Will Purcell
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When it comes to growing your university’s overall outreach to future, current and former students, enhancing your marketing efforts is a critical component to success. Specifically, due to drastic increases in technology and communications, digital marketing has become a necessity for all marketers in education regardless of their institution’s size or history.

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Take, for example, the increases in online courses. According to data from the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, online courses are growing with a third of all students taking at least one online course.

Given the amount of working adults seeking to complete their degrees, this information isn’t particularly surprising. Furthermore, it reveals why marketers in higher education must consistently adapt and grow their outreach strategies to match the latest trends and best practices.

However, it’s important to ask: how do marketers fully understand the latest trends? And, what are the best venues to collaborate with other industry professionals who may be experiencing the same challenges?

A great way to address these questions is by attending one of the many marketing conferences offered throughout the year.

Why Attend a Conference?

Conferences offer a unique opportunity to learn and collaborate with industry professionals and experts on a myriad of issues. And, while there are many reasons to attend a conference, three of the most relevant reasons include:

  • Networking: Most conferences offer space for thousands of attendees, meaning the opportunity to network with others is at an all-time high. Whether it’s setting aside time to meet with an industry expert one-on-one, or through attending a specific networking event offered through the conference, there are countless opportunities to connect with others.
  • Innovation: A goal of nearly every conference is to inspire change and growth. And one of the best ways to achieve that is through innovation. Most conferences host exhibitors or sponsors who showcase their latest innovative products or projects. Keynote speakers also share their wealth of knowledge to inspire innovation at these events as well.
  • Education: Simply put, conferences allow industry professionals to learn from the best. Whether it’s an informational session or workshop, conferences encourage attendees to learn from others to ultimately solve commonly shared industry issues and challenges.

These are all great reasons to attend a conference, but when it comes to selecting the right one, how do you know which to choose? After all, there are dozens of conferences, trade shows, and events tailored to higher education throughout the year.

That’s why going through the list of shows and determining which ones your team should schedule and budget for can seem challenging and quite frankly, overwhelming.

To help alleviate any added stress in selecting the right conference for your marketing team, we’ve provided 7 shows to consider attending in 2020. Regardless of your school’s challenges in outreach, be it through development, recruitment, or alumni relations, any one of these events can help inspire growth, innovation, and development for your school’s outreach.

1. 2020 AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education

Date: November 15-18

Location: Chicago, IL

Tagged as the “essential event for the higher ed marketing community”, the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education aims to help school marketers build their knowledge and network within the community of higher education. Specifically, the event covers how marketing changes directly impact a school’s outreach to students, alumni, and donors.

Created by the American Marketing Association, the symposium features several keynote speakers and educational discussions where professionals will share their industry knowledge and expertise. More than 1,200 marketers are expected to attend the symposium, so there are numerous networking opportunities throughout the event as well.

Sign-up for this year’s symposium early to receive a discounted “early-bird” price, as a list of FAQs can be found on their site as well.

2. ACE 2020

Date: March 14-16

Location: San Diego, CA

For over 100 years, leaders in higher education have attended the American Council on Education’s annual conference. Tailored to leaders of all departments from virtually any institution, ACE2020 covers the latest trends concerning colleges and universities. This year marks the 102nd annual meeting and anticipates attendance from over 1,500 executives across all sectors of higher education as well.

Spanning three days, ACE2020 encourages administrators to connect with a networking lounge, daily receptions, and networking meals. For marketers, the conference covers several relevant topics, such as data analytics, social outreach, institutional innovation, admissions, and much more.

With over 1,700 memberships from all types of U.S. accredited, degree-granting institutions, the American Council on Education offers an excellent opportunity for school marketers to collaborate and define solutions for today’s challenges in educational marketing.

3. eduWEB Digital Summit

Date: August 3-5

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Focusing on digital marketing efforts in higher education, the eduWeb Digital Summit attracts over 500 attendees from across the nation each year. This year marks the 15th annual conference, as workshops and master classes will be offered for digital marketers looking to grow their school’s outreach.

