The Modern Marketer's Toolbox: The Best Higher Education Marketing Conferences in 2017

Higher education professionals live and breath in an academically stimulating environment. They’re surrounded by great minds—always learning, discovering, teaching, sharing. While this fosters inspiration and new ideas, it can also lead to skewed perceptions and bias in favor of the institution's firmly established views and philosophies. So, how do higher education professionals, particularly those in marketing, enrollment, and admissions positions, break out of their silos and expand beyond the doors of their particular institution? Conferences and events can open your eyes to actionable tactics and trends, universal challenges and opportunities, and shared goals to infuse even more knowledge into the higher education marketing landscape. We’ve outlined 16 of these impactful events you can attend in 2017.

1. 2017 Higher Ed Content Conference

April 26, 2017 | Online

This conference is unique because it’s held entirely online, for one day only. The 2017 Higher Ed Content Conference includes 12 10-minute sessions led by experts in the social media, content, and higher education industries. You can look forward to sessions such as SEO Success Story: Making Popular Content Work Harder, Online Tools for Content and User Research, and Snapchat Unsnapped: Content Strategy Insights from a College Student. Higher Ed Experts, an online resource with news, blog posts, and classes for higher ed professionals, runs this online conference. Higher Ed Experts also offers an on-demand Higher Ed Analytics Conference in the same format, where you can watch 12 10-minute talks about digital analytics in higher education. A great followup to the social media conference.

2. Higher Ed Summit 2017

April 27-29, 2017 | Austin, Texas

Salesforce hosts the Higher Ed Summit for the fifth year in a row, along with The University of Texas System. Throughout the three-day conference, you’ll have a chance to listen to industry experts, collaborate with higher ed leaders, and learn best practices to connect with your prospective students, alumni, faculty, and more. Topics cover recruitment, community engagement, marketing, and technology. Learning opportunities come in the form of a Keynote given by the hosts, breakout sessions, networking opportunities, and more. Campus tours, a volunteer opportunity, and an awards ceremony are fun features you’ll experience at this conference.

3. The DRIVE/ Conference

May 23-24, 2017 | Seattle/Bellevue, Wash.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education hosts The DRIVE/ Conference annually for professionals looking to advance their knowledge of data and related fields. Attendees will take in beautiful Seattle views while learning about reporting, information, analytics, modeling, and visualization. A Keynote session opens and closes each day, beginning with Janine Driver, New York Times best selling author and body language expert, followed by Vala Afshar, chief digital evangelist at Salesforce, moving on to Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva, and ending with Ryan Holiday, author, marketer, and entrepreneur. Each day is filled with eight elective sessions on topics such as Evolving Analytics: Moving from What and When to Why and How, Leveraging Alumni Survey Data and Analytics for Engagement and Fundraising Strategies, and Utilizing Emerging Technologies for Prospect Research. In addition, continental breakfast, an opening networking session, and a networking lunch each day provide plenty of opportunity for attendees to connect with one another.

4. Improving Your Strategic Recruitment Communication Plan

June 6-8, 2017 | Atlanta, Ga.

It's right there in the name. Everything you can hope to accomplish after attending this conference hosted by Academic Impressions. This is a hands-on event, so you’ll not only take in valuable information, but you’ll work on your own communication pieces throughout the conference. The event aims to hit on every stage of the enrollment funnel, so you can learn to effectively guide your prospective students to becoming students at your institution. Sessions touch on evaluating your website, recruiting students through social media, segmenting your communication plan, and using video in your marketing. Instructors include Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D., president of Bob Johnson Consulting, Jens Larson, manager for student communication strategies at Eastern Washington University, Michelle O’Donnell, associate director of admissions at Mount St. Mary’s University, and Suzanne Petrusch, vice president for enrollment and financial aid at Presbyterian College.

5. Annual Conference on Marketing and Branding

June 7-9, 2017 | Miami, Fla.

