From the outside, networking events sound super glamorous — interactive workshop sessions with like-minded peers, marketing conferences with panels featuring your favorite self-made female founder, and wine — lots of free wine. But there’s one caveat that we rarely acknowledge: it takes work to network. 

After a day filled with meetings and projects galore, it’s tough to find the brain power (read: social desire) to check out a networking event where you might meet some great people and maybe learn a thing or two. Marketing conferences can even take a few days out of your week, so how do you know if the investment (both time and monetary) is worth it? 

Lucky for you, I’ve spent many hours researching and attending marketing conferences where I can meet other like-minded brands and growth marketers around the country. As you put together next year’s plans, make sure to carve out some budget from your boss for learning and development so you can thrive at your job, keep your finger on the pulse of what’s big in your industry, and, of course, build that LinkedIn network. (If you’re reading this, feel free to endorse me. Always be networking, right?). 

Shoptalk
March 22-25 in Las Vegas

Pardon my bluntness, but if you haven’t heard of Shoptalk, I’m curious to hear which rock you’ve been living under. This massive event boasts over 8,000 attendees ranging from rising D2C brands to the big guy traditional retailers. I’ve actually even seen attendance at historically popular e-commerce and retail events considerably decrease in past years as a result of Shoptalk’s popularity. You’ll not only meet some inspirational marketing and growth leaders but can also learn firsthand about hot new technologies in the e-commerce space

Pro tip: Apply for their Hosted Program to get free tickets and a $750 travel reimbursement (yes, that means you can attend for free). 

Brand Insider Summit D2C
May 1-4 in Key West

Mediapost’s premier D2C focused marketing conference brings together marketing and growth practitioners from impressive brands like Quip and Farmer’s Dog. There’s no event as networking-focused: attend informative keynote sessions and panels in the morning, and in the afternoon, explore the city through interactive activities (last year in Austin, there was golfing, a brewery tour, and much more). In the evening, you can take the edge off with a cocktail hour, followed by a seated dinner, and continue networking. By the end of the week, you’ll leave on a first-name basis, actually feeling like you’ve connected with the other attendees.

DTC Day East
May 14 in New York City

Maybe it’s my social anxiety speaking, but I definitely prefer smaller meetups to massive conferences with hundreds of vendors on a fluorescently lit expo floor. With only 300 attendees, this one-day conference brings together practitioners, executives, and co-founders for one day of learning, workshopping, and networking. You’ll have access to industry leaders like the Chief Brand Officer at Thinx, Co-Founder of Koio, and many other inspirational brand and marketing experts. 

Collision
June 22 – 25 in Toronto

OK, so this isn’t an ecomm-specific marketing conference but is arguably one of the coolest ones I’ve ever been to. Self-proclaimed as North America’s largest technology conference, Collision is at the forefront of what’s new in tech. You can see the CTO of Equinox speak on creating consistent online and offline brand experiences or hear how Timbaland (not the brand — the producer!) thinks technology will enable the music industry to grow. This event not only allows you to learn from some of the most successful executives in your industry, but also connects startups to investors, media to brands, and much more. Not to mention, Toronto is pretty cool, eh?

Grow Commerce
June 25 in New York City

Attending this one-day event is a no-brainer. Last year, I saw quite literally every single D2C brand I’ve ever heard of in attendance, whether it was speaking on stage or walking around wearing their company swag (who knew Prose made tote bags?). I even met the CEO of one of my favorite swimwear brands in, of all places, the women’s bathroom. My point being: 1000+ trendsetting D2C founders, marketers, and online growth experts attend this conference. If you’re not in attendance, odds are your competitors likely are, and you’ll miss a major opportunity to learn and have your brand seen. 

CommerceNext
July 28-29 in New York City

You’ll be surrounded by some of the best and brightest retail executives from hot D2C brands like Brooklinen and Purple to established industry vets like Macys and Sephora. The two-day conference takes place in the center of all things D2C (NYC), and the agenda is stacked with impressive panels and keynotes on how your D2C brand can be successful throughout the customer journey — from brand building to influencers to, everyone’s favorite topic, attribution. For extra visibility, nominate your best marketing campaign for their annual awards, the CommerceNextys

Modern Retail Summit
TBD

Digiday’s D2C-focused arm, Modern Retail, hosted its first summit in Palm Springs in October. If you’ve read their daily publication (hint: you should definitely be reading their daily publication), you probably already know that Modern Retail is at the forefront of what’s hot, what’s working, and what’s not with D2C brands. The event brings together C-suite executives and practitioners from — you guessed it — the biggest D2C brands out there — and networking with your favorite brands in Palm Springs isn’t too shabby, either. 

Pro tip: You can apply for their Modern Retail Awards and get your brand’s story heard in front of some impressive judges, including the CEO and Co-founder of SNOWE Home and VP of Direct-to-Consumer at Harry’s

IAB Direct Brand Summit
November in New York City

This year’s event concluded recently, and it was one for the books. The IAB’s annual conference marries their industry research and insights with best-in-class speakers, such as the CMO from Mansur Gavriel, Co-Founder and CEO of Brooklinen, Founder and CEO of Lively…I can keep going, but I think you get it. From multi-channel brand building to internal culture to partnerships, you’ll glean insights from industry experts on every aspect of your marketing initiatives. It’s impossible not to bring exciting changes back to your boss and justify taking a few days out of office in the midst of Q4. 

See You Soon

May the force be with you as you power through Q4, and I hope to meet you IRL at one of these marketing conferences in 2020!

Henna Mishra
Author