SXSW 2024

March 28, 2024
7 min read
Need to Know

SXSW: The view from the audience

Sitting in front of the stage instead of running it, the TPN team was able to take in what worked and what didn’t, and what inspires us not just as a production company, but as humans.

What you must know, going into South by Southwest, is that you won’t be able to see everything.

What you do see will inspire your own work, get you excited for the future and connect you with people from all corners of the music, film, events, tech, and creative worlds.

They will happily fill you in on what you missed. In that sense, you will never run out of people to meet or things to talk about. SXSW is networking on the highest level.

Here’s what we loved – and learned from – at this year’s event.  


There are over a thousand sessions at SXSW. At every timeslot, our team would have at least a dozen concurrent sessions they wanted to attend, which meant they had to be very strategic about which ones to go to. It was also challenging to know which ones of that dozen would have availability, especially knowing they were located all over Austin. If the one our team chose was full and their second choice was across town, well, they likely missed them all.  

TIP: use the SXSXpress feature in the app to ensure you always get into your preferred sessions.

Despite how challenging it was for our team to get into the exact session they wanted at each timeslot, they were able to attend quite a few sessions. A few of which we summarized for you here:

Forecasting Workplace: The Changing Landscape of DEI

The question: How do we remove barriers for those who are marginalized in the workplace? How do you make the workplace more sustainable and inclusive for everyone?

Janice Gassam Asare of BWG Business Solutions and Leah Goodridge of Planning and Housing Policy took these issues on, noting that DEI benefits everyone, “despite the propaganda and that it only benefits certain groups.”

Consider the “Curb Cut Theory,” which was originally designed to help people in wheelchairs. In actuality, they said, it benefits so many others.

And yet, as much as it is needed, DEI is under constant threat. The Trump administration banned diversity training if it mentioned phrases such as “systemic racism.” One Florida university cut its entire DEI department. And the financial strain that businesses are experiencing impact DEI programs and initiatives and teams, even though it is critical to employee retention.

“People want to fight and advocate, but their mental health is at such a decline that they don’t feel up for the challenge - they don’t want to do it.”

DEI programs need to transform, and it is a myth that they’re considered a black/white issue.

How Brave is Your Brand? Unleash its Full Potential

You remember Leon, the lizard that rose from the dead? If so, then you remember that the Apple iPhone “text recall” feature that allowed the news of Leon’s death to be recalled.

That brave brand that used a simple human story to draw us in, to use the power of the unsaid, to create an emotional bond, seemingly advocate for its users – and sell. So said speakers Dniel Andersson and Lynne Field of Futurebrand.

What makes a brave band? They’re boldly confident. Credibly magnetic. Charismatic. They use a simple human story to draw us in and count on the power of what is not said. They create an emotional bond and advocates for their users.

Two simple takeaways:

  • “As brand creators, we have the ability to truly make the world a better place!”
  • “Always think about coming from a place of empathy.”

How brave is your brand? Go here to find out.  

The DNA Of a Unicorn Leader – Ann Hiatt of Hipergiant

Hiatt has worked as the right hand to some of the most world changing CEOs and now partners with VCs to identify and invest in the next generation of unicorn leaders all over the world. She has spent 20 years studying, tracking, testing and understanding the magic behind their exceptional output.

Their five distinguishing characteristics?

Have a world-team that will challenge you as a CEO. Jeff Bezos had a right-hand person whose main job was to poke holes in his ideas.

“You do not want an agreeable team sitting next to you because you will never learn or have other perspectives that are required to make the best decisions possible.”

Surround yourself with likeminded people when it comes to ambition. Seek out environments where you feel challenged.

“Too hot” is someone who is all over the place and a paralysis. “Too cold” is someone not moving forward, exploring trends and innovating.

Satya Nadella of Microsoft worked at the company for 22 years before becoming the third CEO, and inherited a slow-moving and heavy version of MS. To get them out of it, he worked to shift the mindset from a “know it all” way of thinking to a “learn it all” approach.

Two simple takeaways:  

  • Look at your calendar and determine what percentage of time you are working in your brain of genius. You want to aim for a 15% error rate in your work…that is where the learning really happens  
  • Look at where you are now and then where you want to be.  

Top 10 Tech List

Each year, MIT Technology Review reporters and editors assemble a list of the top breakthrough technologies that will change the world. Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau, the Publisher and CEO of MIT Technology Review, presented the publication’s list of 10 breakthrough technologies.

  • AI for everything!
  • Super-Efficient Solar Cells: A layer of tiny crystals could make solar panels more efficient.
  • Apple Vision Pro: The first mixed-reality headset is about to hit the marketplace, with the highest-resolution ever made for such a device – and a killer app to go with.
  • Weight-Loss Drugs: Evidence suggests they can even protect against heart attacks and strokes.
  • Enhanced Geo-Thermal System: Geothermal energy is using Earth’s heat to produce clean energy that is available and limitless.  
  • Chiplets: Small, specialized chips that can be linked together to do everything a conventional chip does, and more.
  • The First Gene-Editing Treatment: One from Vertex to earn regulatory approval in the UK and US to cure sickle-cell disease.
  • Exascale Computers: The world’s fastest supercomputers can now crunch data at amazing speeds, enabling scientists to perform better simulations of the climate, nuclear fission and more.
  • Heat Pumps: Wider adoption could substantially reduce emissions.
  • Twitter Killers: Alternatives to the site like Bluesky and Threads – with moderated content -- are gaining ground.

