10 Tips for Crafting the Perfect PanelPicker Proposal

Photo by Debra Reyes.

SXSW EDU is accepting session proposals for the 2019 Conference & Festival through Friday, July 20, via PanelPicker®. PanelPicker is a digital, crowd-sourced platform that empowers the community to propose programming for the March event. Here are ten PanelPicker tips to help you craft the perfect proposal!

Simply enter your session proposal for SXSW EDU 2019 during the month-long submission window. Then PanelPicker will re-open for public voting, allowing the public to review, vote on, and provide feedback for all ideas entered.

1. Identify a Very Specific Focus

Select a focus for your session proposal and dive deep on that topic. Proposals that are broad and unfocused are less likely to be selected for the event.

2. Craft the Perfect Title

The title is your first opportunity to capture your readers attention and spark their interest in the session idea. Make sure your proposal is easily accessible to the community and speaks to the audience you are trying to reach. Try to keep your title as concise and explanatory as possible (maximum of 50 characters, including spaces).

3. Select the Right Session Format

Choose the format that best fits your session structure and presentation style. Reflect on the goals of your session idea – are you looking to engage in a thought-provoking discussion, lead a learning activity, or convene a specific community?


Case Study
A focused presentation highlighting research findings from relevant initiatives and projects, followed by audience Q&A.

A constructive, moderated debate between opposing viewpoints on an impactful topic, followed by audience Q&A.

A short solo presentation highlighting new and emerging ideas. Optional audience Q&A.

A diverse and dynamic exploration of a particular topic, followed by audience Q&A.

A focused, high-energy presentation centered on breakthroughs and insights, followed by audience Q&A.

Hands On
An informal, activity-based session that facilitates interactive and creative learning techniques.

Meet Up
A speaker-facilitated networking event that encourages communities to connect around similar topics, passions, roles, or interests.

An in-depth, instructional program with hands-on learning activities and specific takeaways.

SXSW EDU 2019 PanelPicker- Room Set PanelPicker Graphic

A speaker-led, open conversation that focuses on driving a dialogue with attendees around a particular topic rather than offering a structured presentation.

4. Cut Out the Overused Buzzwords

Be intentional with your language and word selection. Packing a session proposal with meaningless buzzwords will only undermine your focus and rile readers. Instead, keep things simple and focus on substantive ideas that clearly communicate your objectives.

5. Diversify Your Speakers

SXSW EDU values diversity in perspective, opinion, and representation. The most interesting sessions are ones that offer many different viewpoints on the subject matter. For each proposed speaker, you will be asked to address how they contribute to the diversity of the session with a focus on the five requirements of diversity.

  • Gender – If a session has three or more speakers, gender diversity is required.

  • Location – Be thoughtful of the geographic representation of the sessions’ speaker.

  • Opinion – If all the speakers on your session proposal share the same opinion on the given topic, the conversation will likely be uninteresting.

  • Variety – The session selection process if competitive so having a variety of new and interesting speakers is essential to making your proposal stand out.

  • Ethnicity – Different ethnic backgrounds and cultures take unique approaches to different topics.

6. Outline Actionable Learning Objectives

In addition to comprehensively defining the focus of your session idea, you will be asked to provide three specific learning objectives that highlight concrete audience takeaways. This is important because the primary reason most people attend SXSW EDU is to learn.

7. Include a Video

Add a short creative video to serve as the digital face of your proposal. There’s no need for high-value production, we just want to hear you speak. Record yourself on your phone/computer pitching your idea.

8. Do Not Be Advertorial

Advertorial or brand-centered session proposals and descriptions are not allowed. If you are interested in promoting your brand at SXSW EDU, check out our marketing deck and contact our team to talk more.

9. Creativity Matters

Approach the PanelPicker process with a creative mindset. Each summer SXSW EDU receives hundreds of high-quality proposals from education thought leaders across the U.S. and around the world, making the selection process extremely competitive. Creative ideas that provide insight on current best practices or an innovative look towards the future are more likely to be selected.

10. Proofread Before Submitting

There’s no understating the importance of proofreading your proposal before hitting submit. Use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Do not write your title or description in all lowercase letters. Double-check that the proposal is error-free. Once you’ve submitted your session proposal in PanelPicker, you will not be able to make any additional edits to your proposal.

Visit panelpicker.sxsw.com and select “+ Sign in to Create a SXSW EDU Proposal” to get started today! Download the PanelPicker Guide, a printable PDF, for more tips on submitting in PanelPicker.

SXSW EDU 2018 session, How to Prepare Kids for Jobs that Don’t Exist Yet – photo by Debra Reyes.


Jessica MacCall

SXSW EDU Sr Digital Media Manager

As part of the SXSW EDU marketing team, I am passionate about connecting people to ideas of impact. I earned a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications–Electronic Media and Photography from Texas State University and am currently pursuing an MBA from Western Governors University.

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