It’s easy to get caught up in running your business and miss out on networking and training events. But you need to seize at least a few of these opportunities to stay ahead in your field.
Attending small-business conferences can help you keep current on best practices, new tools, and employment trends. The challenge, of course, is deciding which events to attend and which ones to skip. So, we tackled that task for you.
Here are six conferences worth checking out nationwide.
1. Small Business Expo — This B2B trade show, conference, and networking event — the largest of its kind — is free to attend and takes place in various cities across the U.S. (Upcoming expos are set for Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Dallas, New York, San Francisco, and Boston.) If you register before the online deadline, you get access to the exhibit hall, the keynote, and the networking sessions.
2. America’s Small Business Summit — Sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, this annual conference examines how public-sector policies and economic trends impact your business. (Last year’s speakers included Steve Forbes, Bob Woodward, and former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden.) The event includes a “Rally on the Hill,” during which attendees meet with congressional staffers to discuss the most effective ways for the government and businesses to work together. The 2014 summit is slated for June 11 to 13 in Washington, D.C.; speakers and registration fees have yet to be announced.
3. Entrepreneur Magazine’s Growth Conference — This free conference, which next takes place on Jan. 22 in New Orleans, focuses on entrepreneurs who are on the brink of success. It highlights leaders in the small-business community and offers plenty of casual opportunities for networking. The 2014 keynote speaker is artist/author Erik Wahl, whose recent book, Unthink, examines creativity in the business world.
4. America’s Small Business Development Center Conference — This annual conference covers the nitty-gritty details that help small businesses grow. Sponsored by the Small Business Development Center, the four-day event connects business owners with administrators, consultants, and managers who offer professional-development seminars and workshops. Attendees acquire more than just contacts; they leave with skills and products to take back to their businesses. The 2014 conference will take place Sept. 9 to 12 in Grapevine, Texas; registration fees have yet to be determined.
5. Small Business Conference — This Washington, D.C.-based confab, organized each April by the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council, focuses on broader ideas and inspiration for businesses. Through breakout sessions, workshops, and luncheons, entrepreneurs can connect with innovative business leaders, who are there to share insights, best practices, and tricks of the trade. (Speakers tend to be government directors and managers and CEOs/founders of companies.) Attendees generally leave this one-day meeting with a better understanding of how to invest in their businesses’ growth. The 2014 agenda has yet to be announced; registration fees typically range from $195 to $395.
6. Global Entrepreneurship Week — Connect with your international peers without leaving the United States during Global Entrepreneurship Week, which happens Nov. 18 to 24. Although the main conference this year is in Moscow, there are related events scheduled worldwide (such as Startup Weekend in Detroit) that offer varied opportunities to network and even find investors. Registration is free, although participating in some activities may require a fee.