Owning a small business is no small task — the energy, contacts and skills required are just as demanding as those needed at a Fortune 500 company. As a keynote speaker, I’ve been to more conferences than I can count. While there are some amazing ones, there are also some that feel like a waste of time. It’s worth a little research to figure out which ones are beneficial.
As helpful as conferences can be for understanding trends, there are so many that it’s often difficult to know which are right for your business. I’ve provided other lists of conferences for entrepreneurs in the past. As difficult as it can be to run a business of any size, the right events can make the task quite a bit easier. Small business conferences offer ample opportunities for networking, development and education that can give your business the boost it needs.
Here are 11 of the best conferences that all small business owners should have on their radar:
I’m biased, but honestly, the Inc. 5000 was one of the events that changed my trajectory as a small business leader. I remember being a nervous twentysomething entrepreneur when I walked into my first one. One of the first people I ran into was Eric Schurenberg, the editor-in chief at the time, and I was greeted with kindness and support. Since then, a past company I led made the list four times; I’m shooting for my next one as well. Being a part of the community is not just about a ranking (which is cool); it’s about being surrounded by a high-caliber group of people from different industries to share ideas, failures and successes with.
If the fact that the Small Business Expo is the country’s largest business-to-business tradeshow isn’t enough to pique your interest, perhaps its price tag will. The Small Business Expo is free for all to attend, ensuring that any development you undergo or contacts you receive there represent nothing but pure profit for your business. Held in cities around the country from Dallas to Boston, the Expo ensures you can attend regardless of your location, budget or interest — guaranteeing a worthwhile experience in the process.
3. 99U; June 3-5; New York City, New York
Adobe’s annual 99U conference is designed to bring together creatives of all types and from all industries. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a “creative” in the traditional sense, the kinds of creativity on display at 99U are more than enough to inspire anyone in the small business realm to think outside the box. Past speakers include top-level creatives from the Museum of Modern Art, Instagram and The New York Times, and 99U’s 2020 iteration is sure to feature a lineup just as impressive.
4. SXSW; March 13-22; Austin, Texas
SXSW might not be traditionally thought of as a small business conference, but that may well be what makes it such a great one. Over the past several years, the Austin mainstay has turned into an epicenter of innovation in all fields, from music to business to film and everything in between. If your business is looking to expand its horizons and break new ground, SXSW might be the best place for you.
5. Pubcon; Miami, Florida, March 24-26
Small businesses are increasingly reliant on search engine marketing to break through, and Pubcon is the premier event for figuring out how to make that breakthrough happen. Featuring SEO experts from Google, Bing and more, Pubcon packs a lifetime of SEO insights into no more than a weekend of learning. Businesses looking toward search as a means of growth can’t afford to miss it.
After nearly a decade of turning the conference world on its head, The World Domination Summit is hosting its final event in 2020. By placing importance on nontraditional approaches to thinking and leadership, the World Domination Summit appeals to people from across the business landscape, ensuring plenty of valuable opportunities for networking. No matter why you end up going, you’re sure to leave with a new perspective on your business.
Growth-focused businesses, take notice: Startup Grind is a must-attend conference. Featuring more than 100 different events in just two days, the Silicon Valley-based conference has everything a small business could possibly be looking for in a conference. Whether you come for the world-class speakers or the specialist breakout sessions, Startup Grind is bound to pay for itself through what you learn there.
After leaving for Sydney in 2019, Launch Festival is returning stateside for its 2020 iteration. While Launch is a fantastic conference in its own right, the real value comes from its investment arm. Many of the most impressive startup founders who attend Launch are then invited to the Launch Accelerator in San Francisco, an accelerator whose previous attendees included Uber, Tumblr and Trello.
9. #FinCon; September 30-October 3; Long Beach, California
If your business is in the world of finance, there’s a good chance FinCon is already on your radar. Located at the intersection of money and content, FinCon is designed to help finance-focused content creators hone their craft and broaden their audience. Users are always on the lookout for content that can lucidly explain complex financial issues, and attending FinCon can help your business fill that niche.
It’s hard to turn down a two-day business conference in the world-famous Lincoln Center, and the World Business Forum makes it even more difficult with its impeccable speaking lineup. 2019’s keynote speakers included Colin Powell and James Cameron, among many more of the world’s greatest and most iconically innovative minds. The World Business Forum is undoubtedly an elite group of leaders, and your business could be among them.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the America’s SBDC conference, and its theme — “Think Big. Start Small” — is a great jumping-off point for any small business prepping for growth. Featuring general sessions, keynote speeches, workshops and even a tradeshow, the SBDC conference is a well-rounded experience — one that will grow your skills, your contacts and your business.
Whether you’re the leader of a new startup or a small business with an established consumer base, the right conference can offer much in the way of personal and professional growth. If you’re looking to set your business up for success in 2020, a strong conference might be the best way to go.
Published on: Feb 9, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.