Agency conferences in 2018: Top 20+ events for digital agencies

Agency conferences in 2018 - Top 20+ events for digital agencies
Written by: Karl Sakas

[Looking for 2022 events? See this article.]

Trying to decide which agency conferences to attend in 2018? Here’s my curated roundup of 20+ in-person events to consider, with a focus on the U.S. I’ve noted where I have experience as a speaker or attendee.

Know any agency conferences that should be on this list? Contact me! Before you commit, be sure to read my article on how to get more out of your next conference.

[Last updated: July 2018]

ReCourses Advanced Positioning + Lead Generation

January 18-19, 2018 in Nashville

This two-day workshop focuses on helping your agency break out of the feast-or-famine cycle. You’ll define a unique positioning and then craft a sustainable lead-gen plan for your agency. I’ve been to three of David Baker’s events before—they’re not cheap, but they’re high-value. Agency bizdev expert Blair Enns will join as a featured speaker.

[Update: I joined in January as a guest expert; great content in a two-day format.]

Owner Summit

February 11-13, 2018 in Charleston, SC

This conference from the Bureau of Digital is tailored to digital agency owners. The event incorporates “camp” sessions, one-on-ones, traditional talks, and ongoing support to empower attendees. The event’s mission is to connect Owner Summit participants as allies, not competitors. Topics include business development, leadership strategies, process, team structure and dynamics, marketing, success metrics, scope and estimates, culture, and industry news. Several of my clients attended in 2016 and 2017; they reported great learning and networking.

High Five Conference

February 26-28, 2018 in Raleigh

The High Five conference is where marketing and creative meet. It brings together marketing and creative professionals for three days of lessons on teamwork, partnership, collaboration, and more.

High Five isn’t agency specific, but plenty of agencies attend. Keynotes in 2018 include Aaron Draplin, Amanda Valentine, Jackie Huba, Spike Jones, Tamsen Webster, and Wil Reynolds.

I was Conference Director in 2016 and served as 2016-2017 President of AMA Triangle, which organizes the annual event. I’m volunteering in 2018 to help with VIP speaker transportation.

Adobe Summit

March 25-29, 2018 in Las Vegas

Although Adobe’s conference is not agency-specific, follow the money—the largest 2018 sponsors include the consultancies that many agencies worry about: Accenture Interactive, Deloitte Digital, IBM iX, and PwC.

Last year’s event had 250+ sessions, in six tracks—Advertising, Analytics, Content & Experience Management, Email & Omnichannel Marketing, Marketing Innovation, and Personalization.

4A’s Transformation

April 8-11, 2018 in Miami

This conference is hosted by the American Association of Advertising Professionals (4A’s). Business leaders and marketing experts will be discussing next-step storytelling, AI, VR, the news business, agency models, transparency, talent, winning strategies, and more. This year is the 101st anniversary of the 4A’s.

The SoDA Academy

April 9-10, 2018 in Long Island City

The SoDA Academy brings together leaders at top digital agencies, entrepreneurs, education experts, and client-side marketers in a two-day learning conference. Given its origin as the “Society of Digital Agencies,” SoDA has strong digital roots.

The event is open to non-members, but SoDA requires an application to the conference. This will be the third edition of the SoDA Academy. I spoke in 2016 at the second event (on agency business strategy and on team management).

Peers Conference

April 25-27, 2018 in Austin

This web conference is for those who made the web and make it their business. It’s a people-focused tech event for web and software developers that gives attendees an opportunity to learn, grow, share, and make connections within the community.

I spoke at the 2016 PeersConf. It’s a friendly, welcoming group; I haven’t experienced that much hugging at a business conference before.

HOW Design Live / HOW Marketing Live

April 30-May 3, 2018 in Boston

This annual gathering of global creative professionals features more than 80 educational sessions on radical thinking, how to improve your work, essential business and marketing skills, and previews of new tools and technologies.

This year’s event includes the first-ever HOW Marketing Live, on the intersection of marketing and creative. It’s hosted by the American Marketing Association (AMA).

Past speakers include Amy Cuddy, Debbie Millman, Ed Roberts, Ilise Benun, Jeffrey Zeldman, Malcolm Gladwell, and Stefan Mumaw. The event tends to focus on in-house content but some applies to agencies, too. I spoke on the HDL podcast in 2015, on how agencies can offer more strategy services to their clients.

PRSA Counselors Academy

May 6-8, 2018 in Toronto

This annual conference by the Public Relations Society of America focuses on C-suite issues, case studies, and research that leads growth. I spoke at the 2016 event in Puerto Rico. The conference draws primarily from PR agency owners, but attendees provide a range of services.

Interactive Day San Diego

May 18, 2018 in San Diego

This annual event is run by SDX (formerly the San Diego Ad Club). The agenda isn’t directly agency-oriented, but speakers include people from brands you’d probably love to land as clients.

Last year’s event included speakers from companies like Adobe, BuzzFeed, General Mills, Google, Intel, and Microsoft.

Mirren Live New York

May 8-9, 2018 in New York

This business conference features 50+ speakers and 30+ sessions, with a focus on driving agency growth. They’ll discuss topics like aligning agency and client incentives, the latest tools to run your agency, how to turn your website into an active lead-gen tool, and agency pitch demonstrations.

Can’t make it in-person? You can buy a ticket to the live broadcast.


