Featured Speakers

Featured Speakers are massively-creative innovators who leverage the SXSW platform to present mind-expanding ideas that are re-shaping today’s world and tomorrow’s universe.

Featured Session: Michael Pollan and Tim Ferris – SXSW 2019 – Photo by Katie Marriner

Featured Session: Michael Pollan and Tim Ferris – SXSW 2019 – Photo by Katie Marriner

About Featured Speakers


Spanning the many tracks and themes of the SXSW Conference, Featured Speakers offer attendees the knowledge, leadership and inspiration to shape their professional careers and personal lives in our ever-evolving path forward.

Explore the full list of Featured Speakers and Featured Sessions below. Stay tuned for more programing announcements throughout the season.

For more high-profile speakers at SXSW, browse the Keynotes page.

Featured Speakers


Featured Sessions

  • 50 Non-Obvious Trends Changing the Future Normal
    A presentation with Non-Obvious Company founder Rohit Bhargava.

  • Breaking the Rules to Make Your Experience Matter
    Accenture Interactive CEO, David Droga, will talk with industry disruptor Dara Treseder, SVP, head of global marketing and communications at Peloton, on how to break through the barriers holding brands back from creating the experiences people didn’t even know they needed.

  • Chasing Moonshots & Bringing the Future to Today
    Join co-host of the Business Casual podcast Nora Ali as she interviews founder, chairman, and CEO of Wonder and the co-owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Minnesota Lynx Marc Lore. This session will explore how vision, capital, and people come together to make even the wildest ideas come true, from flying cars and the future of sports to Lore’s biggest moonshot, a new city he’s building from scratch to test a new economic model for society.

  • A Conversation with Michael Abels
    A conversation with accomplished composer Michael Abels about his collaborations with Jordan Peele, how they developed the unique “gospel horror” sound, and how he found inspiration in everything from The Nutcracker to I Got 5 On It. Abels will be interviewed by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bill Adair.

  • Creative Catalysts: Pioneering the Future
    A conversation with VP of Immersive Content Innovation ILMxLAB at Lucasfilm Vicki Dobbs Beck, and LiveArea Director of Strategy Val Vacante about what it takes to innovate, the impact of the ever-evolving emerging technology landscape and how next generation connected experiences will be powered through choice and participation.

  • Design Leadership: Creativity Driving Business
    In a post-covid world, General Manager of Design at IBM Katrina Alcorn, co-founder and CEO of Tech Talk | Studio Christie Dames, and Lab Director of D-Ford Sandy Fershee share evolutionary leadership insights from the front lines of organizational transformation and creativity to unleash action, unlock personal talent and potential, and solve wicked business challenges in a “brave new world” that moves beyond the pandemic.

  • Elevating Communities that Created Pop Music
    A discussion with Apple Music Global Editorial Head of Hip-Hop and R&B Ebro Darden and Save The Music Foundation CEO Henry Donahue on the necessity of ensuring that today’s youth have direct access in their classrooms to the rich musical and cultural legacies in their communities.

  • Future Intersections of Food, Technology & Culture
    A conversation at the intersections of food, technology, and culture, looking towards the future, and how can we learn from the past to create a food system that is more Just, equitable, sustainable and scalable with futurist, engineer, and designer at Google Emily Ma, Senior Director of Corporate Affairs, The Kroger Co. and President of The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation Denise Osterhues, and master chef Andrew Zimmern.

  • The Future of The Data Economy: Putting People First
    With the world at a crucial turning point that will shape the next 50 years of the data economy, founder of Big Technology Alex Kantrowitz and co-founder of Block (formerly Square) Jim McKelvey discuss how an economy that is people-first by design will give more transparency and efficiency to both businesses and people.

  • Guerrilla Tactics & Asymmetric Political Activism
    In this session, co-founder and CFO of the Gravel Institute Henry Magowan; journalist, activist, and documentary filmmaker Skye Wallin; bestselling author, political activist, and former Democratic candidate for president of the United States Marianne Williamson; and Co-Executive Director of The Gravel Institute Henry Williams will discuss lessons learned from the 2020 asymmetrical campaigns of Williamson, Senator Mike Gravel, and Andrew Yang. Speakers will explore which campaigns used social media, film, and provocative progressive language to shift the Overton Window of what is acceptable discussion in democratic politics, and their evolving guerrilla efforts needed to solve the climate crisis, fight the war machine, win elections, and save our democracy.

