After being completely virtual for the past two years due to the pandemic, South by Southwest Conference & Festivals will finally return in person to Austin next year. In March, it was announced that SXSW will run March 11-20, preceded by the March 7-10 education conference. That doesn’t mean the online experience will go away, as SXSW organizers are already gearing up to bring virtual events back in 2022 as well.
“Hybrid is the buzzword for the future,” said Hugh Forrest, director of programming for SXSW, at KXAN. “I think we have a lot of confidence after having done the virtual event, the hybrid event is something that we can also conquer.”
The decision to bring back the virtual SXSW experience along with the festival in person is due to the added benefits that come with it. This year, 33% of the festival’s online attendees were outside the United States, compared to the 25% international audience the festival typically attracts. Obviously, not everyone can afford to travel to the prestigious film festival, but there are many willing to participate in the virtual event as another way to experience the festivities.
Forrest also noted that SXSW online brought with it an increase in convergence, with more interaction between artists from various fields. It also made it easier for attendees to network and communicate. Although the in-person panels will be back in 2022, they will be complemented by virtual events. Ultimately, though, Forrest says there’s nothing beats being there in person, even if the online event is a good alternative.
“People want to hear visionaries tell them about a better tomorrow,” he said.
SXSW organizers noted that the smaller scale of events did not take away from the online experience, and this will be considered when it comes to planning next year’s lineup. Members of the public can also contribute to programming through SXSW’s panel selection process, which will open to the public in late June through mid-July. During that time, people can submit which panelists, movies, and other content they want to see at the festival.
While things are looking good at this point, safety will always remain the No. 1 concern for SXSW organizers. Fortunately, the team is quite confident that the state of the nation next March will be safe enough to host the return of the festival live.
“At SXSW we are hopeful that once people feel that it is safe enough to return to what will be the new normal in life, there will be a real enthusiasm to return to the things that brought them joy or opportunity or just the simple need to be among humanity, “festival organizers previously said in a statement. “We are looking forward to bringing people together once again to meet and share ideas.”
“I’m very confident that SXSW will look normal or near normal next year,” said Austin Public Health Acting Authority Dr. Mark Escott added.
Whether in person or online, SXSW always provides an amazing experience. Next year’s festival will take place March 11-20. This news comes to us from KXAN.