In addition to networking events and workshops, eduWeb also recognizes industry leaders with their annual Summit Awards. Institutions of all types and sizes are welcome at the conference, as the event specializes in several categories pertaining to digital marketers. Those categories include content/email marketing, social media, data and analytics, web design/strategy, and many more.

If you’re looking to enhance your school’s outreach and marketing efforts, then the eduWeb Digital Summit is a must-attend. More information can be found online, including a feature blog highlighting event details and testimonials from attendees.

4. Salesforce Higher Ed Summit

Date: April 29 – May 1

Location: Indianapolis, IN

With a focus on inspiring innovation in education, the Salesforce Higher Ed Summit brings together over 2,500 members of the Salesforce community represented by colleges and universities across the world. The summit features over 150 informational sessions showcasing the future trends and best practices in education as well.

Much like the EduWeb Digital Summit, Salesforce also hosts the Summit awards, which recognizes marketing innovation and excellence in the educational community. In total, there are 5 awards recognizing excellence in student success, innovation, community, and institutional efficiency. Also, this year marks the first ever “College and Career Prep Award”, which recognizes an educational institution or K-12 district utilizing Salesforce to help prepare students for college and/or their career.

This year’s event is also co-hosted with Indiana University who will celebrate their bicentennial in 2020 as well.

5. High Ed Web

Date: October 17-21

Location: Little Rock, AR

Created for and by higher education digital professionals, the HighEdWeb is an annual conference focusing on the digital challenges facing colleges and universities. Any member of a school’s marketing staff is encouraged to attend, which includes professionals in information technology, web development, and programmers.

The conference also provides excellent networking opportunities, which includes professional development through workshops and over 100 unique informational sessions. Additionally, several keynote speakers will discuss possible innovation and solutions to the latest challenges and issues surrounding digital issues in higher education.

Registration for the conference opens in the spring, as more information can be found online, including an informational video created by HighEdWeb.

6. Carnegie Dartlet Conference

Date: January 29-30

Location: Orlando, FL

Entering its 9th year, the Carnegie Dartlet Conference is dedicated to building the connection between marketing strategy and recruitment. The event hosts industry-leading experts across marketing and higher education, as a full list of this year’s speakers can be found here.

The conference is not exclusive to Carnegie Dartlet clients either—anyone and everyone is welcome to attend. Furthermore, the conference offers a unique approach because proposals are not called for, rather schedules are developed based on attendee feedback, requests, and expert recommendations.

There are plenty of networking opportunities available with meetings and events planned around the resort and Disney’s nearby Epcot park as well. More information about the upcoming event can be found online, which includes contact information for event organizers.


Date: August 18-21

Location: Boston, MA

Although Inbound 2020 is not specifically designed for higher education marketers, it is an outstanding opportunity for professionals involved with outreach—in any capacity—to grow their online presence. Essentially, Inbound 2020 is a conference encompassing everything in the world of inbound marketing. From converting anonymous website visitors into leads, to growing overall website traffic, Inbound 2020 has something for every digital marketer—regardless of industry.

The conference started in 2012, but since then has grown significantly with over 24,000 attendees from 110 countries attending the annual event.

With a heavy focus on education and inspiration, Inbound features over 250 speakers and educational sessions. Also, as with other conferences, networking is a key component of Inbound. You can connect with thousands of attendees in one of the many networking lounges or head to one of the many organized parties, happy hours, or meet-ups offered throughout the week.

Inbound also offers an official app to help attendees stay organized and up-to-date with the week’s events as well. Overall, Inbound is a can’t miss opportunity for marketers looking to learn, network, and grow their outreach.

Plan your Conference Experience

As previously mentioned, there are dozens of conferences to choose throughout the year. So, when it comes to budgeting for the right event, it’s critical to plan ahead to make the most of your conference experience.

While these seven conferences may differ in location and timing, the core principle of growing marketing efforts within higher education remains the same. That’s why attending any one of these events in 2020 can have a profound impact on your school’s outreach moving forward not only for this year, but for the immediate future as well.


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