It may sound a little nerdy, but one of my favorite parts of gearing up for the new year is deciding which conferences will be the best use of my time. With a seemingly infinite number of events all over the country (and even the world), it can be overwhelming to determine which conferences will actually provide opportunities to make valuable connections and gain useful insights for my business.
Still, it's important to make time to attend these types of events. As entrepreneurs, we're constantly striving for improvement, and conferences are where we find the tools to make that happen. There are opportunities to learn things like effective leadership communication skills, how to grow a business, the power of networking, and how to best launch a new product.
Whatever it is you and your business are looking for, these events can deliver. If you caught any of the entrepreneur conferences I mentioned in my roundup last year, then you know that to be true.
To make planning just a tiny bit easier (and take at least one thing off your plate), I collected all the conferences that keep entrepreneurs' needs top of mind. Check them out:
If you're in the business of enterprise software, look no further than SaaStr. This three-day event will feature over 250 speakers, including Box CEO Aaron Levie, Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith, and HubSpot founder Dharmesh Shah. SaaStr is packed with over 40 hours of content, ranging from how to double sales in 30 days to how to build differentiated assets in the world of AI. Each day includes fireside chats with some of tech's most innovative founders, as well as opportunities for networking with over 10,000 attendees.
This year's event will Startup Grind's largest, with 5,000 founders and investors, over 40 keynotes and fireside chats, and more than 50 debuting startups. Notable speakers include company leaders from Slack, Reddit, Google, LinkedIn, and Tesla. The event is sponsored by Google for Entrepreneurs and includes tracks in such areas as fintech and blockchain, marketing and community, and AI and machine learning. Each day includes scheduled startup "pitch sessions" in which entrepreneurs can apply to present their product to a VC panel.
An extension of the 10-years-strong Montgomery Technology Conference, the Montgomery Summit invites (literally) entrepreneurs, investors, and top executives to discuss crucial innovations in business and technology. The invitation-only event includes over 150 vetted company presentations, facilitated one-on-one meetings, over 1,000 attendees, gourmet food, and plenty of opportunities for networking.
The Human Gathering swings into its second year, with an even more impressive lineup than in 2017. Melanie Whelan (CEO of Soul Cycle), Dr. Drew (radio and TV personality), Bill Burton (US deputy press secretary, Obama administration), Kara Goldin (founder of Hint Water), and Jason Fried (CEO of Basecamp) are just a few of the people being interviewed on stage.
Remarkably, The Human Gathering has cut the number of people attending in 2018 from 200 to 150. Creators Joshua Jordison and Wesley Chapman say they are determined to find the perfect number of people to attend to allow the greatest amount of serendipity and deep connections to take place. Attended by seasoned founders, executives, investors, and philanthropists who are seeking to leave their mark on the world, The Human Gathering continues to defy conventional conference norms and carefully curate a community of exceptional people.
Built "by young entrepreneurs, for young entrepreneurs," Next Gen Summit is specifically geared toward up-and-coming founders and change makers. Last year's event included over 700 attendees from all over the world, a couple dozen investors backed by over $4 billion, more than 50 speakers, founders of billion-dollar enterprises, pro basketball and football stars, Shark Tank alumni, and even the developers of an underwater drone. When attendees weren't debating the merits of college and learning about emerging tech, branding, and marketing strategy, they could participate in bowling, laser tag, Zumba, and themed dinners.
Nerve is facilitated by Entrepreneurs' Organization, a global nonprofit network of entrepreneurs looking for peer-to-peer networking. Last year's sessions included topics that ranged from implementing design thinking to scaling your business. This year's speakers include Derreck Kayongo, founder of the Global Soap Project, and Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. The event also offers nightly social events and even a trip to nearby Niagara Falls, which will no doubt make EO Nerve a memorable event.
EO Alchemy gathers entrepreneurs from various life stages to experience a variety of workshops and keynote speakers from renowned companies. What makes this event even more distinctive, however, is the off-site networking activities, including visits to Vivint Smart Home Arena, Utah Olympic Park, VOID (an immersive virtual reality experience), and a distillery.
Hosted by Ontraport, a company I've worked with, ONTRApalooza is a three-day event targeted at entrepreneurs, executives, and marketers, filled with hands-on workshops, software sessions, and energizing keynotes. The event includes over 45 sessions, nightly networking, support from certified consultants, and strategies for jumpstarting your business. First-time business builders, seasoned marketing professionals, and established business owners alike are all encouraged to attend.
Inc. 5000 gathers some of the most engaging speakers and valuable networking opportunities around. It is always one of my favorite events of the year (and not just because we made the Inc. 5000 list at #1247 last year). Past speakers have included Alan Mulally from Ford Motor Company, Daymond John from Shark Tank, Sarah Kauss from S'well, and author and entrepreneur Norm Brodsky. The conference is a solid mix of learning and networking, with morning workouts, a golf tournament, and a black-tie event.
Presented by the Great Game of Business, the Gathering of Games is the largest open-book management conference of the year, in which hundreds attend to learn innovative best practices, introduce OBM to newcomers, invigorate current employees with new ideas, and network with fellow OBM practitioners.
Hosted by Inc., GrowCo provides an outlet for entrepreneurs to learn from and mingle with industry leaders. Of the more than 600 attendees, 56 percent are CEOs; sessions have included how to create a winning culture and how to futureproof your business. Past speakers have included big-name entrepreneurs and industry pioneers, such as Sheryl Sandberg and Kevin O'Leary.
This event's name may sound a bit different from most conferences, but that's because it's named after the geographical coordinates of Nashville. Last year, this event saw over 1,000 attendees and had one heck of an exciting speaker roster. Focused on entrepreneurialism and tech, this conference is a great way to gain knowledge while experiencing an exciting, historical US city.
Whether you're looking for new clients, partners, or customers (or all three), these conferences offer something for everyone. With these events in mind, I know 2018 is going to be a year of exceptional growth, learning, and inspiring encounters with other entrepreneurial-minded individuals.