What should number 11 be? Robots? Thermal batteries? Lab-grown meat? Space X’s Starship?


As we mentioned, SXSW is networking on the highest level! There were endless of scheduled meetups throughout the event all organized by a person’s interest. Examples include Event Tech, Live Event Production, Metaverse Builders, Experiential Brand Producers, and more.  

Our team attended two of these meetups and found that the better one was the one that had a structure format. The facilitators of the meetup led an exercise where everyone in the room (approx. 50 people) had the opportunity to hear from everyone about how they are, what company they are from, and what they are interested in. This allowed our team to connect with the exact right people in the room!

The meetup that was less structured, was a bit chaotic and didn’t provide a very inclusive experience. It was up to all individuals in the room to initiate the conversation and they never knew who they were going to end up talking to. This could be good, but also provided a few misses throughout the brief time they had to network.

In addition to the organized meetups, our team was able to meet people everywhere they went. This was mostly due to the culture the event creates YOY – one that is more focused one everyone existing in the moment rather than worrying about what they are missing. They call it JOMO > FOMO and we love it!

JOMO = Joy of Missing Out

FOMO = Fear of Missing Out


As advocates for accessible solutions at events to ensure inclusivity of everyone, our team was pleased to see keynote room was equipped with captions on both screens and an ASL presenter on stage - at all times for all sessions. That is an investment of time and money by the event with a mission to making sure everyone feels like they belong.

Where the event fell short was in the breakout rooms. There were no captions (that we saw) and no ASL presenters. This was a huge disappointment after having such a positive first impression in the keynote room. Knowing there are many solutions for captions on screen that are available now, we would love to see them being implemented for next year!


Always an exciting part if any event is the Exhibitor Hall! Our team was excited to take it all in at SXSW, but unfortunately they felt it fell a little short of excitement. There were not many exhibitors, and those that were there seemed to be scattered throughout the hall rather than organized into groups. It created a challenge for the attendees to know where to go and feel a sense of order amongst the chaos.

Across the few booths that were there, we found a handful that impressed us – one that was more of an artistic blowup sculpture head made out of eyeballs, another with original art painted on old oil barrels, and another a huge whale sculpture that people could sign and doodle on. There were also some tech companies, the US Army, the CIA, and others.  

TIP: if you are short on time and need to cross something off your list, we would recommend the Exhibitor Hall.


Now we may be a little bias because of our role in the industry as brand producers, but we must say that the Brand Activations at SXSW are ABSOLUTELY the best happenings of the event! They offer an opportunity to step away from everything and experience activities that are out of this world.  

These companies rent entire buildings in some cases to build out an experience where the attendees can be immersed in their brand. You leave wanting more and thinking about it for weeks after!

Our team couldn’t see them all (bummer!), but of the 6 they did experience they were most impressed by the Porsche, Female Quotient, Delta, and L’Oreal activations.  

Posche Full Service

Porsche Full Service provided guests with a complete range of comprehensive tune-ups, all offered in the signature Porsche fashion. Our team loved the use of vibrant colours plastered over all object in any given area of the building. They were initially dropped into a retail shop where they could grab a free postcard off the shelf. Then they walked through a mock carwash with the rubber swishers and all. Once inside the main room, they were greeted by heritage of the Porsche brand by getting up-close and personal with the icons of our past. There was live music, drinks being served and various hands-on activities to experience. It was endlessly fun and a space our team didn’t want to leave.

Female Quotient Equality Lounge

This group converted a boathouse on the waterfront into a welcoming, comfortable, and beautiful space for EVERYONE to enjoy. They had a fully staffed espresso bar and served fresh juices. There was a bracelet making station that provided the perfect opportunity to meet others and have engaging conversation. Guests could also get their makeup and hair done in preparation for a headshot at the booth they had setup. There was a room dedicated to panel discussions about critical topics that impact all of us. And finally, a custom tote making table where very kind humans were stamping these beautiful totes with each guest’s preferred letter combination. All of which took place with the incredible backdrop of the Colorado River!

They’re motto – “All are welcome. No exceptions.”

The Delta Lounge

Stunning! That is the word that comes to mind for our team when describing the Delta Lounge experience. It was absolutely beautiful inside and provided an opportunity for authentic conversations. There were many elements made available to their guests:

  • Access Fast, Free Delta Sync Wi-Fi and unlock more exclusive benefits.
  • Relaxation in the Delta Sync Space.
  • Exclusive Merch giveaways at the Gifting Salon.
  • Elevated Bites & Drinks Curated by a Local Chef.
  • Starbucks Global Magic Hour, an exclusive drink experience.

The place was packed full of people and there was a line around the building to get in from the moment it opened to the time they closed their doors. Despite being avid customers of Alaska Airlines, our team was even willing to join the Delta Miles program just to get in and did not regret it!

L’Oreal Experience

We are of course HUGE fans of L’Oreal considering our work we did with them to produce their first ever keynote at CES last January. We had to stop by their booth at the JW Marriot hotel to grab an espresso and collect some free products! It was simple setup, but located in a prime spot in front of a very popular session room, which they sponsored. It provided a great photo opp and we got to walk away with some new lip gloss!