Thousands of people descended onto Austin Friday for the first day of the film and interactive portions of South by Southwest.
“You get to see the trends that are kind of coming, you get to see kind of what people are starting to think,” Mark Stephan, who was attending the conference, said. “They’re futurists.”
The endless panels and sessions are also attracting international attention.
“We’re perhaps a little behind from you guys here in the states, so it’s good to come out and see some new things – things that are different for my industry,” Dale Strafford, who flew for about a day from Australia to attend SXSW.
Chief Programming Officer Hugh Forrest said creativity is still the main theme, but this year, the different sessions will be focused on diversity as well.
Josephine Goube, CEO of Techfugees, delivered the opening keynote speech. Her company connects refugee communities and tries to address their challenges with technology.
“We can have a healthy debate to build a stronger foundation to our democracies,” she said.
Ideas like that, Stephen says, are what bring people like him back year after year. The senior vice president of product management at Boomwriter is always looking for innovative ways to engage people with education software.
“One of the things I’m particularly here for is to see how user experience is going and how we can pull that into educational technology to make it easier for teachers to use our software, make it easier for students to use our software,” he said.
Over the next eight days, there will be more than 2,000 sessions over a variety of topics, including health care, government and autonomous cars.
“You never know the value of SXSW when you’re at it,” Stephan said. “You always have to digest it over six months, eight months, to see kind of what you learned.”
Other featured speakers include Melinda Gates on Sunday, CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King and the prime minister of Ireland.