Navigating PanelPicker 2025: Answering Your Most Common Questions

Creating STEM Champions: Forging Futures Beyond The Classroom - SXSW EDU 2024 - Photo by Miguel Esparza

Thinking about applying to speak at SXSW EDU? Whether it's your first, second, or third time applying, PanelPicker® may spark some questions – but don’t worry! We’ve gathered some of the most commonly asked questions, answered by our programming team, so that you can feel confident in submitting a stellar proposal.

What topics is SXSW EDU most interested in for the next year?

At SXSW EDU, we invite our community to shape focus areas organically through what is submitted in PanelPicker. Prior to review, we do not pre-select topics and, while our team is attentive to trending issues, we do not privilege or narrow our focus to specific content areas. Rather, we encourage interested applicants to review past sessions and our 2025 programming tracks, which broadly represent the areas our program will cover, and focus on areas of their work that align with their passions and goals for participating at the event. Additionally, we encourage interested applicants to speak to the timeliness of their topic, if it informs current issues in education, and where the field might be come March, to the best of their abilities, in their proposal.

How does the question about speaker qualifications differ from their bio?

In this section, highlight the specific qualifications that the speaker has to speak on the proposal topic, what unique perspective they are specifically bringing to this conversation or workshop, or what work they’ve done in the past that lends them to the session. This can be a short explanation of their specific expertise.

Can we submit the same speakers across different proposals?

Yes! A speaker can be included on multiple proposals submitted by multiple organizers. However, a speaker can only participate in a maximum of two sessions at SXSW EDU (with the exception of meet ups and mentor sessions). So if all submissions are accepted, the speaker will need to decide which two sessions they intend to participate in.

What makes for a strong description?

Topic focus is everything! Strong session descriptions dig into the specific content that will be discussed by the speakers and what new information you’re bringing to our community. Descriptions should focus on what the specific session will cover, rather than what your organization does. Keep in mind our community is smart and well versed on broad issues in education – so you don’t need to offer extensive background and can dive into the specifics. Descriptions that are overly promotional or sales-like don’t resonate well with the SXSW EDU community and reviewers.

Additionally, avoid including speaker names in the description. There will be an opportunity later in the proposal to highlight the speaker(s) and their expertise and qualifications, so using the limited space to discuss your speakers will limit your description of the session's content and detract from your proposal overall.

Does the visual aid have to be a video?

Visual aids don’t necessarily need to be videos. Links to slide decks and other graphics that support the proposal's topic can be submitted in PanelPicker. However, we do strongly recommend videos because they allow the community, Advisory Board, and SXSW EDU team to hear your passion and unique perspective on the topic. Text heavy resources, such as blogs or webpages, are not recommended.

What is the community looking for in the videos? Can it be a video we’ve used in the past?

Videos add to the proposal by giving a sense of why the topic is important and what unique perspective your team is bringing. The community is listening to hear your excitement and passion for the topic. While it can be a video that has been used before, the strongest videos are aligned to the proposal. Our Advisory Board specifically calls out that they recommend videos that are crafted for the proposals, rather than generic or promotional videos. Videos don't need to be long, and in fact we recommend keeping them on the shorter end. Production value is also not important to our reviewers – these can be recorded on your phone or Zoom. It’s most important that we hear why this session is a must-have for SXSW EDU!

Can we submit the same topic area / idea under multiple formats?

While this can technically be done, we recommend interested applicants think carefully about what format best suits their session's goals and submit under that format. Read a breakdown of all of the formats to help you choose the perfect format to reach your session goals. During the review process, we think carefully about whether the session as it is described will work well in the given format and time limit.

If you have a question that wasn't answered here, please reference the PanelPicker FAQs or email us at and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Be sure to submit your proposal by Sunday, July 21 at 11:59pm PT. We look forward to seeing your submission in PanelPicker. Good Luck!

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 TwitterFacebookLinkedInInstagram, and TikTok to get the most up-to-date information.

Photo by Miguel Esparza

By Kayla Meyers