written by Adam Ortman, Group Director of Innovation and Technology, Generator Media + Analytics

This article was published by Sales and Marketing Management on February 10th, 2020


Each year, it seems like the list of marketing conferences grows exponentially, which isn’t a bad thing. After all, they serve as an effective means for keeping abreast of what’s trending in the industry.


At conferences, you can learn about best practices, the latest technologies, and upcoming tools in the marketing world. You can also rub elbows with influential people. If you sponsor a conference or are lucky enough to speak at one, you’ll gain exposure that’s second to none.


But (and this is a big but) some conferences are too high level and provide less-than-actionable information, which makes it hard to justify the expense of attending. The cost of entry for conferences can be as high as $2,000, and that’s not even counting expenses related to room, board, and travel.


That’s my roundabout way of saying that you need to be just as strategic in your selection of marketing conferences as you are with your marketing campaigns. A large part of the decision boils down to your budget, but you’ll also want to consider the goals of your attendance. What’s the ultimate reason for getting out of the office other than, well, getting out of the office?


Our company attends anywhere from eight to 10 conferences a year, so we have a decent idea of where to direct your attention. The following is our list of the five best conferences to attend in 2020:


1. Microsoft Advertising Partner Summit

Probably one of the most inspiring marketing conferences around, the Microsoft Advertising Partner Summit is just as it sounds: an opportunity to learn more about Microsoft’s newest initiatives. I’ve attended the past five years and have spoken at this conference multiple times, and I always leave feeling energized and excited about what’s to come.


I’d suggest you put this conference at the top of your list. You’ll get hands-on experience with new tools and technologies, and the event itself is chock-full of inspiring keynotes on a variety of topics – from accessibility to diversity. Besides, the choice of venue couldn’t be better. The event is held at Microsoft’s headquarters, which means a tour could be one of your “off-the-clock” escapades.


2. SMX Advanced

The Search Marketing Expo Advanced, which is designed for professionals in the search realm, will be held in Seattle on June 8-10. Think SEO, SEM, and marketing analytics all rolled into one. This event provides attendees opportunities to network and learn from others in the industry, so you’ll want to attend as many sessions as possible.


You’ll leave with actionable information and critical cases on digital tools, strategies, and more. Bonus: Since the conference is so close to Pike Place Market, you can carve out some time to grab a beer and some clam chowder on Elliott Bay. Consider it an additional networking opportunity.


3. Google Marketing Live

Google Marketing Live provides an overview of all the new tools, ad formats, reporting features, and any changes coming to Google in the new year. It’s basically an event geared toward anyone who works on this particular ad platform. This conference can get pretty “salesy,” but you can gain a lot of insight by visiting the hands-on booths and sitting in on any workshops that align with the work you do.


This year’s conference is set for June 1-3 in San Francisco, which is about an hour from Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. If time permits, and you find yourself attending sessions with Google reps, try to convince them to give you a tour — with a lunch stop in the campus cafeteria, of course. Those Googlers are some lucky folks!


4. Advertising Week New York

Advertising Week New York is one of the most popular events — in no small part due to its location. Before signing up for this event, set for Oct. 5-8, know that most of the insights come from a strategic perspective. As a result, it’s best suited for high-level directors, managers, and the like.


You won’t walk away with a great deal of actionable value, but the exposure to some of the largest global brands can make up for that. Make sure to download the conference app ahead of time and use it to fine-tune your game plan. Leave enough time between sessions to avoid being late — the lines can get pretty long. If you have time to experience the city, try Red Farm; it has some of the best dim sum in this part of the city, and it’s right near the conference venue.


5. Facebook F8

For anyone who wants to learn more about the latest tools and technology for Facebook’s family of apps and ad platforms, this conference on May 5-6 should be a no-brainer. Similar to the Google and Microsoft conferences, you’ll get a chance to attend keynotes, participate in workshops, and test out new product demos — all while enjoying plenty of networking opportunities.


The conference is held in beautiful San Jose, California, which means you can spend any downtime in the city’s ever-evolving downtown (San Pedro Square is a popular choice). You could also venture to over San Francisco, which is just a short train ride away.


With such a significant financial commitment, it’s important to choose your conferences wisely. You want to make sure the experience is worthwhile — be it in knowledge or connections. If you can only pick a handful this year, the five conferences above are definitely the cream of the crop. Hope to see you there!