Heading to Austin? Here Are 10 Must-See Marketing and Media Sessions at SXSW

Obama headlines, but there are plenty of other intriguing speakers

Below are 10 events from the SXSW Interactive agenda that caught our eye. The Austin, Texas, festival runs from March 11 to March 15, and all events are listed in Central time. 

President Barack Obama

Friday, 2:30 p.m.

Obama will be the first president to speak at the festival, sitting down with Evan Smith, CEO and editor in chief of The Texas Tribune. A digital trailblazer since he first ran for the White House in 2008, Obama will call on the crowd to make technology work for everyone.

Casey Gerald, co-founder and CEO, MBAs Across America

Friday, 2:30 p.m.

Gerald has oratory skills the current crop of presidential candidates would die for. Listening to how this native Texan plans to spread tech entrepreneurship through the U.S. in 2016 seems like a no-brainer.

Maxine Williams, global director of diversity, Facebook

Friday, 3:30 p.m.

Given Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's recently revealed memo chiding employees for not treating the #BlackLivesMatter movement with appropriate sensitivity, it will be fascinating to hear Williams address the subject of diversity in tech companies.

The Stars of Broad City

Saturday, 9:30 a.m.

There are few comedy programs as buzzy as Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson's Comedy Central show. Their sit-down with Marie Claire's Anne Fulenwider is must-see for any pop-culture aficionado.

The Future of Media Companies

Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

BuzzFeed CMO Frank Cooper headlines this panel looking at how media companies will evolve in the latter half of this decade. Since Cooper is well known for his tenure as PepsiCo's marketing chief, it should be a fascinating look into how his digital pub plans to attack native advertising down the road.

How to Stop Speaking in Bullshit

Sunday, 12:30 p.m.

Jon Favreau, a speechwriter, and Jon Jones, Incite's chief digital officer, were major players in crafting President Obama's image. With the president also scheduled to speak in Austin, it will be especially interesting to hear their take on the president's style and what brands can learn from it.

J.J. Abrams and Andrew Jarecki

Monday, 3:30 p.m.

Longtime friends Abrams and Jarecki—creative forces behind Star Wars and The Jinx, respectively—will talk robots, murderers and the human factor in digital communications.

Is Twitter the New Customer Call Center?

Monday, 3:30 p.m.

About a year back, when Twitter opened up its direct messages feature to allow consumers and brands to communicate more easily, it made clear that the platform could grow as a customer-service channel. It will be intriguing to learn about Twitter case studies involving General Motors and Southwest Airlines, whose execs will appear.

Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour

Monday, 4 p.m.

Plank bootstrapped his Baltimore-based company from his grandmother's basement in 1995 and has gone on to do the unthinkable—make the brand a serious challenger to powers Nike and Adidas. In his keynote, he will address that improbable journey and talk about his company's road map for revolutionizing global health through Under Armour products and technology.

Andy Puddicombe: "We All Need to Get a Little Head Space"

Tuesday, 2 p.m.

Despite the self-serving title to his keynote, Puddicombe, co-founder of Headspace, ought to provide rich guidance on how tech entrepreneurs and big brands should think about creating products that service consumers' needs. The Buddhist monk-turned-startup executive offers an unusual example of how a company was built on offering a utility—something many marketers aspire to in a so-called "post-advertising world."

This story first appeared in the March 7 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.