“I would assume that many of the people coming to SXSW Sydney have never been to SXSW. Everything you know about going to a trade show for your industry, it’s the opposite at SXSW,” Guy Kawasaki, Canva’s chief evangelist.
“It’s normal people, not billionaires, no private jets. There are not a lot of people who have personal assistants, limo drivers and bodyguards. You might be taking a piss next to somebody from YouTube with 25 million followers.
Kawasaki is set to be a featured speaker at the event in October this year and, at 68 years old, he can give a refreshingly longue durée approach to talking about technology.
“I’m so old, the biggest change I saw was the personal computer, right?” Kawasaki said, laughing.
“We went from mainframe, to mini, to personal. That’s the curve I started on. After that was the internet and after that was social media and now we’re in the AI curve. I’ve lived across four different real revolutions and I think AI is as big a deal as personal computing and the internet and social media, and maybe even bigger.”
In fact, before Kawasaki was the chief evangelist at Canva, he was the chief evangelist at Apple.
“I brought the good news of Macintosh and how with its user interface, WYSWIG display and printing it empowered people to use a personal computer,” he explained.
“Fast forward, now I’m bringing the good news of Canva which is democratising design and enabling people to communicate better with being professionally trained and without sucking up to get in line to get bids into the graphic artists who specialise in this.”
From chatting with Kawasaki, it’s clear that while he might not be on SXSW’s payroll, he’s determined to bring the good news of the conference to the good people of Sydney, too.
“SXSW is by far my favourite show because it’s a democratised show,” he said.
“If you look how the whole thing is done with people submitting panel ideas, then a panel picker, then people vote for the panel, let’s just say that there are not a lot of shows that create their agendas like that.
“Now, obviously, Michelle Obama is not submitting a panel to be picked but that’s one or two keynotes a day and they’re running hundreds of sessions and those hundreds of sessions are reflecting the people’s choice.”
For anyone in adland, marketing, or the creative industries, Kawasaki reckons that SXSW is the perfect place to try something new and get immediate exposure.
“SXSW has a long history of being the place to launch things. One of the most obvious stories is Twitter. It was launched at SXSW and people were using it to decide which party to go to and which session to go to.
“I don’t know any other kind of conference where you could interact with as many influencers, thought leaders, and press. It’s a target-rich environment. This is the first one in Sydney but I’ve got to believe that anyone who’s anyone in APAC is going to be there. It’s a lot easier than flying all over Asia to make stuff happen.”
For the inaugural event in Sydney, almost half of the session ideas focus on ideas around convergence and 30 per cent have a focus on tech. However, there are also some 122 session proposals focused exclusively on advertising and marketing.
You can vote for your favourites here.