Featured Speakers

March 13-22, 2020

SXSW Featured Speakers are leading figures in society and industry, presenting mind-expanding ideas to shape today and tomorrow.

2019 Featured Speaker, Zoe Saldana - Photo by John Feinberg

2019 Featured Speaker, Zoe Saldana - Photo by John Feinberg

About Featured Speakers


Spanning the many themes and trends of SXSW, Featured Speakers present a snapshot of the ideas that can most transform our future.

Browse 2019 Featured Speakers video highlights below. Explore more videos on the SXSW Youtube Channel and listen to sessions on the SXSW Schedule by clicking the audio symbol next to each item.

For more influential speakers at SXSW, visit the Keynotes page.

Stay tuned for 2020 SXSW programming announcements throughout the season at SXSW News.

2020 Featured Speakers

  • Composer (Us, Get Out) Michael Abels in conversation with Politifact creator and professor Bill Adair (Making Film & Episodics Track)

  • Beat Games s.r.o co-founder and Head of Music Jaroslav Beck (Future of Music Track)

  • Founder and Chief Trend Curator of the Non-Obvious Company Rohit Bhargava (Fantastic Future Track)

  • Producer, songwriter, artist Benny Blanco (Future of Music Track)

  • Amazon Web Services Vice President of Public Sector Partners and Programs Sandy Carter (Tech Industry & Enterprise Track)

  • Future of Sex founder and podcast host Bryony Cole (Connection & Culture Track)

  • Founder, Co-Chief Investment Officer and Co-Chairman of Bridgewater Associates Ray Dalio (Tech Industry & Enterprise Track)

  • Cannabis rights activist Steve DeAngelo (Cannabusiness Track)

  • Starburst Accelerator co-founder & Managing Partner Van Espahbodi (Space Track)

  • Graphika Chief Innovation Officer Camille François (Tech Industry & Enterprise Track)

  • Entrepreneurs and Magnolia founders Chip and Joanna Gaines (Media & Journalism Track)

  • Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital Arlan Hamilton (Startups Track)

  • Fashion designer and founder Tommy Hilfiger in conversation with Tommy Hilfiger Global CEO Daniel Grieder (Connection & Culture Track)

  • Entrepreneur and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes in conversation with TechCrunch’s Josh Constine (Tech Industry & Enterprise Track)

  • Author and co-founder and CEO of Affectiva Dr. Rana el Kaliouby (Fantastic Future Track)

  • Cirque du Soleil, One Drop Foundation and Lune Rouge founder Guy Laliberté (Climate & Social Action Track)

  • Multi-Grammy Award winning musician, producer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Ben Lovett (Future of Music Track)

  • Designer, author and technologist John Maeda (Design Track)

  • Actor and comedian Cheech Marin in conversation with Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (Connection & Culture Track)

  • IMDb Founder and CEO Col Needham (Film & TV Industry Track)

  • Bassist, composer, and YouTuber Adam Neely (Future of Music Track)

  • James Beard Award-winning chef and author Kwame Onwuachi (Connection & Culture Track)

  • Executive Director of Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation Cat Packer (Cannabusiness Track)

  • Canva CEO and co-founder Melanie Perkins (Design Track)

  • C3 Presents concert and festival promoter Huston Powell (Future of Music Track)

  • Google Stadia Games and Entertainment VP Jade Raymond in conversation with journalist Chris Morris (Game Industry Track)

  • Musician, producer and songwriter Nile Rodgers in conversation with music industry executive and entrepreneur Merck Mercuriadis (Creating & Monetizing Music Track)

  • Quantitative futurist, author and founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute Amy Webb (Tech Industry & Enterprise Track)

  • Mojang Studios Chief Brand Officer Lydia Winters (Game Industry Track)

  • Author and scholar Shoshana Zuboff (Tech Industry & Enterprise Track)


  • Activating Change with a Cello and a Shovel (Connection & Culture Track) – An exploration of how to use culture to transform social problems that create division and uncertainty into moments that confirm community and activate change, featuring musician Yo-Yo Ma and artist Pedro Reyes. Moderated by NPR’s Peter Sagal.

