Get those bags packed—conference season is approaching! If you’re new to the game or just want to see what your options are, we’ve got a helpful guide to 2020’s top creative conferences for marketers and designers. Spread across North America, these events should be on every marketing department’s radar each year. They’ve got the most insightful speakers, the most innovative workshops, and the most engaged audiences.
Without further ado, here are some of the most impactful creative conferences to attend in 2020.
Virtual | May 27-29, 2020
Here’s what they say: “C2 brings together Commerce and Creativity (hence, the name) to explore trends, opportunities, disruptions and major shifts on the horizon. Every year, this is where more than 6,500 decision makers and creative minds unite to collectively shape, experience, and challenge the future of business.”
Why go: C2 is the spot for creatives and entrepreneurs to network in a friendly, innovative environment. Thanks to its lively, original agenda, C2 is an immersive and engaging experience from start to finish. The conference makes unique use of its indoor/outdoor space, featuring environments that facilitate creative thinking (the campus is affectionately referred to as the C2 Village). C2 also focuses on atypical learning experiences and brainstorming environments, like when it had an exhibit for troubleshooting blind spots in a pitch-black room.
The theme of the 2020 event is “Beyond Boundaries.” This year’s speakers include entrepreneur Mark Cuban, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and author Margaret Atwood.
*Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, C2 Montreal will not take place in person. The happenings of the conference will still occur in some capacity, but we haven’t yet received details from C2.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | November 12-14, 2020
Here’s what they say: “The 2020 AIGA Design Conference brings the design community together in a once-in-a-lifetime, cross-disciplinary exchange of ideas about the changing world of design. Recharge your career with thought-provoking presentations, professional training, and meetups with design luminaries while taking in the City of Bridges. Join together with us as we take on the world’s newest challenges, and learn how we can all make positive progress—and arrive at a more innovative, meaningful, and inclusive place.”
Why go: The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) is a storied professional organization for designers, and this event is a big part of that tradition. The organization was founded in 1914 and has over 22,000 members, so any time the group throws an event, it’s immediately part of a long-standing legacy. If you’re a designer, illustrator, art director, or just an enthusiastic creative, the AIGA Design Conference is the spot to share insights and learn from the best in the field.
This year’s event in Pittsburgh revolves around the theme of “Bridges” (apt, given its host city). The speakers include Pentagram partners, CXOs, best-selling authors, and more.
Cleveland, Ohio | October 13-16, 2020
Here’s what they say: “Join us for the one event where you can learn from the best in the content marketing community and spend four days with our #CMWorld community. Return back to your company with materials and knowledge you need to take a content marketing strategy back to your team and to implement a content marketing plan that will grow your business and inspire your audience.”
Why go: CMW is a great spot for marketers to learn more about the latest trends in their world. Learn from powerhouse speakers—from the business world and outside of it. There are tons of useful sessions that give each attendee tangible and actionable items to implement once they return to the office.
There’s also quite a bit of star power at CMW each year. Last year’s keynote came courtesy of actress Mindy Kaling.
Los Angeles, California | October 19-21, 2020
Here’s what they say: “Come to MAX to perfect your skills, learn from your design heroes, and explore what’s next for creatives. MAX is the perfect place to find the inspiration you need to create your best work.”
Why go: MAX is the spot for designers, illustrators, and creatives to nerd out together, attracting almost 15,000 attendees every year. Whether you’re a newbie or an OG designer, you can curate an experience that matches your interests and skill level. Last year’s keynote speakers included director M. Night Shyamalan and musicians Dave Grohl and Billie Eilish.
Downtown L.A. is also a creative haven, and there’s plenty for the creative-minded to see and do while they’re in town.
Boston, Massachusetts | August 18-21, 2020
Here’s what they say: “INBOUND is an annual experience uniting super curious, question-asking professionals with big-name and break-out industry thinkers, high-octane events, and boundless education sessions.”
Why go: INBOUND, an event hosted by software giant Hubspot, is best for marketers and salespeople looking for inspiration to do better work. With over 26,000 attendees in 2019, it’s one of the biggest events on the calendar each year. The conference has “how-to” sessions, innovative speeches, and plenty of new ideas floating around. Last year’s keynote speakers included Katie Couric, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, and more.
Nashville, Tennessee | September 24-25, 2020
Here’s what they say: “STORY is an immersive, two-day conference-style gathering designed to inspire, challenge and equip artists, creators and storytellers who work in a variety of industries.”
Why go: STORY refills the attendee’s creative gas tank with powerful and inspiring talks, often in the style of TED Talks. Especially best for those who write or tell visual stories, STORY has built a community of forward-thinking creatives that challenge the status quo. Every year, the event comes to life in fresh and imaginative ways, thanks to the careful curation of different creative themes.
Last year’s theme was “Between No Longer & Not Yet.” Speakers included Disney animators, filmmakers, choreographers, playwrights, and more.
New York City, New York | May 13-14, 2020
Here’s what they say: “Experience Matters is for forward-thinking marketers and boundary-pushing designers who are crafting powerful digital experiences with experiential content.”
Why go: Experience Matters is the conference for creatives who care about going beyond the ordinary to deliver engaging, powerful experiences to their audiences. It also happens to be hosted by Ceros. Indeed, we’re hosting our very own conference for the first time in 2020, and we have no shame in plugging it.
If you feel deep anguish every time you see a static PDF or text-heavy blog post in the wild, this is the event for you. With the Big Apple as its backdrop, EM2020 promises to deliver an experience that audiences have never seen before.
*Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Experience Matters has been postponed until April 2021. However, stay tuned for details about receiving the valuable content planned for EM2020 in other digital formats.