By Jennifer Batey, SVP, Integrated Strategy; Kirby Cobb, VP, Creative Director; Christopher Rizzo, SVP, Digital & Social Strategy, and Bryan Roman, EVP, Creative Technology.

South by Southwest (SXSW), the annual future-focused technology, music, culture, and advertising conference kicks off this week. With over 1,600 sessions on everything from gaming to AI to psychedelics, the two-week Austin, Texas extravaganza urges this year’s attendees to “expect the unexpected.”  

While our Syneos Health® Communications attendees Jen Batey, Kirby Cobb, Christopher Rizzo, and Bryan Roman understand that nothing is predictable—especially at a world-renowned conference like this—here’s what they are expecting at SXSW 2024.

1. AI

The obvious. With over 155 sessions dedicated to the new technology, attendees won’t be able to walk into a room without hearing a mention of AI. But the key thing we’ll be watching out for in this AI monsoon is which sessions and displays break through the noise. There’s a lot to discuss when it comes to AI, but not all of it sticks in such an “information overload” conference like SXSW. Which new platforms are breaking the mold? How are industries leveraging AI in a meaningful, different way? And, of course, how is AI changing the healthcare industry as we know it?  We have a few ideas, but are excited to learn more.

2. Health, Health, Health

After last year’s conference wrapped up, Bryan Roman proudly claimed that SXSW is now a healthcare conference. And with the SXSW 2024 lineup featuring 75+ health & MedTech sessions, we can’t help but agree. With advancements from telemedicine to wearable devices to the integration of AI transforming the healthcare landscape, we’re looking forward to learning about how these innovations will shape the future of healthcare delivery, patient experiences, and the industry at large.

3. Storytelling

While storytelling has been a recurrent theme in past years, we expect this year to be centered around dedicated discussions on the strategic utilization of storytelling, whether that’s physical, virtual, or a combination of both. What does the future of storytelling look like in the age of virtual worlds and AI? How can we as marketers push the boundaries of storytelling through new technology?  We’re excited to find out.

4. Humanity at the Center

SXSW is known for showcasing the latest and greatest technology, but despite this focus, we’re expecting to see a push in getting back to what makes tech so inherently human. After all, we’re the ones who build it. The question on everyone’s minds when it comes to AI is what this means for humans—our jobs, our creativity, our ways of connecting. And while we’ll of course hear these conversations, we anticipate a secondary focus on bringing technology back to its roots—a tool created by and for humans.

5. Mixed-Reality Experiences

With Apple’s Vision Pro generating buzz in the tech world, we’re expecting to see even more mixed-reality experiences at the Expo and at brand activations. And while the technology is admittedly intriguing, will it stick? Virtual reality (VR) permeated industries from gaming to healthcare, and mixed reality has the power to do the same—but, only if people are willing to put the headsets on…in public.

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About the Author:

Hannah Dietz brings over four years of experience in marketing and digital strategy to her role as a Marketing Strategist at Syneos Health Communications. During her time at Syneos Health, she has gained invaluable experience working across agency brands on everything from social media strategy and branding, to public relations and copywriting. Previously, Hannah worked at a digital marketing agency, where she specialized in paid advertising and SEO, and prior to that she worked in public relations.