PanelPicker® is the official SXSW user-generated session proposal platform. This easy, two-step online process allows the SXSW community to have a voice in what sessions are programmed at SXSW.

Applications Open: October 6, 2020

Deadline: October 16, 2020

Kat Candler, Amanda Marsalis, Jennifer Phang, and Todd Rohal - SXSW 2019. Photo by John Feinberg

Kat Candler, Amanda Marsalis, Jennifer Phang, and Todd Rohal - SXSW 2019. Photo by John Feinberg

About PanelPicker


SXSW values community input and involvement. The two-step online process PanelPicker® was developed to encourage the SXSW community to enter proposals and have a significant voice in Conference programming. The SXSW community is then able to browse proposals, leave comments, and vote to help shape the event. Applications will be open from October 6-16, 2020.

2021 Event Information

SXSW is launching SXSW Online as part of our 2021 offerings. The digital experience will feature conference keynotes and sessions, screenings, showcases, networking, and exhibitions. The dates for SXSW EDU Online are March 9 – March 11, 2021 and SXSW Online will take place March 16 – March 20, 2021.

Entries for the 2021 digital experience will open on Tuesday, October 6 with PanelPicker proposals for SXSW and SXSW EDU, as well as Film Festival submissions. In lieu of the standard showcase application process, the Music Festival will be curated by programming staff with priority given to showcase presenters and artists who were scheduled for the 2020 event.

SXSW is working with the City of Austin and public health authorities on plans for a physical event in 2021. We will provide updates as more information becomes available. Sign up to receive important SXSW updates.

Hugh Forrest PanelPicker Quote

"PanelPicker connects us with the thousands of creative professionals, experts and decision-makers from the many disciplines in the global SXSW community. This interface helps us identify the most compelling new ideas within the many different industries we serve and, in so doing, keeps SXSW exciting, timely, and relevant."

Hugh Forrest
SXSW Chief Programming Officer

2021 Themes



From racial injustice, poverty and class struggles to hunger, the climate crisis and global pandemics — societal, technological, and scientific advancements and policies must stay at the forefront of the creative problem solving that’s imperative for our survival. Lasting systemic change, not just the veneer of change, must happen now.


The many ways in which the tech industry touches our lives must be leveraged as a positive force if we are to achieve real progress as a society. What lessons can an industry integral to our existence learn from its current failings to forge a better future?


Breakthroughs in creativity for artists across music, film, experiential, written, and visual arts have blossomed in the face of acute social issues and a global pandemic that have altered our perspective for years to come.


How we view capitalism and the viability of businesses from startups to small companies to major corporations takes center stage as we look to rebuild the global economy. Opportunity for change awaits, but how we level the playing field by pivoting to more equitable systems across race, gender, and class is crucial to the longevity of industries across the board.


Conventional wisdom from entertainment industries has lost its shine in the face of disruptions from technological developments. Business as usual is no longer acceptable as evolving consumer tastes and increasing pressure on social issues necessitate some much needed metamorphosis. What lessons can music, film, television, sports and gaming learn to surpass the ever-accelerating pace of change?


We’re living lives we never could have imagined as we head into our own brave new world. The consequences of social isolation have been brewing for years. Now online platforms are some of the only outlets available to foster a sense of community. As we return to a world where individualism can give way to embracing the value of humanity, how do we find our way back to each other?


Biohacking, consumer space travel, radical life extension, VTOLs — these concepts that once belonged in science fiction are now part of our immediate future. What new mind-blowing ideas will inspire the next generation of innovation?

Apply to PanelPicker

Application Process


PanelPicker® is a two-step online process that allows the SXSW community to have a significant voice in Conference programming for SXSW and SXSW EDU.

We encourage the community to upload proposals related to interactive, film and, music industries in variety of session formats including panels, solo presentations, and more.

During the application period, create a new user account or login at If you created a general SXSW account in 2013 or later you will be able to use the same login and password for PanelPicker. Each individual account may enter only one (1) proposal for the SXSW Conference.

Tips for Success

Browse tips for creating a successful proposal below and stay tuned to SXSW News for more PanelPicker information and updates.

  • Follow the instructions and read the PanelPicker FAQ
  • Create a future-focused, original proposal that shows what you’re passionate about.
  • Depth and specificity – the more specific a proposal is, the better. Drill down to what really matters.
  • Your title should reflect your description – think simple, accurate, and succinct. Tip: Avoid all CAPS or all lowercase in your title.
  • Diversity matters – all panels (3-4 person sessions) must include diversity in gender, race, location, and employment of speakers as well as diversity in thought and opinion.
  • Include a video with your proposal. Your speaking abilities matter and we’d like to see them. No fancy production required.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread.
  • You will NOT be able to make any edits once you have clicked “Enter My Proposal.” Be sure you have reviewed your proposal carefully.
  • Meet the deadline: October 16, 2020!

Apply to PanelPicker

Community Voting


All ideas received during the PanelPicker® entry period will be posted online for community voting from November 10-20, 2020. It’s as easy as “review, comment, and vote” to help shape SXSW programming.

Community votes comprise 30% of the final decision plus input of the SXSW Staff (30%) and Advisory Board (40%) helps ensure that less well-known voices have as much of a chance as being selected to speak at SXSW as individuals with large online followings. Together these percentages help determine the final content lineup.

Public Votes: 30%
Who knows what you want to see at SXSW better than you? Your input is very important in terms of shaping the look and feel of the March event.

SXSW Advisory Board: 40%
A group of 200+ industry experts from around the world, the SXSW Advisory Board provides significant feedback on all entries.

SXSW Staff: 30%
With years of experience programming this event, SXSW staffers work to fill any gaps in relevant subject matter, striking a balance between new and veteran speakers.

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