SXSW brings together the cream of the crop, and the level of knowledge your co-presenters possess on your topic is paramount. You’ll need to be crystal clear in your PanelPicker application, detailing exactly how the knowledge of your team will evoke a specific conversation, ameliorating concern for members of the panel potentially wandering off-subject. Additionally, if you choose to do a panel, you’ll need to make sure your fellow presenters are ready to start prepping early, as you’ll be responsible for securing information from them, such as links to events and media coverage they have secured, bios that highlight expertise in the exact topics you want to showcase, and other tie-ins with the topic at hand. Another tip: Diversify. You’ll want to make sure that all panel members represent different companies and include diversity. SXSW is a global event and values contributions from people from all walks of life, so if your panel is made up of a group of people with identical backgrounds, your chances of being selected will plummet.
  • Cater to your audience. Make sure that your submission and expertise cater to and draw in the community of innovation-obsessed, big idea, and cutting-edge tech junkies. These folks make up a huge percentage of the SXSW community, programming committee, and staff, so if you can garner strong interest from them, you’ve got a better shot at selection.
  • Be specific. In order to be selected, you’ll need to make sure that your title is both direct and explanatory, and that your submission goes into full detail on the topic you intend to discuss. You only have a few words to work with, so it is imperative that you make them count. At Leverage, we pour over panel titles until we have settled on just the right words that convey the most accurate and enticing message.
  • Show your expertise. The provision of supporting materials is required in the application process and is a crucial way of winning over selection votes. Use this requirement to your advantage by selecting additional materials that add to your argument and prove that you are the most capable candidate to speak on your topic of interest. For this process, we recommend using videos or media clips that simultaneously highlight your expertise and your position in the community.
  • Share and share alike. Once your PanelPicker application has been submitted, the work isn’t over. Unless you are writing an application for the leader of a well-known, revolutionary company or for a foreign dignitary, the chances are likely that you’ll need to do a little self-promotion. With social voting adding up to 30 percent of the overall selection process, it critical to have those social media posts, blogs and emails in place and ready to send. Self-promotion and a strong social presence will help rally your personal and professional networks, to help support you along the way to selection. To execute this in a way that does not damage the credibility of your personal and professional brand, we suggest drafting blog and social media posts that highlight you as a thought leader in your industry and also direct people to vote for your topic in the PanelPicker process, so that they can learn more about your area of expertise at SXSW.

SXSW is one of the most sought-after speaking events in the world, but with this exclusivity comes an investment of both time and resources to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward to up your chances of being selected. That being said, if you are not a born wordsmith, don’t despair! Either rope in your marketing team or hire outside help to assist in making the process as smooth as possible – we would love to hear your idea! Additionally, if you’ve heeded our advice and your application is chosen, let us know as we would be happy to help you promote it.

To learn more and to secure your place in the spotlight, please contact Sarah Schonhoff at sarah@leverage-pr.com to set up a call.