When my co-founder and I started Influence & Co. four years ago, we didn't know exactly where we were heading or what our future would look like. But we knew that with a few key opportunities and the right guidance, we had big things ahead of us.
Aside from the team we've brought on and the culture of our company that's driven us forward, one of the biggest factors that's really contributed to our ability to achieve success is attending the right conferences and industry events.
Whether it's meeting the next big client, forming a strong partnership, learning new skills, or getting good advice from a peer who's been there before, the return on investment of attending the right events can be substantial. But it can be hard to know what events to attend or what you can expect from them.
I've found a lot of value in attending marketing conferences because we are in that space, but I've also sometimes found it even more valuable to attend entrepreneurship conferences.
Here's a list of 14 events I've attended, spoke at, or heard good things about that I've found valuable and think would be good to attend this year:
When it comes to keeping tabs on the hottest technologies and trends in software as a service, it doesn't get much better than a SaaStr event. The SaaStr annual conference, now in its second year, has a laser focus on helping SaaS businesses scale and grow, and its lineup of more than 100 featured speakers will give thousands of attendees, from entrepreneurs and company founders to SaaS users and fans, the opportunity to explore ideas, practices, and innovations around SaaS businesses.
ICON brings together the largest community of Infusionsoft users, small business owners, and industry experts for three days packed with intense business strategy, training, and implementation. The conference features more than 30 breakout tracks, six main-stage keynote sessions, daily networking events, and hands-on sessions developed specifically to address the biggest obstacles facing small businesses, making this event a can't-miss for entrepreneurs looking to prepare their businesses for long-term success.
This invite-only event has been a bit of a hidden gem for years. The Montgomery Summit hosts quite a few well-known speakers, and because attendance is fairly restricted, you're able to network with and learn from top entrepreneurs and professionals. This year's event in Santa Monica should be a great one for investors, entrepreneurs, and others interested in the growing startup space.
I could be biased because my co-founder made the list this year, but it's clear that Forbes put a lot of effort into forming and developing this community of young innovators, and the event does not disappoint. Forbes combines its amazing Rolodex of award recipients with sets of great speakers and its eye for content. This conference is still young, and I'm excited to see where it goes in 2016.
Created by the team behind the Web Summit, Collision has a great reputation for putting on a solid family of events, including tracks ranging from coding, content, and marketing to e-commerce, financial tech, and design. Collision is one of the country's fastest-growing conferences for tech, and it attracts some of the hottest companies, startups, and investors.
Attracting leaders from more than a dozen industries, Leadercast delivers interactive experiences; practical guidance and business solutions; and plenty of opportunities for continued education, professional networking, and personal growth as a leader. As an entrepreneur, learning the tools and practices that can empower you to bring your vision for your company to life is beyond valuable, and the impressive lineup of speakers and the diversity of attendees at this year's Leadercast are sure to empower leaders to build a better future for their companies.
Inc. has really hit its stride with this community of fast-growing companies and the leaders who run them. Whether you're in the earlier stages of your business or are more established, GrowCo can help you meet and exchange ideas and solutions with likeminded people who are all dealing with the struggles of keeping up with growth.
Techweek has grown from its first weeklong event in Chicago in 2011 to a scheduled tour of eight cities throughout 2016. This conference is really more of a festival and celebration for entrepreneurs, tech innovators, and the industry's top thought leaders to learn from one another and exchange ideas, best practices, stories, and trends that are shaping this constantly changing industry. And with conferences scheduled in cities across the U.S.--from Los Angeles and Dallas to New York and Kansas City, Missouri--and into Toronto, tech leaders and entrepreneurs will have plenty of opportunities to engage with Techweek in 2016.
The Small Giants Summit is an international gathering of values-driven leaders for three days of celebration, learning, and relationship building. Through keynote, workshop, and networking sessions, the Small Giants Summit features an elevated conversation on the realities, promises, and practices of companies aspiring to grow with purpose. I know Paul Spiegelman, who runs SG, and I really admire his effort to create a community not just based on how much money you make, but also your mindset as an entrepreneur that's giving and supportive toward other entrepreneurs.
I know I already put GrowCo on here, but Inc. really does put on another great conference--it's probably one of my favorite ones to attend. The caliber of entrepreneurs at this event is so consistent; I don't think I've ever met someone there who isn't doing amazing things. Speakers are typically top-notch, and the events around the sessions are always a great time. If you qualify to apply, I would highly recommend signing up to get your company in the mix.
The promise of the Growth Summit is "more practical ideas per minute" than any other executive education experience and the chance to "read" a dozen books over two days by hearing directly from the authors of the best business books of the year. The team powering the Growth Summit picks the best books and ideas of the year, presents the information, and facilitates discussion so attendees essentially "out-learn the competition." Verne Harnish, CEO of Gazelles and organizer of the event, is a master of bringing together a variety of intelligent coaches and high-quality entrepreneurs. Having the Fortune name supporting it doesn't hurt either.
Of all the events I attended last year, Summit at Sea 2015 was one that really stood out from more traditional leadership events. Another invite-only event, Summit at Sea helps company leaders in the higher echelon of the business world network with one another in an encouraging environment that challenges attendees to not only help their fellow leaders, but also reflect on ways they can improve themselves and their leadership.
The EY Strategic Growth Forum is the country's most prestigious gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies. This four-day, by-invitation-only CEO event brings together more than 2,000 of the nation's top entrepreneurs, executives, investors, and other business leaders. This four-day event includes helping company executives learn the strategic marketplace, an opportunity to meet potential partners, investors, customers, while hearing success stories from influential, innovative entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneur is a great host for events and conferences that cater specifically to modern entrepreneurs, and the conference it's hosting this year is on track to meet the needs and expectations of entrepreneurs in 2016.
GrowthCon provides attendees with the opportunity to challenge themselves to innovate new ideas and approaches to growing their businesses through a series of hands-on sessions, inspiring and insightful panel discussions, and high-energy networking.
As the founder and leader of a growing company, I've learned that these kinds of conferences and events--the kinds targeted specifically to the interests, challenges, and opportunities that uniquely face entrepreneurs--are critical to inspiration and innovation. The ideas and solutions you can exchange with others in the same position or those who've been there before and the relationships that form from them can make a big difference for your team's future.
If I missed any conferences that you're excited about attending, let me know in the comments!