FOR MANY OUTSIDE SXSW EVENTS, NO GETTING IN
Overflow attendees at panels can’t get in when inside audience leaves.
It’s certainly not a new problem at South by Southwest: for as long as there have been lots of people attending the conference, particularly the Interactive portion, there have been full panels and grumbling people waiting outside with hopes of getting in. (For high-profile speakers and keynotes there’s typically a spillover room or a screen outside for people to watch a video feed.)
This year, however, there have been a few changes to how seating for panels is handled and it might be affecting whether at-capacity panels are really full or not.
When a panel is filled, for instance, volunteers control the flow of who goes in and out. For a panel such as Sunday’s Bob Odenkirk interview with Fred Armisen, no one was being allowed to enter the room, even as attendees inside were leaving the discussion, presumably leaving empty seats inside.
Those who didn’t get in watched a video feed outside of the panel, but were not given any hope that they’d get in later, a change from years past.
SXSW organizers say fire codes are behind a new policy to not allow people to come back into a panel after they leave, especially if there’s a line. Fire codes are also behind the new rule that attendees can no longer stand in the back or sit
along the aisles (which can be useful when you have a dead laptop that needs charging).
Hugh Forrest, SXSW’s director of programming, said on Sunday that the loss of the one-person-in/one-personout panel policy is not set in stone. He said if volunteers notice a large clump of people are exiting a panel, they have the discretion to allow those still in line to get in. But he said that the goal this year was to avoid the distractions and disruptions that can be caused by people coming in during the middle of a panel.
Another issue that seems to be plaguing SXSW this year: video feed problems for some of its largest presentations. The feed to a spillover room reportedly cut out during former Vice President Joe Biden’s talk, as it did during keynote Jennifer Doudna’s presentation and a keynote from Cory Richards.
Jacobs on fashion
Also Monday, famed fashion designer Marc Jacobs made an appearance at South by Southwest to talk about social media’s impact on the fashion world.
In a twist, Jacobs — who started a popular Instagram account two years ago — jokingly called himself a tech “Luddite.”
“Email is about the best I can do,” he said. “A Google search I am good at.”
He refers to the Instagram algorithms as “computer gods who decide what I like.” And at one point, when asked where he got his news from, he called the notification alerts you get on your phone “pop-up thingies,” to the great amusement of the tech-savvy audience.
Jacobs was interviewed on stage Monday by Vogue magazine’s creative director, Sally Singer.
His anti-tech outlook was a contrast to most of the fashion-oriented panels at SXSW, which focused on topics like wearable tech and the emergence of social media influencers. Jacobs is a “pencil and paper” guy, he readily admits.
“My personal Instagram I don’t think of as a marketing tool,” Jacobs said. “It’s probably a little bit more about my ego than it is about marketing. I’m not sure posting a picture of myself generates dollars. Maybe it makes me, to a certain group of people, more accessible.”
Jacobs talked about responding to delighted fans on Instagram, sending them hellos and kiss emojis.
“You are not just a brand,” Jacobs said. “You are an actual human being who puts their pants on one leg at a time.”
A packed crowd awaits the arrival of former Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday at the Austin Convention Center, where he later told a South by Southwest panel about his Biden Cancer Initiative. SXSW officials said fire codes have changed rules about seating at festival events.
Fashion designer Marc Jacobs speaks Monday with Vogue magazine’s Sally Singer in an interview at South by Southwest.