Now that voting is over for the proposed panels in the 2011 SXSW, I thought I would give some tips for those pitching panels for SXSW 2012. There are so many choices it is easy to get lost in the crowd. Please avoid these fatal mistakes to give your panel a fighting chance.
- Don't start off with a rant - Starting off with a rant makes you seem angry and defensive. You don't have to have an enemy to have a great topic. Try to stand on your own merits. If it's good, it will get picked.
- Stay away from social media 101 - Expect that most SXSW attendees are fairly social media savvy. Talking about why they should join the "social media movement" is preaching to the choir. The basics are boring and belittling. Rehashing what is already known does not advance the conversation.
- Don't tell me something is dead, or everything I know is wrong - What, Facebook is dead and I didn't notice? Really, I was just on it and it seemed like it was still working. AOL, Myspace and even Friendster is still around long after people declared they were dead. Also if you mean to say that I could be doing something better, just say that. don't say that I am doing it all wrong. Be clear and strait to the point.
- I'm from company x and I want to show you how my proprietary system can help you - Please don't pitch your product. No one want to go through a real life infomercial.
- Don't talk about the future unless you're on the planning team - If you are from the future and you reporting back, then by all means share your wisdom. If you have a theory on what may happen because of trends, then fine, phrase it as such. Passing on gut feeling as fact is a real turn off, and undermines the truth of any argument. The future of PayPal, and you work for PayPal = Good. The future of Twitter, and you don't work for Twitter = Bad.
- Privacy is important - This is nothing new. We know that sharing is cool, as long as it's the stuff you want to share. I think we are past the point where we need to be educated that our accounts can be hacked, or that everyone is not who they say they are on the internet. This ties into point #2 from above.
- Doing it solo when you need a team - There are panels that can present some really big ideas. Ideas that are too big and broad for one person to present. Just having other objective parties on a panel can inherently give legitimacy to a topic. A talk about the difficulties of search with the head of Google engineering is awesome. Having panelist there that also represent Yahoo and Bing makes it better. Google and search alone may be a good panel without other parties, because Google is seen as a leader. If you are giving a talk on a difficult subject, and you are not the leader, you better bring backup.