Create the Perfect PanelPicker Proposal with These 13 Tips

How to be a Freedom Fighter - SXSW EDU 2024 - Photo by Abigail Cook

Ready to make your mark? Apply to speak at SXSW EDU 2025 through Sunday, July 21, 2024. Start your application in PanelPicker, the official online platform that empowers our community to propose programming ideas and fuels a vibrant range of sessions during the event.

No worries if you don’t know where to begin because we’ve got you covered! We’ve compiled 13 must-know tips to help guide you through the application process and give you the best chance to take the stage next March.

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1. Focus Your Topic

Don’t try to cover too much during your session. The best proposals are specific in their focus and scope. The audience at SXSW EDU is smart and knows the basics. Narrow in on one topic and dive deep into it.

2. Craft a Title That Wows

Capture your reader’s attention from the get-go with a title that hooks them. Make sure it is unique, descriptive, and speaks to the audience you are hoping to reach. Vague and misleading titles can easily be overlooked.

3. Carefully Pick Your Format

The right format can make or break your proposal. Make sure your selected format matches your vision for the structure of the session and addresses your goals for interacting with the audience.

  • Conversation (60 min, 2 speakers)
  • Meet Up (60 min, 1-2 speakers)
  • Panel (60 min, 3-4 speakers)
  • Performance (90 min, 1+ speakers)
  • Podcast (60 min, 2-4 speakers)
  • Solo (30 min, 1 speaker)
  • Workshop (90 min, 1-3 speakers)

Check out this format breakdown to learn more.

4. Keep it Clear

Keep your description focused on the content of your session rather than buzzwords, generalizations, or a summary of the context. This year, there is a maximum of 600 characters for the description (including spaces). Make use of this space to provide a clear description, devoid of any fluff or jargon. The clearer your description, the more your session will be accessible to the target audience.

5. Celebrate Diverse Perspectives

The best proposals have a diverse lineup of speakers in gender, ethnicity, location, expertise, viewpoint, lived experience, and more. All sessions with three or more speakers should include:

  • Diversity in gender
  • Diversity in ethnicity
  • Diversity in location and employment of speakers
  • Diversity in thought and opinion

6. Define the Takeaways

Attendees want to know what they’ll be able to bring back to their work, so be sure to define clear and concrete session takeaways in your description.

7. Don’t Forget a Video

Include a short video that is on-topic for your session. We want to hear you speak and why you’re excited about your idea! The best videos are created for the proposals — not standard promotional videos, a recording of a prior speaking engagement, or general videos for your organization.

8. Don’t Be Advertorial

In your description, focus on the why and the how rather than the who and the what. SXSW EDU steers clear of brand-centered proposals and descriptions. However, if you want to promote your brand, contact our team for the appropriate opportunities to do so.

9. Unleash Your Creativity

We are looking for unique conversations that bring interdisciplinary work and break down silos in education. Be creative in the content you propose to stand out among the competition. Share innovative ideas, current best practices, and fresh perspectives that ignite imagination.

10. Proofread!

Don’t let poor grammar and spelling errors ruin your chances. Be sure to proofread diligently before hitting “submit.” Pay special attention to the character restricted fields to make sure your entries are complete. Once submitted, changes cannot be made, so double-check everything!

11. Watch the PanelPicker AMA

The SXSW EDU Programming Team hosted a PanelPicker AMA (Ask Me Anything) webinar that you can now watch and reference while working on your application.

12. Don’t Miss the Deadline

PanelPicker applications will no longer be accepted after 11:59pm PT on Sunday, July 21. Be sure to submit your submission proposal before the application window ends. PanelPicker will then reopen its doors for the community to dive in, review, cast their votes, and provide feedback on all ideas entered.

13. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Whether this is your first time applying to speak at SXSW EDU or not, you might have some questions along the way. Reach out to with any questions you have while filling out the application.

Download the PanelPicker Guide, a printable PDF, for more tips and information. Visit and select “Sign In To Create an EDU Proposal” to get started today!

See You at SXSW EDU 2025

Mark your calendars for Tuesday, August 6 when registration opens for the 2025 event. Take advantage early for the best rate and hotel options March 3-6, 2025 in downtown Austin.

Sign up for SXSW EDU email updates, check out the News feed, watch videos, and follow us on XFacebookLinkedInInstagram, Threads, and TikTok to get the most up-to-date information.

Photo by Abigail Cook

By Auva Saghafi