I don’t know about you, but my approach to industry events has changed dramatically as COVID has receded. I have two distinct voices in my head:
- One that is craving the in-person networking, excitement and sheer adrenaline of large-scale events.
- Another that is highly selective about when and how I travel, ensuring my health is my top priority.
You may fall on one side of this equation, the other or land somewhere in between, but there is no denying that events will continue to be an important avenue for marketing professionals.
Having explored events that include immersive media and technologies for marketers pre-pandemic, I was eager to discover how the landscape has shifted after the last few years.
Most of the events that made the list before COVID are back in full swing as in-person events in 2023. Some are opting to include digital passes, hoping to offer a nice stay-at-home option.
So, without further ado, below are my top picks for marketing professionals looking to boost their metaverse marketing muscle.
1. GatherVerse AI Summit 2023
February 1, 2023 / Virtual (Watch the recap here)
The Gatherverse community is squarely focused on the metaverse and the community implications these new technologies present to business leaders and organizations.
The group leads with wellness, ethics, and safety which is a refreshing change from many other tech events that are more focused on ROI and business outcomes. Very much like the tenets of my Metaverse Manifesto, there is a strong focus on digital citizenship, inclusion, and accessibility of the metaverse for all.
The group offers several virtual events each year with various topics ranging from women in tech to athletics in the metaverse. The AI summit provided valuable information for marketing professionals as all of us are grappling with how advances in AI will impact our role, strategies and tactics moving forward.
2. Mobile World Congress
February 27–March 2, 2023 / Barcelona, Spain
The role of 5G within the immersive media landscape can’t be overstated. As more consumers adopt 5G, the opportunity to create and share mind-blowing immersive experiences via mobile devices increases as well.
A few of the metaverse-themed sessions this year include:
- NFT’s: The one-hit wonder?
- From Metaverse to Matterverse, How to Do it Right.
- Who are the New Consumers in Web 3.0.
This must be the largest event on this list with over 100,000 attendees this year traveling from all over the globe. The conference will house the latest and greatest immersive technology advancements from the big players with big budgets.
MWC takes over the entire city and housing and transportation become a major challenge. Plan to wait in long lines for public transit and taxis so consider walking instead. Barcelona is one of the most walkable and beautiful cities I have ever visited.
3. South by Southwest (SXSW)
March 10–19, 2023 / Austin, Texas, USA (Online passes available)
Originating as a music festival, SXSW has matured into a massive phenomenon attracting approximately 75,000 attendees. The conference now attracts professionals from the film, music, and interactive industries.
Technology and brand experience are paired at SXSW, with an entire track dedicated to brands and marketing. The world’s hippest creative teams descend upon Austin – hoping to keep it weird and stand out in a crowded landscape.
Like Cannes Lions, many professionals head to Austin without an official SXSW badge as there are hundreds of free events. You’ll absolutely need to plan, prepare and focus on the key events you want to hit before you arrive.
Driving in downtown Austin isn’t recommended and walking is most likely your best transportation option. Avoid the temptation of wearing your hippest gear, as sticking to comfortable shoes and practical clothing options is definitely the way to go.
Although the weather in Austin does tend to be sunny, it’s not guaranteed and packing all-weather items such as a rain poncho is recommended.
4. Laval Virtual
April 12–16, 2023 / Laval, France
Laval Virtual is an industry conference with about 20,000 annual attendees gathering in a small town outside of Paris.
Highlighting a strong focus on industry and business case uses for immersive such as healthcare, architecture and construction, prior years have included tracks dedicated to cross-vertical topics such as marketing, sales, infrastructure, 5G, storytelling, perception, and IoT.
This conference is squarely focused on business-to-business immersive tech so if you’re more interested in consumer campaigns, this might not be the best choice.
Laval is steeped in history, being built in the 11th century. There are chateaus, museums, and lots of local flavors to take in during your stay. It presents a beautiful backdrop to the immersive industry networking happening outside of event sessions.
5. National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show
April 15–19, 2023 / Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
NAB is a huge show that spans the entire digital ecosystem including advertising, app development, artificial intelligence, audio, augmented reality, broadcast, cable, cloud solutions, digital video, film, mixed reality, virtual reality, 5G and more.
