To mark the birthday of Sheffield’s premier marketing meetup, we’ve traced its origins and story so far…

It started, as these things always do, with a group chat throwing around ideas for a name. It was January 2018 and full of New Year optimism, the marketing team at Sheffield digital agency Evoluted wanted to launch a regular marketing meetup for the local community.

After fruitless forays through a thesaurus for something suitably collaborative, “Sheffield Digital Marketing” was put forward. “Let’s start off with something simple that identifies us as a marketing meetup – once we’ve built a name for ourselves, we can look at rebranding,” Giorgio Cassella, one of the founding team, said.

While the name was only meant to be a placeholder, the mission was non-negotiable and both remain unchanged now, as Sheffield DM gears up for its 25th event.

The aim was to build a Sheffield marketing community, educating everyone from students to grizzled marketing veterans, agency-side, in-house and freelance. Sheffield DM would be a free-to-attend forum for professional growth, knowledge-sharing, networking and promoting local talent.

The meetup launched in November 2018, with the first event held at the Sheffield Tap, Evoluted’s Tom Fletcher hosting, a talk from Plusnet’s Molly Evans and roughly 35 attendees (future attendances would be recorded through check-ins rather than counting on fingers).

The bi-monthly events gathered a loyal following and expanded to a two-talk format in late 2019. During lockdown Sheffield DM switched to virtual events, attracting an international audience as well as local, and was rewarded by winning Digital Event of the Year at the 2020 Digital City Awards.

Post-lockdown, the events found a more suitable home at The Workstation and the format expanded again to three speakers. Giorgio took over as host, and in a reflection of its burgeoning reputation, Sheffield DM attracted sponsorship from LensGo, Sitebulb and unLTD to complement Evoluted’s longstanding support.

Of the 63 speakers featured to date, 60 per cent have been female – a byproduct of the organisers’ focus on line-up diversity. “We wanted to change the perception of marketing conferences having line-ups consisting entirely of white men,” Giorgio said. “Having speakers from all backgrounds brings diversity in expertise and insights, and I’m proud that we’ve given speaking debuts to numerous marketers.”

There’s been one deviation from the free-to-attend mandate – July 2022’s all-day Sheffield DM Goes Large event, where tickets covered the cost of providing food and larger event space at Kommune. Attracting rave reviews and over 100 attendees from across the UK, plans are afoot to hold an annual XL event.

Local marketer Sophie Gibson has missed just two meetups in four years. She said: “I love how varied the talks are, there’s always something for everyone in digital – even if they’re not super-relevant to my field, there’s always interesting insights and ideas.”

Giorgio added: “We’ve built a strong core of regulars – we wanted to create a Sheffield marketing community and we’ve done exactly that.”

Not that the organisers are resting on their laurels. 2023 plans include confirming further high-profile sponsors and more format improvements to build a big-event feel.

Here’s to the next four years!