Midwest Digital Marketing Conference serves as experiential learning opportunity for student attendees

Midwest Digital Marketing Conference 2019

More than 1,850 attendees flocked to St. Louis Union Station for this year’s Midwest Digital Marketing Conference last Wednesday and Thursday. The event, hosted by the UMSL College of Business Administration, drew the biggest crowd in its seven years of existence. (Photos by David Morrison)

In two adjoining rooms at St. Louis Union Station, students migrated from table to table, resumes in hand, meeting with the 20 companies involved in the Marketing Student Intern and Career Fair at the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference on Thursday.

Jessica Parrott, a communication student at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, was working the conference as a volunteer but made a point to step away from the help desk so she could network with some potential future employers.

MDMC Jessica Parrott

UMSL communication student Jessica Parrott interacts with a representative from higher education marketing and research firm Relearnit at the Marketing Student Intern and Career Fair.

“I am meeting new people but also learning a little about their company, which makes me want to research more,” said Parrott, who is on track to graduate in August. “Getting to know the people behind the company is definitely opening my eyes and mind to who I could potentially be around and work for. Volunteering for this as well, it’s opening my eyes to what’s really around. It’s been a great day.”

Parrott was one of 40 UMSL students and 120 total students who attended this year’s MDMC last Wednesday and Thursday. In its seventh year, the MDMC, which is hosted by the UMSL College of Business Administration, drew more than 1,850 attendees – its most ever – to an event that included more than 80 learning sessions and panels.

Tech giants such as Facebook and Google were represented among the more than 100 speakers that dropped knowledge in the realms of data, digital marketing, social media, content creation, e-commerce, innovation, academics, technology and entrepreneurship.

Anvil Analytics + Insights, a data-driven digital agency based in St. Louis, served as the title sponsor for this year’s event, and CEO Jenny Bristow led a breakout session on leveraging data for use in marketing.

One of the things MDMC founder Perry Drake was most excited to see, though, was the enhanced opportunity for learning and engaging that students enjoyed at this year’s conference.

“It was invaluable in terms of giving them access to discussions that arise from complex topics that you typically wouldn’t get within a university setting,” said Drake, executive director of the UMSL Marketing and Sales Leadership Institute and an assistant teaching professor of digital and social media marketing. “This is an opportunity for them to see marketing in action. That is exactly what this conference is.”

Besides the career fair, a social media student competition run by the internet marketing simulation company Stukent was also held in which teams of students ran a simulated social media marketing campaign for a fictitious company to see which strategies led to the best returns.

MDMC Perry Drake

Perry Drake, Midwest Digital Marketing Conference founder and executive director of the UMSL Marketing and Sales Leadership Institute, warms up the crowd on the first day of this year’s event.

Drake also said that 30 high school students from programs that serve underresourced communities got the opportunity to take in this year’s conference.

All part of the continual improvement of what Forbes counted among its top 15 marketing conferences to check out in 2019.

“There were just so many great speakers, and our keynotes were phenomenal,” Drake said. “Dennis Dayman, who’s on the Department of Homeland Security’s data advisory council, had a tremendous keynote talking about data privacy and all the legislation that’s in the works to start protecting data. I felt really good about the way it all turned out.”

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