Highlighting the top 100 events in the United States and the top 100 in Canada is not just a calculation of those with the highest attendee numbers or fund-raising tallies. Nor is the feature a list of the past year’s splashiest one-time launches, promotional stunts, and other affairs. Rather, it’s a showcase of the most influential annual meetings and events that, year after year, illustrate the power of live experiences.
Far from frivolous displays of excess, the events have value—educating constituents, building communities and movements, supporting local economies, and allowing for the exchange of ideas. Moreover, they have become cultural touch points, creating moments people discuss years after they have taken place. And in the past decade, the biggest gatherings in the U.S. and Canada have become brands themselves—with identities, trademarks, and followings of their own—and attract some of the most prominent companies in North America as sponsors. Corporations like Google, Visa, the Royal Bank of Canada, Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Mercedes-Benz, and Target use the gatherings to launch products, introduce major initiatives, continue campaigns, or simply align themselves with the images projected.
It’s because of events like these that the industry and the professionals in it are taken more seriously—and sometimes subject to more scrutiny—placing a premium on delivering more effective and strategic experiences that are often part of a larger marketing program.
As with all lists, these are subjective. To choose and rank the annual events, we considered several factors, including economic impact, buzz, innovation, and an event’s prominence within the communities it serves. The selections were also vetted by insiders in each industry.