  • Big Brother Is Racist: Surveillance vs. Persons of Color (Government & Politics Track) – A discussion about how surveillance and surveillance technologies, historically and currently, have been disproportionately deployed against persons of color, as well as the harmful impacts of such deployments, with Senior Advocacy and Policy Counsel at the ACLU Chad Marlow; Director of Georgetown Law’s Communications & Technology Law Clinic, and Associate Director of the Center on Privacy & Technology Laura Moy; Co-Director of MediaJustice Steven Renderos; and sociopolitical comedian, author, and host W. Kamau Bell.

  • The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen (Connection & Culture Track) – A behind-the-scenes conversation with Bon Appétit Test Kitchen chefs Brad Leone, Claire Saffitz, Andy Baraghani, Molly Baz, Chris Morocco, Carla Lalli Music, and Alex Delany appearing on stage together for the first time outside of New York.

  • Changing the Immersive Storytelling Wild West (Experiential Storytelling Track) – A conversation about how to collaborate to create sustainable, transformative and inclusive work in immersive storytelling, between Royal Shakespeare Company Director of Digital Development Sarah Ellis; anthropologist, technologist, professor and Intel senior fellow Genevieve Bell; and Guild of Future Architects Executive Director Kamal Sinclair. Moderated by Watershed CEO Clare Reddington.

  • Featured Session: Courtney A. Kemp, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson & Jeffrey Hirsch (Film & TV Industry Track) – Join executive producers Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Courtney Kemp from Starz’s Original Series Power, as they sit with president and CEO of Starz, Jeffrey Hirsch, for a look inside the wildly popular drama series as well as upcoming expansions to the Power cinematic universe including the upcoming spinoff, Power Book II: Ghost starring Mary J. Blige.

  • Escaping Doom: Transforming Science into Experience (Design Track) – A conversation about how scientific research can be integrated into an engaging, entertaining, and educational storytelling experience, with Gensler principal David Kramer; University of Texas Assistant Dean, School of Design and Creative Technologies Doreen Lorenzo; Associate Professor in the Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Texas Fernanda Leite; and general manager of Unreal Engine at Epic Games Marc Petit.

  • The Future of Influence is #accountable (Advertising & Brand Experience Track) – A conversation about the spread of misinformation on social platforms and the responsibility of influencers, featuring actress and activist Sophia Bush and Seed Health co-founder and co-CEO Ara Katz.

  • Featured Session: Hear To Slay Podcast with Roxane Gay & Tressie McMillan Cottom (Connection & Culture Track) – A live podcast recording offering compelling conversations and uncommonly incisive reads of the politics and pop culture that shape the world we live in, featuring writer, editor and podcaster Roxane Gay; award-winning professor and author Tressie McMillan Cottom; and Special Guest.

  • How to be Political in an Apolitical World (Future of Music Track) – A conversation about political activism in the music industry and the role artists can play in driving change, featuring Run the Jewels manager Amaechi Uzoigwe; #iVoted founder Emily White; Middle West Management and “46 for 46” founder Kyle Frenette; and artist and activist Madame Gandhi.

  • Immersive Entertainment and the Future of Games (Game Industry Track) – Join technology pioneer, entrepreneur, and scientist Nolan Bushnell; founder of Collabsco Valerie Vacante; and Hollywood Creative Director turned game maker Zai Ortiz.

  • Latino Film Institute: Pipeline, Platform & Launch (Film & TV Industry Track) – A conversation about the ideas and programs that LFI have placed into action to address the lack of representation in Hollywood and focus on the next generation of content creators, featuring Director of Research and Civic Engagement for the Division of Social Sciences at UCLA Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón; actor producer and humanitarian Edward James Olmos; Founder & Co-Program Manager of LatinX in Animation Magdiela Hermida Duhamel; and writer and Latino Film Institute executive director Rafael Agustin.

  • Nat Geo Storytellers: Exploration Unleashed (Film & TV Industry Track) – A conversation about modern day exploration with National Geographic’s award-winning scientist, technologist and adventurer Albert Lin, and award-winning correspondent, investigative journalist, and National Geographic’s Mariana van Zeller.

