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2020 Conferences and Seminars for the Public Affairs Professional

by John Haughey, FiscalNote

Mark your calendars with this round up of the best conferences and trade shows for 2020

Conferences, conventions, seminars, workshops, panels and webinars offer hands-on opportunities to hone skills, sharpen insights, learn strategies from those who invested and implemented them, and meet fellow practitioners and professionals.

The networking component of these events cannot be understated – not only within your specific field, but also across related industries.

These events are also usually attended by working journalists and other media who cover “your” issues and industries for niche publications that can be vital to your success.

Below is a roundup of some 2020 events that offer an array from large conferences to workshops and “virtual learning” seminars spanning everything from government relations, grassroots advocacy, digital communications, regulatory compliance and advocacy toolkits.

Also included are some of our own FiscalNote events. Some organizations, such as the Grassroots Professional Network and the American Society of Association Executives host numerous national and regional events throughout the year.

Below are some featured 2020 events and conferences to circle on your calendar:

* The Transformation of Public Affairs: Lunch & Learn, Jan. 22, Washington, D.C.

This FiscalNote half-day event in partnership with the American Bar Association and the Grassroots Professional Network in D.C. will have two panels. The first is on the Public Affairs Outlook for 2020 and what has a chance at passing on Capitol Hill this year including healthcare, marijuana, and privacy laws.

The second panel is a best practices dive into what tactics and tools public affairs professionals should be using to modernize their departments. Register here.

The Public Affairs Council (PAC), for instance, offers more than 100 annual events.    

* United States Conference of Mayors, 88th Winter Meeting, Jan. 22-24, Capital Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Presided over by Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, the USMC’s annual winter meeting will feature plenary sessions, best practice forums and social events open to all mayors and attendees. On tap this year are sessions on U.S. Metro Economic forecasts, the “state of Opportunity Zone development,” “Automation and the American Worker,” affordable housing and immigration issues.

* Public Affairs Council, The Advocacy Conference, Feb. 3-6, ARIA Resort & Casino, Las Vegas.

The first of three annual conferences hosted by the Public Affairs Council (PAC), the leading association for public affairs professionals in the United States, the Advocacy Conference features grassroots professionals offering strategies on “engaging the disengaged,” building advocacy narratives, campaign management, mentor meet-ups and its “Resource Marketplace.”

* 2020 National Health Policy Conference, Feb. 10-11, Marriott Marquis, Washington, D.C.

The annual AcademyHealth National Health Policy Conference (NHPC) provides a platform for advocates, healthcare professionals, lobbyists, elected officials and policy administrators to identify challenges, discuss solutions and define the research needed to inform and evaluate policies to improve health and the performance of the health care system. NHPC attendees can access the annual ‘Health Datapalooza.’

* Public Affairs Council (PAC) Conference, March 1-4, Loews Miami Beach Hotel, Miami.

For campaign professionals, advocates and lobbyists, the Public Affairs Council also offers this three-day PAC Conference featuring incisive insight on best practices, emerging trends in managing solicitation campaigns, creative fundraising strategies and compliance instruction in workshops and break-out sessions while providing opportunities for professional development and interaction with industry leaders.

* America Votes State Summit, March 4-6, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C.

America Votes’ three-day summit will bring together hundreds of in-state experts and national policy strategists for a deep dive into best practices for grassroots mobilization and state-based messaging for issue advocacy, networking and “get out the vote” energizing before the 2020 primaries and general election.

* South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference & Festival, March 13-22, Austin, Texas.

You may know of SXSW as an independent music, film and technology festival, but it also includes a interactive conferences on government policy, politics and privacy issues on both the personal and corporate level. Topics include policy and civic engagement on the local, state and federal level; the relationship between government and technology; big data tracking; and surveillance concerns.

* Ragan's Speechwriting & Public Affairs Conference, National Education Association headquarters, March 25-26, Washington, D.C.

Two-day primer on “thoughtful messaging around divisive political issues, how to build your online presence that supports your brand advocacy, how to write concise and compelling content for public affairs campaigns” with insight and hands-on mentoring from “forward-thinking communicators,” including John Pollack, speechwriter for former President Bill Clinton; Noam Nuesner and Chris Michel, speechwriters for former President George W. Bush; and Stephen Krupin and David Litt, speechwriters for former President Barack Obama.

* American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) Annual Conference, April 3-7, Hyatt Regency Orange County, Anaheim, California.

The annual ASPA Conference showcases state-of-the-art practices used in modern public and nonprofit administration while exploring new approaches and opportunities for continued innovation. It brings together around 1,300 public administrators, scholars and students from across the discipline. Its theme will be, "2020 Vision for Politics, Policy and Administration.”

* Smart Cities Connect Conference & Expo, April 6-9, Colorado Convention Center, Denver.

The Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo, conducted in tandem with the US Ignite Application Summit, will be attended by more than 400 global leaders representing more than 250 cities and communities to advance citizen engagement, improve citizen life, and enhance partnership opportunities between innovative technology and solution providers.

* Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Counselors Academy & PRSA Spring Conference, May 3-5, Grand Fiesta Americana, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

The PRSA’s Counselor's Academy offers a curriculum designed by independent pubic relations agency leaders for fellow independent agency leaders with emphasis on growing your firm, building a culture, retaining clients and trend awareness during the PRSA’s spring conference which brings together owners and senior leaders of independent PR firms from across North America to talk strategy, growth and business development.

* COMPLY2020, May 5-6, Tribeca 360 & Rooftop, New York City.

The sixth annual COMPLY Conference will again focus on the “advancement of the compliance, risk and RegTech ecosystem” by bringing together a comprehensive gathering of regulators, compliance, risk professionals, sales and marketing leaders, innovators, investors, legal experts, advocates, ounce relations professionals and consultants from around the world.

* State Government Affairs Council National Summit, May 6-8, JW Marriott Austin, Austin, Texas.

The State Government Affairs Council’s (SGAC) signature annual conference offers opportunities for lobbyists and advocacy professionals to network with public affairs professionals and learn new strategies to improve their state government affairs work. Among the benefits SGAC offers at its annual National Summit and other events is its Professional Certificate Program Credit Program, the first state-specific comprehensive certificate program devoted to the profession.

* United States Conference of Mayors, 88th Annual Meeting, June 12-15, 2020, Austin, Texas

The USCM Annual Meeting offers a chance to interact with more than 1,400 mayors from all over the country and better understand the trends impacting city governments.

* Public Affairs Council's (PAC) Digital Media and Advocacy Summit, TBA (usually June), Capital Hilton, Washington, D.C.

This PAC annual summit focuses on digital media and advocacy and features thought leaders from the government, legislative, lobbying and advocacy space by providing advanced content and best digital advocacy, public affairs and grassroots practices. The summit draws digital experts and experienced practitioners from Fortune 500 companies, influential advocacy groups and leading associations for a full day of idea sharing, networking and tactical skill building.

* The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Public Affairs and Government Summit, June 18-20, St. Louis, Mo.

The PRSA Public Affairs and Government Summit draws attendees from its 30,000 professional and student members enrolled in 110 chapters in all 50 states. The summit will feature informative sessions on social media, crisis management, the use of polling to define messaging, public record requests, and best practices for issue advocacy campaigns.

* American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting & Conference, July 11-14, Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans.

AALL’s three-day Annual Meeting & Conference is the premier educational and networking event for legal information professionals usually attended by more than 1,500 attendees from a dozen nations who attend more than 80 educational sessions, confer with more than 85 exhibitors and participate in more than 200 meetings and social events.

* Buzz Advocacy Summit, July 29-31, Governor Calvert House, Annapolis, Md.

The 5th annual Buzz Summit draws together communications and advocacy professionals who share experiences, collaborate to overcome common obstacles and “strive to elevate the practice of modern public affairs” in a unique approach that encourages “the best in the industry to teach the best in the industry” in intimate roundtable engagements. Enrollment is limited to 80 participants.

* ComNet20, Sept. 23-25, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atlanta, Ga.

The annual conference of The Communications Network, which “connects leaders working in communications for good to the top professionals and best ideas in the field,” the three-day ComNet proves three days of ideas, insights, inspiration, learning and networking with advocates and messaging experts from a wide range of pursuits.

* The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Annual Meeting, Aug. 8-11, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas.

With more than 42,000 individual members, association professionals and industry partners from 7,300 organizations, the ASAE’s Annual Meeting is the premium annual event for members to share new ideas, trends and best practices regarding associations, trade groups and organizational management.

* National Conference of State Legislature’s (NCSL) 2020 Legislative Summit, Aug. 10-13, Indianapolis.

The NCSL’s premier annual event often draws more than 3,000 state lawmakers, agency leaders and administrative staff to explore innovative policy solutions, network and build “legislative toolboxes.” The summit presents a great opportunity for lobbyists, advocates and public affairs professionals to get their messages before key state lawmakers and other government officials in seminars, workshops and through networking.

* The PRSA 2020 International Conference, Oct. 25-27, Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, Nashville.

PRSA’s annual International Conference will feature more than 100 breakout sessions, 200 speakers, targeted pre-conference seminars and more than 50 exhibitors in a gathering of “leading minds in public relations, communication and marketing.”

* State Government Affairs Council Leaders’ Policy Conference, Nov. 21-24, Meritage Resort, Napa, Calif.

SGAC also hosts an annual Leaders’ Policy Conference where states' legislative leaders and government professionals work through an agenda of shared interests and issues with business representatives,, associations and service providers.

* Professional Women in Advocacy, 8th Annual Conference, TBD (sometime in the fall), Washington, D.C.

A relatively new player in public affairs, the 7th annual Professional Women in Advocacy Conference (PWIA) in 2019 drew more than 250 advocates to meet formally and informally with a diverse group of professionals to network, discuss best practices, learn new skill sets and develop resources to advance personal and professional toolkits.