Call it a tale of five cities. Unlike previous years, the SBA's National Small Business Week (kicking off today) is being held across the country: in Seattle, Dallas, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh, before wrapping up at the end of the week in Washington.
Now, you're probably too busy to travel all over the country as if the year were 1975 and the SBA was actually the Grateful Dead. Fortunately, much of the program will be live streamed on the SBA's website, at sba.gov/nsbw.
You can find the full schedule here, but since you're probably also busy enough that you can't sit in front of your computer watching the whole thing, here's my take on the top 10 things on the agenda:
1. Seattle Day
Monday is basically Microsoft Day. The kickoff takes place on the computer giant's campus. Among the highlights are keynote speaker Lee Rhodes, founder of glassybaby (12:15 p.m. Eastern). You'll also find an "armchair interview" with Cindy Bates, vice president of the U.S. Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMB) organization at Microsoft Corp, the head of the SBA, Karen Mills, and others.
2. "Getting Started With Social Media" Google+ Hangout
Each day at 4 p.m. Eastern, the SBA will host a series of Google+ hangouts, designed to bring together experts and give you a leg up in your business.
Guess who's hosting the first of them? (Me.) The first panel is on "Getting Started With Social Media." I'll be talking with marketing representatives from Google, the head of small business marketing at Twitter, an expert from Constant Contact, and the managing director of a leading digital marketing strategy firm. (Again, this is Monday at 4 p.m. Eastern.)
(Watch it here. For the Google+ hangout, you can also tweet questions at @billmurphyjr.)
3. Dallas Day
On Tuesday, the program shifts to Dallas. Highlights will include a panel on the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem" and one on growing globally, led by a senior manager at Lockheed Martin.
In the afternoon, there will be a session on government contracting. It doesn't seem that this will be livestreamed, which is too bad, but you can check out my report from last year's event: 6 Tips for Getting Government Contracts.
4. "Managing Your Business's Online Reputation" Google+ Hangout
Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media, will moderate an all-star panel on business reputation online. You'll find the head of marketing for the "Get Your Business Online Initiative" at Google, along with representatives from Yelp, LinkedIn, Dun & Bradstreet, and others. I'll definitely be watching--it's at 4 p.m. Eastern, again.
5. St. Louis Day
Your best bet for the third day of the conference, Wednesday, includes a discussion with David Steward, co-founder of St. Louis-based World Wide Technology, Inc, starting at 10:15 a.m. Eastern. (Watch it here.)
6. "How a Mentor Can Help Your Business" Google+ Hangout
NFL Hall-of-Famer and entrepreneur Fran Tarkenton will host Wednesday's hangout event, on coaching and mentorship. It starts at 4 p.m. Eastern. (Watch it here.)
7. Pittsburgh Day
There are some interesting sessions planned on certifications and crowdsourcing that you might want to check out if you're in the area, but as far as livestreaming programs, Thursday's events include an introduction to the Pittsburgh entrepreneurship ecosystem, at 9:45 a.m. Eastern.
8. "How to Get a Loan for Your Business" Google+ Hangout
Calvin Goings, an SBA regional administrator, will host this talk on how to get money. (Can you think of anything more interesting?) He'll be talking with an SBA Business Lending Executive at Wells Fargo, the CEO of Ninkasi Brewing Co., which received an SBA loan, and others. It's at 4 p.m. Eastern again.
9. D.C. Days
Washington actually gets two days of events, overlapping with Pittsburgh on Thursday and wrapping things up on Friday. Highlights include Square CEO Jack Dorsey's talk on Thursday evening (7 p.m., livestreamed), and a keynote address by Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List, on Friday (12 p.m.)
10. Small Business Person of the Year
Finally, you'll find the SBA's Small Business Person of the Year award on Friday. The SBA is extremely tight-lipped about who they'll be honoring in advance of the event. In advance, you might want to check out all 54 "state" nominees, or read up on Victoria Tifft, last year's winner. (Watch it here.)
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