There is no shortage of digital marketing conferences left this year.
Each one provides you with the opportunity to grow your professional network, learn new marketing techniques, as well as develop and advance your skill sets.
So how do you choose from a list of hundreds?
You need to find which of the conferences will work for your needs and that includes being strategic in the selection process.
Below are my top picks for the remainder of the year with some runners up. My qualifiers include the following (although each show did not have to meet all of them):
- Shows that require no sales pitches from speakers.
- Speakers and sponsors are kept separate (i.e., no guarantees you can speak if you’re a sponsor).
- I have either personally watched the speakers and workshop leaders present in person, or via a YouTube video.
- A diverse array of topics with “expert” leaders.
- A city that is easy to access (some shows I would love to include are smaller and hard to reach cities).
- The show has been around for multiple years (anything new/newer could cancel if they don’t get enough sponsors or sell enough tickets).
- There are new faces and speakers on the agenda, or the show is announcing new names on Twitter (this keeps content fresh and provides new perspectives).
There are plenty of other incredible marketing shows coming up, but these are my top choices based on the above. I also did not only include conferences that I am speaking at, and I have noted if and where I will be speaking.
Top Pick: Affiliate Summit East – NYC (August 11 – 13)
This will be my first time not attending or speaking at an Affiliate Summit in probably 10+ years. But what I can say from experience, even with the new owners, is that they have consistently provided an atmosphere where you always get what you put into the show.
If you need new clients, I have been able to wrap the show up with 20 solid leads. If your goal is to create content partnerships with bloggers or large news sites, this can be accomplished, too.
You can also find experts and novices for numerous types of marketing from email and media buying, to blogging, PPC and influencer.
But the people I learn from at this show are not always the speakers. I’ve met some of the smartest strategists through networking events and the parties, although you can learn some tips from panels, too.
Education is great, but that isn’t what this show is about (at least for me). Affiliate Summit is for networking and it is in full force!
You’ll meet marketers from all sides of the spectrum including white and black hat. That is why this show is special. I have never found networking opportunities like this conference, and it will be nearly impossible for another show to compete.
Runner Up: Podcast Movement – Orlando, FL (August 13 – 16)
I was having a lot of trouble finding one I’d be willing to spend money on. Then I discovered Podcast Movement.
Podcasting is something I know very little about and this show looks like it has it all.
I pulled a few of the people listed on their speakers’ page and looked up past keynotes or sessions they lead. It looks like this show provides a solid atmosphere to learn basic and advanced podcasting strategies.
If podcasting is your thing, or you want to learn more, this may be one that you want to check out. However, it is in August and in Orlando, Florida. Stay hydrated and indoors with air conditioning! I’ve been to Florida in August and it isn’t for the weak.
Top Pick: Advanced Search Summit – Washington D.C. (September 19 – 20)
I’m incredibly excited to have an SEO and search show here in D.C. The speakers’ list is top-notch (in full disclosure I am speaking, but that isn’t why they’re included here). The lineup includes some speakers I’ve never heard of as well as people I personally go to for advice.
The show has mid-level to advanced sessions, so make sure your mind is ready. It cuts out beginner-level advice and goes straight for the jugular.
There’s everything from tech SEO to future strategy, link building, and more. I have never been to an Advanced Search Summit before, but from what I’ve heard when talking to past attendees, the content delivered is top-notch, but again, not for beginners.
Runner Up: Type A Parent – Washington, D.C. (September 26 – 28)
The management of this show changed and began bringing in new faces, as well as keeping regular favorites (myself included).
Type A Parent is coming back to Washington D.C. and is a great opportunity to learn about multiple types of businesses. They feature tracks on everything from building a product to sell, how to take a product to market, monetization and list building, and even legal questions from licensed attorneys about disclaimers, privacy policies, and international law.
You can learn how to work with influencers, bloggers, and media outlets, as well as enjoy the fun and original networking events. If you want a quick two or three-day getaway where you can also learn, this is the show to do it at.