CASE, the same organization that hosts The DRIVE/ Conference, hosts the Annual Conference on Marketing and Branding. This June event takes place in tropical Miami, Fla. Throughout the conference, you’ll learn what it takes to build a strong brand for your institution. You’ll explore the phases of building a brand, from research to creative to integration, and discover how they apply to your individual academic institution. Topics covered throughout the conference also include how to win over your president/chancellor, structure your communications department, and identify the marketing research you should conduct. Marketing professionals at the mid- and senior-level are encouraged to attend. This includes chief marketing officers, marketing specialists, branding staff, and university brand personnel.

6. Connect Higher Education Conference

June 27-28, 2017 | Louisville, Ky.

In just two weeks, higher education leaders and professionals will gather to discuss the future of higher education. The annual Connect Higher Education Summit, presented by online degree program website Learning House, is all about Engineering Change in Education this year. Influential speakers, including Julian Alssid, chief workforce strategist at College for America at Southern New Hampshire University, Kevin Carey, education policy program director at New America, and Bridget Burns, executive director at University Innovation Alliance will lead the conversation. Attendees will enjoy breakout sessions, workshops, breakfast, lunch, and networking. By the end of this conference, you’ll have the tools you need to evolve along with the greater higher education landscape and engineer change in your own institution. 

7. ContentEd

June 29-30, 2017 | London, UK

This event is all about improving your higher education content marketing strategy. This two-day event is filled with content strategy tips on branding and messaging, brand visibility, audience experience, content platforms, and much, more. Expert speakers include Mike Atherton, content strategist at Facebook, Mike Petroff, content strategist at Harvard University, Tracy Playle, CEO and content strategist at Pickle Jar Communications, and Andy Blair, director of marketing at the University for the Creative Arts. Breakout sessions include Campaign Planning: Your Strategic Roadmap, Metrics and Measurement—Tools to Assess Content Quality and Success, and Tunnelling through Silos: Creating a Community of Support to Leverage Great Content. In addition, the conference hosts a rooftop drinks reception, discussion sessions, and more. U.S attendees, you’ll get to travel to this London-based event. Make it a fun, informative, international trip for your marketing leaders!

8. National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention

July 26-28, 2017 | Denver, Colo.

If recruiting and enrolling more students is one of your goals for 2017 (and we're sure it is), consider attending the National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention. The conference promises to “offer sessions that address nearly every facet of enrollment management and student success.” Attendees will be able to choose from 120 sessions on strategic enrollment planning, marketing, student retention, web recruitment, and more. The conference is held at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center. It’s put on by technology-enabled enrollment and fundraising services company Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

9. 2017 eduWeb Digital Summit

August 7-10, 2017 | Boston, Mass.

Boston is the meeting place for this year’s eduWeb Digital Summit. This event, hosted by eduWeb, a community of education communications professionals, has been running for 12 years. Leaders in enrollment management, advancement, marketing communications, and web, typically attend. Attendees can choose from five tracks on topics including content and email marketing, web tools and hacks, social media, data and analytics, and web/mobile design and strategy. You can also register for a three-hour workshop session designed to help you develop specific digital skills. Chairpersons of the Summit include Chris Barrows, social media and mobile products coordinator for NYU and Joel Renner, manager of digital strategy and career systems at George Washington School of Business.

10. edUi 2017

September 25-27, 2017 | Charlottesville, Va.

College, university, library, and museum web professionals can expect to grow their UI and UX skills at edUi, by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. At edUi, you’ll experience half-day workshops, Keynotes, sessions, and networking opportunities. Sarah Drasner, writer at CSS-Tricks and co-founder of Web Animation Workshops, will lead a half-day workshop on building and animating SVGs. Wondering how to get the most out of your analytics? Attend the half-day analytics workshop run by director of web communications at Wayne State University, Nick DeNardis. One of the keynotes you’ll experience is Design for Real Life. This talk on racial and gender bias in design will be given by author Sara Wachter-Boechtter, who wrote the book on this topic. 

11. HighEdWeb Annual Conference

October 8-11, 2017 | Hartford, Conn.

This annual conference by the Higher Education Web Professionals Association is not one to miss! Throughout the event you’ll experience Keynotes, sessions, presentations, and events, all designed to address web-related issues you may experience as a college or university professional. The masterminds behind the event are all education professionals, so they know firsthand the challenges and opportunities associated with higher ed websites. This leads to an event filled with insights that are sure to be relatable and actionable. Informative presentations vary in length and type, so you’re sure to find one that suits your needs (and attention span). Registration for this event opens in the spring, so set a reminder to book your seat at this must-attend event.

