How We Bring National Talent to Speak on Marketing in Fargo

Written by: Jack Yakowicz
Jack Yakowicz, ex officio AAF-ND Board of Director

The first speaking event I ever attended in Fargo was in 2014. It was a 1 Million Cups event held at The Stage at Island Park. I was immediately infatuated. Naturally, when I joined the Board of the American Advertising Federation of North Dakota, I was intrigued by the opportunity to be on the other side of the event world: the planning. We were presented a budget and a set of guidelines to follow, but the rest was up to us. The unique challenge? We have always tried to look outside of our own community for our event speakers.

A Background on AAF-ND’s Speaking Events

The American Advertising Federation of North Dakota has been operating for more than 50 years and serves to protect and promote the well-being of advertising in our community. We host seven speaking engagements per season, with seasons running from October through May. Speaking engagements are typically held over lunch at the Sanctuary Events Center in Downtown Fargo. Since the COVID era, we’ve also live-streamed our events to allow for virtual viewing. Events are always free for our members.

How We Connect with National Speakers

We have a pretty slim set of guidelines for our Programming Committee to follow when it comes to booking speakers:

  • Make sure the topic is relevant to our audience of marketers
  • Make sure the speaker is not based in North Dakota (so as to not show preferential treatment towards any of our member agencies or companies)
  • Make sure the speaker stays within budget

As a not-for-profit organization, the last bullet point can sometimes be the most challenging. Typically, we have between $500 and $2,500 in speaker fees that we’re able to afford amidst our other event costs (production, venue, food).

Our Upcoming National Speakers for the 2023 Season

To find our speakers, here’s a general guideline that we follow:

  • Field ideas from our 13-person Board of Directors
  • Review the positions and interests of our 110-person membership group
  • Connect with other advertising clubs in different metros (i.e. Minneapolis, Madison, Sioux Falls, etc.) to receive speaker recommendations
  • Browse YouTube, podcast networks, and other online forums to find speakers who are discussing marketing, graphic design, web development, etc.
  • Consider an organization whose marketing we admire, and visit their staff page to see if there are any staffers who may want to speak to our group
  • Look at related organizations (like AIGA or Creative Mornings, which are similar in nature to AAF) to see if they have had recent speakers we can connect with

Despite having a season that only runs for eight months of the year, we spend all year scanning platforms to find speakers that may make sense for our organization. It’s a group effort (including an effort of our membership) to make sure that we continue to keep good talent coming into Fargo to speak with our club.

How We Sell Fargo

As noted previously, we don’t have an extensive budget to work with to book talent. We also live in one of the coldest areas in the United States, which can be a tough sell for some of our November – March speaking engagements. So how do we sell Fargo? Through the promise of a memorable experience.

When our speakers fly into Fargo, they’re picked up by a Board Member and brought to the Jasper Hotel. That night, our whole Board of Directors takes the speaker out to dinner and (sometimes) out to drinks afterward. The next morning, they’re provided a list of hot spots in town to grab a coffee or hang out as they prepare for their speaking engagement. Several speakers also wish to go see the wood chipper at the FMCVB.

A sponsor of ours provides the speakers with a Fargo goody bag as they arrive at the Sanctuary, a venue that is often greeted by wows as they walk through the doors. Our members who attend the events are respectful and gracious to our speakers, as well.

It’s truly a group effort, but between the kind people our town boasts, the great experience we offer to our speakers, and the (surprisingly commonplace) desire to check off a trip to Fargo from their bucket lists, we make it work.

The best part? Past speakers often give great testimonials about their time in Fargo, which helps us bring in more new speakers too.

Come join us for these next two events, and be part of the AAF family moving forward. If you have any ideas for the next speakers you’d like to hear from, let us know! We’d be happy to work to bring them to Fargo, too.

To learn more visit or, follow us on social

Facebook: /aafnd
Instagram: @aafnorthdakota
Linkedin: company/aaf-nd
Twitter: @aafnd

If you have any ideas for the next speakers you’d like to hear from, let us know! We’d be happy to work to bring them to Fargo. With two amazing speaker events left in our 2023 season, we invite you to come experience what AAF-ND is all about.

Marcus Collins, the Chief Strategy Officer at Weiden + Kennedy in New York, NY, will be speaking on May 16. Marcus is a past recipient of Advertising Age’s 40 Under 40 Award and a recent Advertising Hall of Achievement inductee who will be speaking about the “Future of Brand Development.”

Dr. Marcus Collins is an award-winning marketer and cultural translator with one foot in the world of practice—serving as the Chief Strategy Officer at Wieden+Kennedy New York—and one foot in the world of academia—as a marketing professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan.

May 16 at 11:30 a.m. – Sanctuary Events Center

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