Last month I attended my third INTEGRATE Conference! Since my first attendance in Chicago back in 2016 I could not wait to attend the next year. Compared to other marketing conferences I have attended, INTEGRATE is accessible, actionable and authentic (wasn’t going for alliteration but hey, I’m not going to fight it!).
What is INTEGRATE?
INTEGRATE is an annual marketing conference hosted by the WVU Reed College of Media Online Programs . The conference is great for both seasoned professionals, and those just starting out in the industry. As marketing silos continue to disappear and marketers are required to be knowledgeable of strategies/tactics from A-Z, INTEGRATE does a fantastic job of hosting industry leaders from across the spectrum (creative, content, data, emerging technologies, IMC, PR, social media, you name it!). The two-day conference is packed full of sessions sharing best practices, insights, and key-takeaways.
INTEGRATE serves an additional purpose: connecting the IMC/DMC family! Prospective and current students, alumni, faculty and staff all have the opportunity to meet and engage in a face-to-face setting. Both the Integrated Marketing Communications and Data Marketing Communications masters programs are delivered fully-online. As an alum of the first DMC cohort, I can say that having the opportunity to meet classmates and professors, putting faces to names, is invaluable! Even though the program is delivered online and the cohort is made-up of students from all over the country, I felt truly connected (even before meeting in-person). While attending INTEGRATE is not mandatory for the program, it is the icing on the cake!
INTEGRATE is Accessible
As a growing marketing professional, it is helpful to have both brands and industry leaders to look-up to. I’ve always thought, “there is no way I would ever have the opportunity to connect with these leaders…” That is until attending INTEGRATE.
In the three years I’ve attended, I felt the speakers were genuinely interested in sharing with and helping the attendees. I wasn’t made to feel small. I felt invited to introduce myself and ask questions specific to my work, as well as connect on social media following the event. Other large-scale marketing conferences I have attended placed their speakers on a pedestal. Like the speakers were obviously better than the attendees. At INTEGRATE it’s not like that. The speakers are present for the entire conference. They are not only interested in sharing their knowledge, but also learning from one another. It is HUGE (especially as someone so young in the field) to see seasoned pros subscribing to continued-learning.
Past Speakers: Chicago, ’16 – Huntington, WV ’17 – Morgantown, WV ’18
There is no confidence booster quite like knowing someone with years of experience is willing to stick their neck out to provide advice, or simply contribute to a conversation.
Additionally, many of the speakers have connections to WVU and the Reed College online programs, creating a will to give-back. I had the immense pleasure of speaking at the conference last month. I saw this as an opportunity to show the college, and attendees, the value that the DMC program has brought to my career. It also served as a platform to (as I mentioned above) share my trials and tribulations in hopes that someone in the audience has experienced something similar and can benefit from what I have learned.
INTEGRATE is Actionable
My experience thus far has been with small marketing teams. This can make the “big ideas” shared at conferences difficult to scale back and implement. Many times, campaigns are shared by offering examples of the creative and flashing the impressive results. This tends to leave the attendees in awe, and frankly, thinking that there is no way their team could execute something similar.
At INTEGRATE I’ve found that: yes, speakers will share the most visually appealing aspects of a campaign, and yes, they will share the insights/results (if they don’t how do we know they truly bring something to the table?), but what they also share is key takeaways that regardless of your business, team size, or available resources, can be acted on.
At the conference last month in particular, I was blown away by how each speaker was able to take a birds-eye view of a topic and make it consumable. I’m sure we have all been told by a that attending these conferences cost the company but as long as you can show the ROI they’re happy to send you. How many times have you sworn you’d return with an out of the box idea only to feel discouraged? This won’t happen with INTEGRATE. I have left each conference feeling energized and ready to use the new information as it works best for my company, team, and goals.
INTEGRATE is Authentic
Raise your hand if you feel that most conference presentations end in “…and you can achieve the same results if you hire my company! We have a discount available for conference attendees…” Insert *eye roll*. While I understand businesses use conferences as a means to garner new business, I think it is important that vendors are not the ONLY presenters.
I have never felt the “sales” vibe at an INTEGRATE conference. There is no “competition.” My philosophy is not every strategy or tactic is going to work for everyone. Some are going to have more success than others. If you know your business, your team, and your goals, then you should not be worried to share how you have achieved success with others.
INTEGRATE provides an open (and continued) dialogue. Take a minute to head to Twitter and search #INTEGRATEWV and #INTEGRATE18. You’ll see a spike in engagement during the conference, but many use the hashtag year-round. The relationships made are not fleeting. I think others who have attended can attest to the fact that the relationships that blossom out of attending this conference are more than just to help each other, we’ve fostered true, long-lasting friendships!
Join IMC/DMC family and me at next years conference! Trust me when I say, you’ll be welcomed with open arms!