In 2015, I attended nine marketing conferences, spoke at three, and coordinated evaluations, campaigns, and sponsorships for more than a dozen other industry events. Looking back on last year, top industry gatherings ranged from truly remarkable to broadly forgettable, as event producers broadened their programming and experimented with new formats to tackle pressing trends like digital transformation, shifting consumer behavior, and emerging technologies.

Heading into the new year, I wanted to share Percolate’s current shortlist of the top marketing events we’re most excited about for 2016. Overall, each of these conferences meet my three key criteria for a standout event: (1) distinct, value-added programming that highlights key directions our industry is going, (2) a diverse, high-caliber attendee list of marketing leaders, and (3) an environment and format that supports learning, networking, and community-building. While this list isn’t exhaustive — and if you think we’ve missed a great event, mention it to me on Twitter — I’m confident if you’re a brand leader and your 2016 calendar has these listings booked, it will be travel time well spent. We’ll also have a presence at most, if not all of these events, so keep an eye out for us — we’d be happy to connect to learn about the industry trends and challenges that matter most to you and your business.

Mobile World Congress

When: February 22-25, 2016
Where: Barcelona, Spain
Why: Mobile, it’s [been] a thing. In fact, mobile is increasingly the go-to screen 3+ billion people around the world trust for consuming media, evaluating products, and connecting with the people who matter most. If you still haven’t booked that last-minute ticket, MWC is one of the best places to learn about the next innovations that will soon rest in the palm of your hand.
How to participate: Visit the Mobile World Congress site

2016's First Leading Marketing Event - Mobile World Congress

SXSW

When: March 11-15
Where: Austin, TX
Why: Although Interactive can occasionally feel like the Mardi Gras of technology conferences, SXSW is still the best relationship-building event of the first quarter for marketing leaders (sorry CES). The vibe is casual and positive, everyone’s there to learn (and, well, party), and it’s a great scene to book senior-level meetings and talk about the future over brisket and whatever beats are emanating from the Spotify house.
How to participate: Visit this site to learn more.

The Economist – The Big Rethink / Marketing Unbound 2016

When: March 24, 2016
Where: New York, NY
Why: The Economist’s editorial board have always been sharp, macro observers. As the media company begins to broaden into experiences, Marketing Unbound is an effort to build on its insightful editorial tradition. Smaller and more intimate than most marketing conferences, Unbound looks to connect marketing with important economic, technology, and consumer trends. And with the economic outlook for 2016 already starting to darken, rational perspective from minds at The Economist is always welcome.
How to participate: Visit the Economist’s events website to learn more.

Adobe Summit 2016

When: March 20–24, 2016
Where: Las Vegas, NV
Why: Although Adobe’s annual marketing event can be product heavy, the event nonetheless brings together a major audience of marketing executives to talk about the current state of digital experience management, as well as the future of the creative enterprise. Just don’t bet the 2016 budget all on black.
How to participate: Visit the Adobe Summit website

MarTech SF

When: March 21-22, 2016
Where: San Francisco, CA
Why: For years, ChiefMarTech blog founder and editor-in-chief Scott Brinker has been one of the most thoughtful observers of marketing technology’s evolving role in brand-building and enterprise architecture. Looking to transcend the traditional boundaries between marketing and IT, this young conference comes at a welcome time when CMOs are looking to align and integrate more software than ever before with their marketing strategy and operations. For marketing technologists in particular, this is one of the must-attend marketing events in 2016.
How to participate: Visit the MarTech website

F8: Facebook Developer Conference

When: April 12-13, 2016
Where: San Francisco, CA
Why: While not a conventional “marketing” event, Facebook is the world’s largest mobile media company, a platform whose technology roadmap and priorities have major implications for how advertisers will communicate with the rising global middle class.
How to participate: Visit the F8 website

Google I/O

When: May 18-20, 2016
Where: Mountain View, CA
Why: Another of the world’s most ambitious and innovative technology companies, the 2016 run of show for Google’s flagship conference will highlight some of the brand’s brightest and newest thinking on topics ranging from mobile operating systems and intelligent search to connected homes and self-driving cars. Like Facebook’s F8, Google I/O’s programming also trends technical, but nonetheless rewards careful listeners and thoughtful forecasters. Yet another great crowd to book meetings with.
How to participate: Stay tuned, tickets haven’t gone on sale yet. Not a bad idea to follow Sundar Pichai on Twitter either.

Sundar_Pichai_-_SVP,_Android,_Chrome_and_Apps,_Google

SiriusDecisions Summit 2016

When: May 24-27, 2016
Where: Nashville, TN
Why: B2B marketing historically been a space defined by bland landing pages and cookie-cutter offers, but the tide is turning. Following the lead of more adventurous B2B marketers at brands like GE, IBM, and ZenDesk, more and more B2B firms are embracing content, consumer-caliber creative, and multi-channel campaigns to fuel business growth. And as far as this segment goes, SiriusDecisions hosts one of the best offerings of the year. If you’re a B2B marketing executive, this Nashville marketing event should be on your shortlist for a late spring visit.
How to participate: The Sirius Decisions Summit website

Cannes Lions

When: June 18-25
Where: Cannes, France
Why: Just because the scene on the patio of the Carlton Hotel can sometimes feel like the movie Caligula being re-enacted with rosé, doesn’t mean Cannes isn’t a serious conference for strategic meetings, big keynotes, and bold commentary about the future of advertising. Similar to SXSW, the vibe sparkles, and Europe’s advertising elite aren’t just out in force — they’re downright approachable. Just expect most of your the best conversations will take place between sundown and sunrise, not at the event itself.
How to participate: Cannes Lions website

Content Marketing World

When: September 6-9, 2016
Where: Cleveland, Ohio
Why: Year after year, one the industry’s leading content marketing events just keeps getting bigger, and the unique energy courtesy of Joe Pulizzi and team is undeniable. While there’s some mash-up variance in the programming, as expert content marketers often end up sharing stage space with far more niche practitioners, CMW remains one of the top annual gatherings for marketers passionate about content. In particular, many of the workshops and panels are smart, tactical, and actionable, providing the opportunity to hear from executives like GE’s Katrina Craigwell and Marriott’s David Beebe about how they’ve institutionalized content as a corporate function.
How to participate: CMW website

Percolate's Marketing Events Team and Content Marketing World

Advertising Week

When: September 26-30, 2016 (and also in London and Hong Kong)
Where: New York, NY
Why: It’s messy and excessive, sure, but Advertising Week is also pragmatic, and, well, big — the kind of big an advertising conference can be when it’s held in the world’s most creative city. A lot of executives who matter drop by, and Advertising Week remains an important part of the conversation about the role and relevance of brands, both today and into tomorrow.
How to participate: Ad Week website

Transition

When: Fall 2016
Where: New York, NY
Why: Described by many attendees and past speakers as “TED for marketers,” we’re incredibly proud of the industry accolades Transition has already received in its first two years, and 2016’s conference will be our most ambitious and forward-looking program yet. But rather than advocate for Transition myself, I’d much rather let a proper advertising luminary share his experience with you, so here’s Martin Weigel of Wieden+Kennedy’s review of Transition 2015. Granted, I’m a bit biased, but I was there and I really have to agree with him: it was that good.
How to participate: Visit the Transition website

See you there?