With South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive 2018 largely behind us, we reflected on some key takeaways for this year.

Immersive Experiences FTW: With hundreds of brands showing up to activate at SXSW, it's difficult to break through the noise. More than ever, the breakout brands this year created immersive experiences that brought attendees into another world like Westworld and Ready Player One.

Diversity and Inclusion are Top of Mind: No matter the topic or industry, most panel conversations included at least a mention or nod to #MeToo and/or #TimesUp. As the tech industry at-large grapples with righting its reputation for a lack of diversity, SXSW (its general attendee profile not all that diverse itself) served as a moment to discuss solutions.

Everyone is talking about AI: From panels to activations, artificial intelligence was on everyone's mind, from discussing its potential and implications to predicting how it will shape industries such as healthcare, finance and customer service.

Blockchain or not? While previous SXSW festivals have been defined by the breakout mobile app - think Twitter, Foursquare and Meerkat - this year blockchain was the technology getting funding and attention, but not everyone was on board. We also heard that it is overhyped and its reputation is bigger than its potential. In fact, Edelman's own SXSW Trust Barometer special report showed that this community is less trusting of blockchain than global audiences. Time will tell.

Welcome to the U.S.: This year saw more international destinations coming to SXSW to position themselves as growing tech and music hubs. There were activations from BrazilCanadaChinaNorthern IrelandPeru and others, making it clear that SXSW is increasingly a global stage.

If you're interested in being at SXSW 2019, don't forget that the panel selection process, PanelPicker, opens in June. SXSW never stops!

Edelman Austin SXSW team

This article was originally published on www.edelman.com