  • The Women Who Run the Shows (Film & TV Industry Track) – A discussion about the experiences of female showrunners, their unique backstories and influences, including their early days in the industry to calling the shots, and their roles in comedy and on set, with multi-talented stand-up comedian, writer, and actress Phoebe Robinson; Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens showrunner Karey Dornetto; and Executive Producer and showrunner of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Jen Flanz.

Brandi Carlile Interviews Elisabeth Moss at SXSW 2019

Grammy winning singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile interviews Emmy Award-winning actress Elisabeth Moss about her intense transformation to play punk rocker Becky Something in the acclaimed film Her Smell.

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Featured Session: Elisabeth Moss with Brandi Carlile - Photo by Travis P Ball/Getty Images for SXSW

Featured Session: Elisabeth Moss with Brandi Carlile - Photo by Travis P Ball/Getty Images for SXSW

Trevor Noah and The Daily Show News Team on Changing Media at SXSW 2019

CNN Anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper sat down with The Daily Show host Trevor Noah and correspondents Ronny Chieng, Michael Kosta, Desi Lydic, Dulcé Sloan, Roy Wood Jr., and Jaboukie Young-White to panel harder than anyone has ever paneled before at SXSW 2019.

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Trevor Noah and Jake Tapper at The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Featured Session – Photo by Travis P Ball/Getty Images for SXSW

Trevor Noah and Jake Tapper at The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Featured Session – Photo by Travis P Ball/Getty Images for SXSW

Stacey Abrams: Making Change Out of Defeat at SXSW 2019

Sit down with Stacey Abrams for a conversation covering how to stay mad but stay busy and ultimately drive lasting and meaningful change.

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2019 Featured Speaker, Stacey Abrams - Photo by Danny Matson/Getty Images for SXSW

2019 Featured Speaker, Stacey Abrams - Photo by Danny Matson/Getty Images for SXSW

Neil Gaiman on Taking Good Omens from Book to Screen

Prepare thyself, something wickedly good this way comes. Best-selling author Neil Gaiman took to the SXSW stage for a conversation with writer and actress Kirsten Vangsness about his mini-series adaptation of Good Omens.

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2019 SXSW Featured Speaker, Neil Gaiman – Photo by Alexa Gonzalez Wagner

2019 SXSW Featured Speaker, Neil Gaiman – Photo by Alexa Gonzalez Wagner

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Government and Courage at SXSW 2019

New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sat down with The Intercept‘s Senior Politics Editor Brihna Gray for a conversation at SXSW 2019 about identity, the race/class divide, and how these factors are likely to play out in the years ahead.

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2019 SXSW Featured Speaker, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – By Merrick Ales

2019 SXSW Featured Speaker, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – By Merrick Ales

Tinker Hatfield on Design with Scott Dadich at SXSW 2019

Tinker Hatfield, Nike’s VP of Creative Concepts and legend among sneaker-heads, breaks down the creative process, exploring how different disciplines of design influence, inform, and inspire each other along with Abstract co-creator Scott Dadich.

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2019 Featured Session, Tinker Hatfield with Scott Dadich - Photo by Christopher Bouie

2019 Featured Session, Tinker Hatfield with Scott Dadich - Photo by Christopher Bouie

Amanda Palmer on Crowdfunding and Songwriting at SXSW 2019

At SXSW 2019, songwriter and Dresden Dolls member, Amanda Palmer, spoke about the benefits of self-releasing, how crowd-funding music can greatly benefit artists trying to maintain the integrity of their work, and more.

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Amanda Palmer - Photo by Lauren Simpson

Amanda Palmer - Photo by Lauren Simpson

Pamela Adlon Embraces Better Things at SXSW 2019

In this candid conversation, Pamela Adlon — Emmy®-winning actress and acclaimed executive producer, writer, and director of the award-winning FX series Better Things — discussed her storied career including the return of her semi-autobiographical and critically-acclaimed series.

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Featured Session: Unfiltered: Pamela Adlon Embraces Better Things

Featured Session: Unfiltered: Pamela Adlon Embraces Better Things

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