By Kyle Barton
The following is an interview from the student-run podcast, ‘In Your Business: With UMSL Business‘
Midwest Digital Marketing Conference (MDMC18) is the largest digital marketing conference in the region, which is going to take place on March 27th and 28th at St. Louis Union Station. The conference provides an unprecedented opportunity to network with digital marketers, and refresh the understanding of the greatest trends affecting the industry.
The real value of MDMC18 is the accessibility that it provides. The speakers embody professionals working as Content Practitioners, Brand Strategists, and CEOs. Participants represent firms of all sizes, but all recognize the growing importance of the Digital Marketing field.
Here is the interview with Dr. Perry Drake, the Founder of the conference, who is also Assistant Teaching Professor and Director of Business Collaboration at UMSL’s College of Business Administration, and Brianna Smith, the Executive Director of the Conference.
Q1. Could you please tell us how this conference got started?
Perry Drake: I’ve been at UMSL since 2013, prior to that I was at New York University for about fourteen years. When I came back to UMSL, I started a Digital Marketing program, and I really didn’t have a conference on my mind. In terms of building that out, it just kind of happened. I had asked a couple of my colleagues in my work, who work at Google, BuzzFeed, and Pinterest, if they would be interested in coming in on a Google Hangout and talking to my students in my Digital Strategies class, and a couple of them said they would be happy to fly out for me and meet the students face-to-face. It was a half day conference, which was free and it was the start of the conference that just kind of evolved from there. That is also the first time I had met Brianna, and she was actually an attendee at that conference. She can fill you in more.
Brianna Smith: Perry and I met at the conference, because I was technically in Twitter Jail. There was such great content at the conference, and I was on my computer. I have a very large following of digital marketers. I was trying to tweet all the takeaways, and I was tweeting too fast and too much, and they thought I was spamming. So Twitter locked me out, and a bunch of people were tweeting out: “Let Brianna out of Twitter Jail!” So, Perry and I met then.
Perry Drake: So now Brianna is the Executive Director of MDMC, we are the two that get this thing to happen, which is just a massive monster at this point.
Q2.What makes MDMC different from other digital marketing conferences? And why should people attend?
Brianna Smith: The main thing comes from how it was started, and where it comes from. It was started at the University of Missouri-Saint Louis. So our whole basis is on education, high quality content, breakout sessions, value and its inclusivity. No matter if you’re a student, or you just started your career, or you’re interested in starting a digital marketing career, or your a CEO of a company, you can attend the conference, because it’s so affordable. I myself am a Digital Marketer in my day-to-day job, and that’s a difficult thing when going to conferences, or when trying to convince your boss to send you, because they’re usually so expensive! We also focus really hard on bringing in a wide range of topics, because it’s all so connected nowadays. It’s more of a focus on education and content quality for all the attendees.
Q3. Why the ticket prices are so low? You have the same speakers as other higher cost events such as Inbound, or Social Media Marketing World, or Search Engine Expo. So what’s the deal?
Perry Drake: I think it’s like what Brianna said, our goal is to keep ticket prices affordable. As an academic at UMSL, we want to make the event inclusive and equitable for everybody. So if someone is underemployed, unemployed, or a CEO, they can all come to the conference to gain knowledge. Some events are a thousand dollars plus, even though we have the same quality of speakers. We would never charge that much, that’s just not what we stand for.
Brianna Smith: We have many speakers that have spoken at these conferences, they speak all the time for a lot of companies, or small businesses too. A thousand dollars for a ticket, a hotel, travel, is tough for a small company. But with us you can take your whole team, which is something I love about MDMC. We see a lot of companies send six, eight, ten people, so that everybody gets to grow in their career. Its inclusive, it doesn’t matter who you are, or what your job is, you can learn from the best in the industry.
Q4. How are your students involved? What do they contribute?
Brianna Smith: Although it was founded by and is produced by UMSL, this isn’t a student conference. Our philosophy is the students in the marketing world need to learn what the professionals are learning, because it changes so fast. They really need that hands on experience before they go into the workforce. This is created for those in the industry, but the students are very involved with it as they volunteer by helping with the podcasts, the social media marketing, and the email marketing. All the students are helping promote this conference. They’re the ones that are spreading the word and making it grow so quickly, which makes it a truly great industry conference.
Perry Drake: Also, all of the proceeds do go back to the students, either in the form of scholarships, or programming, or purchasing the equipment that we’ve got attached to this table. So that’s another great thing that this conference affords.
Q5. Since the conference is produced by a public university, do sponsors get a tax benefit?
Perry Drake: Yeah, so that’s another great benefit of this, a lot of sponsors and donors don’t realize that donating $5,000 and becoming a sponsor can be written off at a rate of 75% or more! This is because we are a non-profit.
Learn more about MDMC18 and purchase the tickets at bestmarketingconference.com