Crushing It In Chicago: Our 2023 AMA Higher Ed Experience

The stage was bigger and the pressure a little greater at this year’s American Marketing Association’s Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. The AMA organizers didn’t hesitate to point out a couple impressive facts. First, it was the largest AMA Higher Ed Symposium in the history of the event. This year’s conference eclipsed 1,500 people! Second, and perhaps even more daunting, was the acceptance rate for speaking proposals: Just a mere 11% of the proposed sessions submitted for the conference were accepted. And with such a slim acceptance rate, you could imagine that the organizers had no problem reiterating that all sessions would be amazing.

A lot to live up to, right?

On Monday, Cara Hoag and I presented “Not Your Parents’ YouTube” to a 300-person packed conference room in the Sheraton Grand Chicago. We came prepared.

Cara and I presented “Not Your Parents’ YouTube” on November 13, 2023, at 3:45 p.m.


This AMA speaking opportunity was a little different from my previous two. When it came to this year’s conference, I had both experience under my belt and control over our presentation. In 2019 I was an AMA newcomer and when I presented last year I was collaborating with co-presenters from different states. So to be an AMA vet and to have the luxury of serving as the project manager for this go-around was fantastic.

After submitting our proposal in April and receiving news of our acceptance in June, Cara and I dialed ourselves in from August through November to prepare for our presentation. Over the course of that timespan, the two of us strategically spaced out the selection of content, outline of the presentation, construction of slides, rehearsals, and implementation of feedback. Because of our planning and pacing, we were prepared and confident when our plane touched down in Chicago on Sunday afternoon.

But that’s not to say that I still don’t get nervous. 😊


Because of preparation, a crowd-pleasing intro video, and rich content our presentation went off without a hitch and was enthusiastically received. We had the pleasure of answering questions that reached the double digits during our allotted session time and then were swarmed at the stage afterwards with more questions. It was gratifying to field inquiries from major institutions like the University of Florida, Clemson, and Oklahoma State about how we managed to transform our YouTube channel from a lifeless communications landing spot into a Gen-Z marketing vehicle.

Cara and I all smiles after we answered the final question that put a cap on our AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Ed presentation.

Cara and I both breathed a sigh of relief that our presentation was scheduled for Monday. Not only did it ensure that more marketers could attend our presentation (attendance tends to dwindle on Tuesday and Wednesday) but it also allowed us to relax for the rest of the conference. Presenting on Monday relieves the presentation burden that no one wants to carry deep into the symposium. Also, presenting early allows other people who attended the presentation to approach us with questions they weren’t able to ask while we were on the stage. And, not going to lie, it is kind of nice to feel like a low-key celebrity.

Being a speaker at a big conference can bring a lot of anxiety. It is preferred to present early so the burden is eased.

Our AMA experience wouldn’t be possible if not for others. Thank you to the AMA Higher Ed committee for choosing us out of so many proposals and to AMA manager Christine Lucenta for helping us with logistics both prior to/during the conference.

Big thank you to our boss Holly Sitzmann for helping us with our proposal and for giving us honest feedback when we rehearsed for her. Much appreciation to our creative director Eric Limburg for creating our Powerpoint template. Our presentation would not have been the same without the intro video produced by Andrew Botterbusch of Peak Visuals. And, most important of all, thanks to our #WSU video team for making the topic of our presentation even possible. If it wasn’t for the talent, effort, and buy-in from Jason Refsland, Kara Billington, Rhynne Lee, and Devon Lockard-Dodd (along with WSU video staffers before them), our YouTube re-launch would not have been possible.

Last but not least, I would like to give a special thank you to Cara Hoag. It was such a pleasure to work with her throughout the entire process. We made a strong team and she did such an incredible job while presenting. There is nothing better than having a partner who is the ultimate team player, dependable, and talented.

What an honor it was to present with Cara Hoag. She made me look good.

I am leaving Chicago happy and fulfilled. It is always good to step outside your comfort zone and show what you know. I think it is safe to say that Cara and I made the most out of our opportunity. Don’t Blink.

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