After going all-virtual for the past two years because of the pandemic, South by Southwest Conference & Festivals will finally make an in-person return to Austin next year. Back in March, it was announced that SXSW is set to run from March 11-20, preceded by the education conference on March 7-10. That doesn't mean the online experience will go away, as SXSW organizers are already preparing to bring back virtual events in 2022 as well.
"Hybrid is the big buzz word for the future," said Hugh Forrest, SXSW chief programming officer, per KXAN. "I think we have a lot of confidence having pulled off the virtual event, the hybrid event is something we can conquer as well."
The decision to bring back the virtual SXSW experience along with the in-person festival is because of the additional perks that come with it. This year, 33% of the festival's online attendees were based outside of the United States, up from the 25% international audience that the festival typically attracts. Obviously, not everyone can afford to fly out for the prestigious film festival, but there are many willing to get in on the virtual event as another way to experience the festivities.
Forrest also noted that the online SXSW brought about an increase in convergence, with more interaction between artists from various fields. It also allowed for easier networking and communication from the attendees. Though the in-person panels will be back in 2022, they'll be supplemented by virtual events. Ultimately, however, Forrest says there's not really anything that can top being there in person, even if the online event is a nice alternative.
"People want to hear from visionaries who talk to them about a better tomorrow," he said.
SXSW organizers noticed that the smaller scale of events didn't take away from the experience online, and this will be considered when it comes to planning next year's lineup. Members of the public can also help contribute to the schedule through SXSW's panel picker process, which will be opening 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 pretty confident that the state of the nation by next March will be safe enough to host the return of the live festival.
"We at SXSW are hopeful that once people feel it's safe enough to return to what will be the new normal of life, there will be a real enthusiasm for getting back to the things that brought them joy or opportunity or just the simple need to be out amongst humanity," festival organizers previously said in a statement. "We can't wait to bring people together once again to meet and share ideas."
"I'm very confident that SXSW will look normal, or near-normal next year," Austin Public Health's interim authority Dr. Mark Escott added.
Whether it's in person or online, SXSW always provides an amazing experience. Next year's festival will run from March 11-20. This news comes to us from KXAN.