  • In Praise of Friction
    A discussion about the difference between bad and good friction in AI and machine learning, and how to embrace good friction in deploying AI to minimize harm and become human-first with senior lecturer in the Management Science group at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the lead Research Scientist in the Human-AI Interaction group at MIT’s Initiative on The Digital Economy Renèe Richardson Gosline.

  • Machine or Human? The Ethics Behind Smarter AI
    A conversation with Smart Eye deputy CEO Rana el Kaliouby and MIT Technology Review CEO and Publisher Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau on what a human-centric AI world can look like, how we can build emotional intelligence into our machines, and the massive potential this has to improve our lives — as well as the possible risks.

  • Next Gen Tech & The Live Entertainment Revolution
    Unity SVP of Sports & Live Entertainment Peter Moore will provide a sneak peek into the new fusion of the physical and virtual worlds in live entertainment offering consumers an elevated, personalized, and gamified experience.

  • Psychedelics for Therapeutics and Well-being
    A conversation in which early-stage technology investor/advisor and podcast host Tim Ferris questions how psychedelics can be widely used to alleviate human suffering through clinician-guided treatment of illnesses, how investors can make psychedelic medicine accessible by financing academic research and for-profit companies and clinics, and what’s next for the future of psychedelic medicine as it becomes an established treatment and wellness aid with Director of the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Roland Griffiths, PhD; Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Professor of Translational Research and Chair of the Yale Department of Psychiatry John H. Krystal, MD; and clinical psychologist Rosalind Watts, PhD.

  • Reimagining Exploration with Jill Tiefenthaler
    CEO of the National Geographic Society Dr. Jill Tiefenthaler shares how the organization is building on its legacy of dauntless exploration by creatively leveraging cutting-edge science and immersive storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world.

  • The Second Renaissance of Creativity
    A presentation from Patreon co-founder Jack Conte on the ways in which the creator economy is thriving, moving past the “struggling artist” stereotype, and where the creator economy will go from here.

  • Web3, NFT, Metaverse! 3 Easy Steps To Get Started
    In the far corners of the internet, a new story is being written not by big tech, but by authors such as you and me. In this session, join Senior Vice President and Channel Chief at Unstoppable Domains Sandy Carter as she explains learnings centered around Web3, NFT, the Metaverse, and how you can play your part in reclaiming the internet so that it serves everyone.

  • What’s Your Life’s Soundtrack?
    Music is one of a few things that can transport you back to a moment in time, a special memory, and a song would not be whole without the songwriter. In this session, founder and CEO of Hipgnosis Song Management Merck Mercuriadis and Grammy Award-Winning composer, producer, arranger, and guitarist Nile Rodgers talk about where the songwriter currently sits in the economic equation and their mission to change the dynamics as to how songwriters are compensated in the future.

  • What’s in A Metaverse?
    CEO of Epyllion Matthew Ball; Head of Brands & Advertisers Solutions for Epic Games’ Unreal Engine Raffaella Camera; tech columnist and author Charlie Fink; and co-founder and CEO of High Fidelity Philip Rosedale answer questions such as how shall we define a metaverse, who else is building – or has built – a metaverse, what technology does a metaverse require, and on which platforms will these virtual, social spaces manifest, when, and how?

Amy Webb

SXSW Online 2021

“Our goal is not predicting — it is preparing for what comes next.”

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Amy Webb - SXSW 2019 Featured Speaker - Photo by Mike Jordan

A$AP Rocky

SXSW 2019

“I wouldn’t step into anything just for the sake of conquering it. Most of the time it starts with a vision, and it’s all about execution for me.”

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A$AP Rocky – SXSW 2019 – Photo by Diego Donamaria

J.J. Abrams

SXSW 2016

“We want to see stories that are unique, that have points of view that might not be expected.”

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J.J. Abrams at SXSW 2016 – Photo by Judy Won

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

SXSW 2019

“I don’t think that our government is irredeemable. If I did, I wouldn’t have run for office.”

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - 2019 - Photo by Adam Kissick

Stacey Abrams

SXSW 2019

“We have to stop allowing identity to be weaponized against us.”

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Stacey Abrams - Photo by Danny Matson

Anthony Bourdain

SXSW 2016

“Making TV should be fun. It should be a creative expression…Everybody should be pushing it and having a good day at work.”

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Anthony Bourdain - Photo by David Tait

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