July 9-11, 2018 in Seattle

MozCon is hosted by Moz, and features three days of actionable sessions in SEO, brand development, CRO, the mobile landscape, analytics, customer experience, social and content marketing, and more.

Although MozCon isn’t agency-specific, search-oriented agencies can expect a lot of relevant content. Past speakers have included Ian Lurie, Oli Gardner, Rand Fishkin, and Wil Reynolds.

This will be the first MozCon since founder Rand Fishkin stepped away from day-to-day operations.

AdAge Small Agency Awards

July 17-18, 2018 in Los Angeles

This event—in LA this year—is designed for small- to mid-size agencies. After an evening of networking and cocktails, there’s a day of conversation and talks that tackle challenges and opportunities in small agencies. Want a shot at one of the awards? Applications are due May 8th. AdAge defines a “small agency” as 150 or fewer employees.

Content Marketing World

September 4-7, 2018 in Cleveland

Learn and network from content marketing industry leaders. This will be the first year without CMI founder Joe Pulizzi at the helm.

Last year’s event included more than 120 sessions where brand leaders cover strategy, integration, measurement, and more innovative ideas in content marketing. CMW expects 4,000 attendees, 225 speakers, and more than 550 companies represented.

I emcee’d the Future Content Keynotes in 2016, was scheduled to speak in the new Agency Track in 2017 (before getting appendicitis), and am speaking at CMW about agencies in 2018. I recommend cocktails at the Velvet Tango Room.


September 4-7, 2018 in Boston

This will probably be the year that HubSpot’s conference breaks 20,000 guests. Last year’s keynotes included Adam Grant, Billie Jean King, Brene Brown, Ed Catmull, Mario Batali, and Michelle Obama.

Expect 300+ sessions overall, with breakouts across six tracks: Bold Talks; Executive Track; Growth with HubSpot; Hacks, Tips & Tricks; Ideas & Experiences; and Inbound Sales. I spoke at INBOUND in 2015 and 2017.

In 2017, HubSpot removed the separate Agency/Partner track, opting to include agency-oriented talks in other tracks. You’ll have to choose between CMW and INBOUND in 2018—HubSpot scheduled their conference to occur in CMI’s usual week.

Digital PM Summit

September 4-6, 2018 in Memphis

Hosted by the Bureau of Digital, this annual event heads to Memphis, Tennessee, this year. You can sign up here for notifications. Last year’s event was in October in Las Vegas.

The 5th annual event in 2017 included two days of presentations, breakout sessions, and lightning talks exploring how to manage digital projects. There’s also an optional half-day workshop.

If you have PMs, they should go there… and ideally have already pitched you on going. (It’s a sign they’re not a “reluctant PM.”) I spoke at DPM Summit in 2014.

Advertising Week New York

October 1-4, 2018 in New York

This week-long event features seminars and workshops on topics like storytelling through different mediums, creating connections in the industry, what brands want, and influencer stories and lessons.

Content Jam

October 9-10, 2018 in Chicago

This annual event by Andy Crestodina features national-level speakers (e.g., Ann Handley, Gini Dietrich, and Joanna Wiebe) while providing the intimacy of a regional conference (~300 attendees).

Compared to conferences with thousands of guests, think of it as “big names in a smaller setting.”


October 15-16, 2018 in Breckenridge, CO

This new event is a spinoff from the long-running SearchCon conference in the Denver area. Content is targeted to owners of digital agencies. I’m keynoting.

Mirren CEO Summit

November 6-7, 2018 in Chicago

This annual event targets agency CEOs and their top lieutenants. Capped at 135 attendees, the 2017 event featured sessions across four pillars of agency growth—model, operations, marketing, and leadership.

Internet Summit

November 14-15, 2018 in Raleigh

This event typically runs the week before Thanksgiving, in Raleigh, NC. This TechMedia event focuses on digital marketing, including content marketing, design/UX, search, social media, innovation, digital strategy, analytics, and email marketing.

The 2017 lineup included Ann Handley and Seth Godin, plus leaders from Adobe, Amazon, Forrester, Mashable, Netflix, Showtime, and The Onion. TechMedia also runs the Digital Summit series in other cities. I spoke on a panel at Internet Summit in 2015.

My office is a few blocks away; if you’re planning to attend, let me know—would love to meet up!

Digiday Agency Summit


This twice-a-year summit gathered agency professionals to discuss how leading businesses are transforming to adapt to new technologies, new client needs and expectations, and new audiences.

It appears Digiday has discontinued the agency summit, in favor of other events. The latest was October 23-25, 2017 in Charleston, SC.

AIGA Design Conference

April 4-6, 2019 in Pasadena, CA

The next event is 18 months after the previous event (October 2017 in Minneapolis). In 2017, the 4-day conference had general sessions, a symposia, Design Fair, and evening networking events. Focused on designers, conference sessions include practice management, emerging designers, diversity, urban design, branding, interaction, and digital.

Pick the Right Agency Conferences

Conferences can be great, but they can also be a time-suck. Read my article on how to get more out of your next conference, including things you need to do before, during, and after the event. Question: Which agency conferences are you planning to attend in 2018?

Book cover: Work Less, Earn More (by Karl Sakas)

Are you feeling overworked and underpaid?

As an agency owner, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The solution? Read my book: Work Less, Earn More: How To Escape the Daily Grind of Agency Ownership.

You’ll get my step-by-step process to reclaim your work-life balance and get paid what you’re worth. And you’ll get access to an in-depth companion workbook, to cement your progress.