The best part is that it is right after Advanced Search Summit, so you can just stay in D.C. and have a mini-vacation in between the shows.
Top Pick: Pubcon Pro – Las Vegas (October 7 – 10)
This is the standard in SEO and digital marketing shows for education. Pubcon has helped me to build a huge network of people I trust with strategy, and whom I can bounce ideas off of. It also built my business because I can locate other marketers who have skills to handle parts of projects I cannot do.
The speakers are top-notch and with the new branding, they’re requiring high scores to be able to speak. A lot of the regular faces are no longer there, which means they take feedback very seriously. I feel fortunate I’m invited back again this year.
One of the other things that make Pubcon Pro special is that you control the sessions with your questions and answers. If you want more advanced or specific advice, pick up a microphone and ask.
If a session is going too high level, don’t be afraid to speak up. There is a good chance that other people in the audience are having the same thoughts.
This is the beauty of the show, it may be called Pro now, but it will adjust so you can get what you need from it.
The show includes tracks on SEO, PPC, Social Media and Affiliate Marketing. You will probably also stumble on conversion optimization tips and content marketing, so keep an open ear. This is my go-to for learning everything and anything SEO in the fall.
Runner Up: Photo Plus Expo – NYC (October 24 – 26)
Why would I recommend a photography show?
Simple, proper visuals are one of the most important things you can learn as a digital marketer. The people here are the experts in photography and digital art.
By attending you’ll build a network of people that can capture your brand, and produce consistent results from all over the world. You’ll also learn about lighting, product imaging, and the new technology in digital imaging.
It is true there are not many sessions on digital marketing, but learning about the artwork and building a reliable network of talented photographers is one of the best assets a digital marketer can have.
This is especially important if you work with branding teams, product marketing managers, or are a small business and/or you work in SEO. You need to know what file formats are coming, how they can be compressed, and the right language to use when speaking with your photographer and designer.
If you haven’t been, go! This one is absolutely worth it.
Top Pick: UnGagged Conference – Los Angeles (November 7 – 8)
I never hear anything bad about this show, which is rare for a conference. In fact, it is one of the few shows I only hear positives about. The premise is to take off the “gags” that corporations and companies require of their speakers. These gags hold the presenter back from sharing specifics.
This conference lets the speakers open up to sharing only actionable items and real information. That is the biggest difference between this show and some of the others.
Much like Advanced Search Summit, UnGagged is not for beginners. It starts at intermediate and goes straight to advanced. The reason why speakers are able to share more details is because all recording devices are 100% banned. If you miss the speaker, you miss the information forever.
When you’re taking time off to attend a show as holiday shopping has kicked into full gear, it better be worth it. UnGagged is your best bet for this and they have a lineup across multiple digital marketing channels.
Runner Up: SMX East – NYC (November 13 – 14)
Right before Thanksgiving, you’ll find another massive show called SMX East. If your holiday campaigns are running smooth and you can take time off, this is where to be.
You’ll be able to learn search and digital strategies to finish the holidays off strong, interact with speakers, and get some inspiration for marketing ideas in 2020.
I have not been to this show officially, but I do know a decent chunk of the regular speaking and workshop talent.
It is a mix of people I trust to give solid advice, and people who I’ve never heard of. I was torn between this show and State of Search in Dallas for the runner up.
Because of the variety and mix of topics, potential line up of speakers and opportunities for networking, SMX won out. But it was – and still is – a close call.
State of Search is a great option if you’re in closer proximity to Dallas, or NYC is not accessible or affordable. I have learned some great tips and pointers at State of Search, but SMX wins out for me this year.
Top Pick: TBD
I don’t have a top pick or runner up for December, yet. I looked through close to 15 shows and cannot find one I feel confident in recommending yet.
I’ll come back and update this post as we get closer to the dates. A few on my radar have not filled out the speaker list or agenda yet, so it is too early to pick a winner and runner up.
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