12. Conference for Community College Advancement

October 12-14, 2017 | Anaheim, Calif.

Community college marketers, staff, and faculty… this event is for you! The sixth annual Conference for Community College Advancement is perfect for professionals to network and overcome shared challenges, together. This event is targeted toward senior-level professionals, community college presidents, and CEOs, but advancement leaders, marketing professionals, public relations directors, alumni relations staff, and new professionals in the market are all encouraged to attend. At this conference you’ll explore best practices for community college advancement, engage in strategic discussions, and dive deep into targeted topics including fundraising, alumni relations, marketing, and advancement. Throughout the conference you’ll experience round table discussions, how-to sessions, case study presentations, receptions, and electives, all geared toward providing knowledge that will propel your career and your college, forward. This conference is run by CASE, who puts on a string of higher ed events throughout the year, including the Annual Conference on Marketing and Brandinge and The DRIVE/ Conference

13. Social Media Strategies Summit Higher Education

November 2-3, 2017 | Boston, Mass.

Social media should be an integral part of any higher education marketing strategy. Whether you’re just starting to use social media or if you already have an established social presence, this event will guide you to advance your strategy even further. The Social Media Strategies Summit Higher Education touts itself as the #1 conference for social media, digital marketing, and communications professionals in higher education. The event offers interactive sessions so you can work on your individual situations and strategies. By the end of the event, you’ll have a better idea of how social is advancing, how to stay on top of the trends, and how you can meet your individual higher ed institutional goals. SMSSUMMIT has been running since 2009 and it accompanies Social Media Strategies summits in Chicago and New York City (not higher education-focused), and brand strategy, UX, and DevCon events.

14. Confab Higher Ed

November 6-8, 2017 | Indianapolis, Ind.

As fans of the Confab Central event that takes place every year in Minneapolis, we’re thrilled the same great people put on a similar event for higher education professionals and marketers. Similar to Confab Central, this event focuses on content strategy, but it lasers in on the specific situations faced by higher education marketers and communications professionals. A few of the speakers announced include Kristina Halvorson, CEO of Brain Traffic and author of Content Strategy for the Web; Meghan Casey, author of The Content Strategy Toolkit: Methods, Guidelines, and Templates for Getting Content Right; and Amanda Costello, lead content strategist at our own University of Minnesota–College of Education and Human Development. Through Keynotes, breakout sessions, small group dinners, meals, parties, and hands-on workshops, you’ll have a chance to share knowledge and network with individuals facing similar opportunities and challenges.

15. 2017 Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education

November 12-15, 2017 | Atlanta, Ga.

We attended this event in 2016 and it was an eye-opening experience. We learned about new trends and strategies in higher education marketing and discovered some of the challenges higher ed professionals face every day. This year’s conference promises to do that, again. The theme for 2017 is Connected—a fitting title since connecting with prospects, alumni, faculty, etc., is both a challenge and an opportunity in today’s tech-filled higher education landscape. After attending this event, you’ll be much more equipped to show your organization and its leaders the value of marketing. 

16. 26th Annual UPCEA Marketing and Enrollment Management Seminar

December 5-7, 2017 | Washington, DC

Twenty six years is a significant amount of time to grow and improve an event. The University Professional and Continuing Education Association has done just that with their annual UPCEA Marketing and Enrollment Seminar. If improving marketing and increasing enrollment for your higher education institution is your primary goal, then we recommend taking a second look at this event. Hosts UPCEA promise to explore trends in student recruitment and highlight tactics in today’s higher education market. The program is designed for marketing and enrollment management directors, specialists, and managers, marketing and recruitment strategists, and more. Whether your institution is focused on traditional undergraduate and graduate education, adult and professional continuing education, or online education, there will be something for you at this three-day seminar.

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Higher education institutions thrive when potential students yearn to attend. Through highly tailored marketing solutions, you can grow a brand that stands out, while building personal connections with potential students. Olive & Company can build these solutions through research and proven Modern Marketing tactics to help you reach your higher education marketing goals.

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