It’s the end of the year, and I bet the last thing on marketers’ wish lists is more generic marketing conferences vying for your time and budget. I could happily spend all of 2016 without attending any of the overly-hyped, dime-a-dozen, new “must-attend [digital/tech/innovative] marketing event of the year!” conferences.

For me, “must-attend” only applies to about four or five annual events, plus a handful of smaller networking events. There are others that sound interesting, but let’s be honest, they are simply not “must-attend.” Save that label for events like your own wedding, the birth of your children, and Dreamforce.

So how do you distinguish the worthy events from all the noise and decide which ones deserve your focus and dollars in 2016? Here’s my process for evaluating whether a new event will make my list:

1. Will it actually help me achieve my marketing goals for the year?

Seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to be overly generous here. First, list your really important, core objectives for the year. An example for me would be “implement a more personalized, account driven, digital experience for our prospects.” Last year it was, “I need to figure out how to implement an ABM strategy.”

Do you need more training or real-life examples on how to achieve your goals? Are there experts and thought leaders in this area that you’d benefit from hearing speak? With the vast selection of online resources these days, the answer might be no.

2. Will the networking opportunities and peers be worth my time?

So maybe you’re not looking for theoretical presentations or panel sessions. Maybe instead you want to chat in person with your peers to see how they’re doing things. Perhaps you need to find new partners within a specific ecosystem to help you achieve your goals. Or maybe you just want to meet face to face (or drink to drink) with some of your best vendors and customers, to strengthen these relationships and grow them further. These are all great reasons to attend an event! But if your networking plan just consists of hitting up big parties and taking advantage of the free food and drink, I’d guess that’s probably not the best use of your time. Unless you’re a freshman at college?

3. Is it in a location that has secondary benefits? (and I don’t mean of the vacation variety)

As any experienced field marketer will tell you, the glitz and glamour of frequent travel wears off pretty quickly. Whether it’s time away from family, missing the comfort of your own bed, or 2 am jet lag, you don’t want to be on the road unless it’s worth it.

So when I’m evaluating a conference, I look at the city it’s in, and see what other ancillary events or meetings I could take advantage of. Are there customers in the area I could meet in person? Any local peers I’d love to catch up with? Maybe an unrelated, but  beneficial networking event? If I can kill two or three birds with one stone, it definitely bumps that conference up on my priority list. I just don’t count ‘working on my poolside tan in Palm Springs’ as a secondary benefit. Tertiary maybe. 😉

With all that in mind, I’ll leave you with one new event happening this January in San Francisco, that is worth my time and budget and quite possibly yours as well. It’s called Contact, and it’s a two-day conference specifically for brands and agencies that do a lot of business over the phone. The content is a mix of new mobile strategies and ideas, plus hands-on, tactical case studies to help marketers drive more revenue from inbound calls.

For us at Invoca, calls drive almost half of our revenue, and one of my big goals this year as the Director of Demand Gen, is growing the volume of our inbound calls. Plus, San Francisco is a great city to visit for business. I plan to spend a few extra days to meet up with some of my favorite marketing technology peers and visit a few new potential vendors.

Take a few minutes with the above in mind, and see whether Contact might be the right call for you this January: Contact.

Julia Stead

Posted by Julia Stead

Julia is an experienced marketer who has been working with Invoca since 2012, and has a background in B2B marketing, SaaS and cloud technology. She began her career in the performance marketing world, in program and marketing management with software provider IncomeAccess in Montreal. She went on to work as a marketing management consultant and strategist, helping other B2B technology companies in North America and Europe to successfully launch and adopt new marketing strategies that target Fortune 1000 companies. Julia holds a BA in English from McGill University, and an MBA with a specialization in Marketing from the University of Montreal. She loves running, living near the ocean, good puns, and surprising people with her Canadian-ness.

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