The 2016 Conference Guide: 20 Must-Attend Events for Agency Execs

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There’s no shortage of options when it comes to conferences. And while some question the value of these experiences, many more tout the inspiration that comes from being surrounded by other like-minded people who are eager to learn and meet new people.

It all comes down to choosing the right events, having a goal, and making a plan prior to attending. Just because a conference is the industry event to be at doesn’t mean it will be valuable or informative for you business or your clients. You have to study the agenda, understand the setting, know what type of professionals attend, and be honest about what type of training and development or networking opportunities you or your team members need.

We’ve put together a list of relevant conferences and educational sessions for agency professionals. Mark your calendars, and get a head start on your professional development this year.

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20 Interesting & Inspiring Conferences for Agency Professionals

Digital Agency Day

January 28 | Virtual

This virtual event, sponsored by HubSpot and Unbounce, will feature webinars and AMAs from high-level agency executives and consultants. Topics include creating killer presentations, growth-driven design, trends in the digital agency landscape, improving conversions, revamping the creative process, and more. Webinars will be available on-demand for registrants.

Digiday Agency Summit

March 2-3 | Miami, FL

The increase of in-house agencies has created even more intense competition in the industry, states Digiday, and agencies need new ways of winning and retaining accounts. This two-day summit will feature executives from Huge, iCrossing, Heat, and Code and Theory, who will discuss creating content departments, partnering with production houses, competition for clients from platforms, and more.

4A’s Transformation

March 21-24 | Miami, FL

Hosted by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, this annual event features top speakers from agencies, technology, media, and brands who will discuss lessons learned and provide advice on how to navigate the increasingly complex marketing and advertising landscape. This year, attendees will hear from Dawn Hudson, CMO of the NFL, Carolyn Everson, VP of global marketing solutions at Facebook, and Jeffrey Cole, the director of the Center for the Digital Future, among others.

AE Advanced Bootcamp

March 31-April 1 | Chicago, IL

Drew McLellan of Agency Management Institute hosts this training course for account executives with at least three years of experience. During the bootcamp, people will learn how to maximize the profitability of accounts, grow exisiting business, ask questions to discover the true pain points of clients, and demonstrate ROI and build budgets.

AdAge Digital Conference

April 5-6 | New York, NY

This event brings together top marketing executives from Anheauser-Busch, Spotfiy, Twitter, Samsung, and Procter & Gamble to discuss the top marketing concerns of brands — from what the definition of an ad is to adblocking to fraud and kickbacks.

Advanced Positioning, Demand Generation, and Lead Management

April 11-12 | Nashville, TN

Hosted by David Baker of ReCourses, this two-day seminar covers how your agency’s positioning can be used to drive your marketing and new business development programs. Attend if you’re struggling with how to generate and convert leads, how to use a CRM and marketing automation platform to your advantage, and how to increase your visibility and expertise with your target market.

The Inside Scoop on Running an Agency Well

May 16 | Nashville, TN

This event is for agency owners who want to improve their business practices and set a strong foundation for their agency’s growth. The day-long event from ReCourses will cover topics such as the key metrics to watch, funding agency operations, improving utilization, attracting and compensating employees, and transitioning your firm to new ownership.


May 17-18 | New York, NY

For two days, brands and agencies discuss what it takes to win more new business. Topics are focused on pitching, positioning and marketing an agency, lead generation, and the client-agency relationship. In addition, there is a live pitch competition, where new business reps have a few hours to put together a pitch for brand executives and search consultants.

Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

June 18-25 | Cannes, France

Heralded as the top event in the advertising industry, this conference features big brands, celebrities, and a lot of golden statues. This year’s event will focus on a few main themes: what a modern and valuable entertainment business looks like, finding the new roles for creative businesses in the entertainment industry, how creators are experimenting with different channels and cross-platform storytelling, and identifying new opportunities for working with the best talent.

In addition, there are three new categories of awards this year: Digital Craft Lions, Entertainment Lions, and Entertainment Lions for Music.

Ad Age Small Agency Conference

July 19-20 | Miami, FL

Small, specialized shops are getting noticed by marketers looking for experts in a specific industry or tactic. And agencies need to be ready to take advantage of the opportunities and able to manage relationships with these brands. Advertising Age‘s annual event is a must-attend for those looking for inspiration and practical advice on how to thrive as a smaller shop. Last year’s conference featured topics such as talent and retention, company culture, new business, and technology.

Content Marketing World

September 6-9 | Cleveland, OH

According to Kapost, 79% of marketers are switching to branded content, but many organizations continue to outsource the creation as they don’t have the skills in-house to either execute or manage the function. Agencies need to better understand not only how to create different kinds of brand content but also how to measure, optimize, and market content for better results. At Content Marketing World, attendees can gain a better understanding of creating a global content strategy, sales enablement, content repurposing, mobile content, and more.


September 12-14 | Seattle, WA

SEO and content drive so much of what marketers produce today, and this conference is a great way for advanced marketers to learn best practices and uncover trends so you can keep your clients at the forefront. Speakers cover topics such as community building, CEO, analytics, mobile, and SEO.

Advertising Week

September 26-30 | New York, NY

Last year’s conference featured more than 500 events, with speakers ranging from Sir Martin Sorrell to Demi Lovato to Pete Cashmore. The conference typically features something for everyone — from trends in publishing and digital advertising to brand building advice to stories from agencies on their growth and unique practices.

Ad Week Europe takes place on April 18-22 in London, and Ad Week Asia is from May 30-June 2 in Tokyo.

Fuel Lines New Business Conference

October | Nashville, TN

This two-day event focuses on the new drivers of business development for small- and mid-size agencies, covering topics such as proactive prospecting, inbound marketing, public relations, positioning, and negotiation.


October | Tempe, AZ

BOLO, which stands for Be On the Look Out, is a digital marketing conference for agency and PR professionals. It’s limited to 250 attendees and features a specific track just for agency owners.

The SoDa Academy

October | Brooklyn, NY

The Society of Digital Agencies is hosting its second annual workshop to advance the professional education and training for agency executives. Last year’s event featured content on account management, analytics, business development, design and design thinking, innovation and product development, strategy, and technology.

ANA Masters of Marketing

October 19-22 | Orlando, FL

The Masters of Marketing event brings together top CMOs from various different brands. Last year’s event featured top marketing execs from Carhartt, Mondelez International, Arby’s, and Lyft, with topics including how to build a brand through digital technology, content marketing, customer experience, and structuring a team for growth. Last year’s conference featured Brad Jakeman of PepsiCo, who called out the advertising industry for its lack of diversity and innovation and asked that we stop using the term “advertising.”


November 2-3 | New York, NY

This conference, which sees more than 7,000 attendees over two days, is the place to be to better understand the ad tech landscape. Attendees can both learn about trends in programmatic and meet the technology vendors making management of data and optimization of creative possible.


November 8-11 | Boston, MA

More than 14,000 marketers and agency professionals gathered last year to listen to keynote speakers such as Brené Brown, Seth Godin, Aziz Ansari, and Daniel Pink and learn practical tips on content marketing, conversion optimization, lead generation, and more. In addition, there’s a track just for agency professionals that features content on recruiting talent, new business, agency business models, culture, and emerging industry trends.

Money Matters for Agency Owners & CFOs

December 6-7 | Orlando, FL

This conference brings together agency owners who want to get a better handle on their profitability. The event will cover different pricing strategies agencies can employ, financial ratios, how to fraud-proof your agency, and tax strategies. These are the topics that will make a big difference on the future health and stability of your agency.

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