This is an industry event that draws professionals from all disciplines wanting to further their careers, gain knowledge, experience cutting-edge training, get hands-on with the latest technology, and connect with industry trailblazers advancing the art, science and business of content.
The show offers a wide selection of immersive technical tracks — focusing on content particularly valuable to broadcasters and media professionals. This year, the show includes a visual storytelling track that will be sure to feature innovative immersive content.
The show also provides a dedicated immersive theater space, allowing exhibitors and speakers to show off the latest immersive broadcasting capabilities. Taking place in Vegas, you might get seduced by finding a hotel on the strip, but I recommend finding a hotel off the strip closer to the convention center as they tend to be less expensive and a nice respite from the hubbub of the gambling capital of the world.
6. Digital Ascendant Semi-Annual Gathering
May 10–11, 2023 / New York City, USA
This invite-only, private network of top-level marketing brand leaders houses some of the most innovative minds in the business. I was fortunate enough to get a special invite to present at their fall event in Santa Clara and I was thoroughly impressed.
This group offers one of the most important aspects of industry events — power networking. The close-knit group offers a supportive and discrete network of brand marketers who are openly discussing today’s challenges.
There is a membership fee and vetting process to join the group, but this ensures that there’s a good fit on both sides. The topics and content offered at their gatherings are sure to hit on current trends for brand marketers including everything immersive and the metaverse.
The intimacy of these events allows for the development of meaningful industry connections, which may be lacking at larger events.
7. Augmented World Expo (AWE) 2023
May 31–June 2, 2023 / Santa Clara, California, USA (Online passes available)
I’ve attended AWE over the last several years and have seen this conference mature into a premier XR event. I’m thrilled to have been invited back this year to present a case study on how Intel’s marketing team engaged (and delighted!) the developer audience using augmented reality.
This year’s three-day event features several tracks that will be of interest to marketers including retail, ecommerce, advertising, web3, AI and virtual beings, gaming, entertainment, and media.
Taking place in the heart of Silicon Valley, AWE pairs investors with the latest XR-focused start-ups. This is the conference to attend if you’re looking for bleeding-edge technology that could take your campaigns to the next level.
8. Cannes Lions 2023
June 19–23, 2023 / Cannes, France
Cannes Lions explores the value of creativity in branded communications. The five-day festival and awards show provides the industry with access to new ideas, consumer research and emerging technologies which will help make and shape popular culture.
Prior years have included tracks that feature brands leveraging immersive technology to engage audiences. If you’re looking to network with best-in-class marketing teams and agencies — then this is the conference for you!
Passes run upward of $3,000 for the official conference sessions. However, every publisher imaginable hosts “unofficial” workshops and networking events. Conference veterans can go back each year without purchasing a pass and still have a full agenda.
Cannes Lions is more about brand building and advertising than technology, so don’t attend hoping to find Immersive Marketing 101 or tactical content. It’s more about rubbing shoulders with some of the best marketing teams in the business while sipping rosé on the beach.
I was fortunate enough to present at Cannes pre-pandemic in partnership with Brand Innovators and they are sure to be bringing in some awesome speakers using cutting-edge technology this year as well.
9. Advertising Week New York
September 2023 / New York City, USA
This four-day event features a blend of thought leadership content and engaging special events, with attendees ranging from public relations pros and advertising execs to chief marketing officers and social media advisers. Prior years have had dozens of sessions featuring immersive content and I’m sure this year will have even more.
Taking place in bustling New York City, this conference brings together everyone who’s anyone in the media biz. Grappling with declining TV viewership and a proliferation of content, attendees are afforded a behind-the-curtain peak into the future of advertising. Similar to Cannes, there are hundreds of sessions and parties on the roster, so doing your homework before you arrive is essential.
Boost your metaverse marketing muscle
I also host a virtual, monthly, live event for marketers looking to explore immersive spaces and I would love for you to join. We gather via Zoom on the fourth Friday of each month at noon PT, you can learn more and find the link to join here.
The above is by no means a comprehensive list of all the conferences covering marketing in the metaverse in 2023, so please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and share any great options that I may have missed.
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