SXSW is coming to Sydney, with public voting shaping the agenda

06 April 2023 3 min. read
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For the first time in its two-and-a-half decade history, the South by Southwest festival is set to extend beyond Texas with an iteration in Sydney, with local punters having the opportunity to shape the bill.

Famed Austin festival SXSW is coming to Sydney, and while it’s still six months away the buzz is intensifying – in part because ‘Session Select’ voting is now open.

Held over a week from the 15th to 22nd of October, conference-goers can now vote for the panels, presentations, speakers, mentor sessions, and workshops that they would like to see added to the line-up, with a number of proposals coming from the world of consulting.

SXSW is coming to Sydney, with public voting shaping the agenda

In all, SXSW Sydney received more than 1,400 submissions across the conference’s five industry themes, which in addition to music, screen, culture and games includes tech & innovation. The Session Select options are further broken down into well over a dozen conference tracks, ranging from “2050” and “The Future You” to subjects covering areas such as health and sustainability.

Public voting closes at midnight on April the 11th.

Among the consultancies to have spawned proposals is Canberra-based Synergy Group, with only one percent of submissions to reach the voting stage by state or territory originating from the nation’s capital. Synergy Group, via creative director Jason Perelson, who leads Synergy’s behavioral change, communications and people strategy line creativeXpeople, lodged three separate pitches, all of which were all accepted to enter the next round.

To get the mind spinning, the first of the Synergy Group session proposals is titled “Nothing Exists. Everything is Made Up” under the ‘Future is You’ banner. In what might seem a departure from the standard consulting fare, the panel discussion would focus on how the boundaries, obstacles and barriers humans set for themselves can “melt away” through a new world-perspective filtered through a lens of creativity, imagination and exploration.

Apparently closer to the contemporary consulting wheelhouse, the second proposal as a presentation would examine the concept of trust in artificial intelligence. Dubbed “Trust In AI: Ethics, behaviour and humanity at one”, the concept still digs rather deep, asking aloud what exactly is trust and why it comes up, all the while drawing from behavioural science and evidence-based models and techniques to better understand human perception and reactions.

Lastly, the final proposal – “Lessons from Africa: How creativity is our future” – doesn’t exactly let up, but perhaps takes a more conventional approach, examining the life of Nelson Mandela through the eyes of Perelson’s formative professional years in South Africa, and how “creativity, creation, imagination and insight are the keys to global unity, possibility and a positive shifts” via insights from inside "Federal Government to the streets of South Africa."

“We at SXSW Sydney were thrilled by the variety of ideas from our local and global creative community, from individuals and groups at the top of their fields,” noted Fenella Kernebone, SXSW Sydney’s Head of Conference Programming. “We were also stunned by the level of interest, receiving over 1,400 entries to Session Select in our first year. Now we turn it over to our audience to choose what they want to see.”