Sometimes the best way to develop your business concept is to get into a room with like-minded entrepreneurs. Here are conferences and pitching sessions where you can find them.
TEDx: When you're thinking big
Every year, the TED conference brings together an elite group of inventors, educators, musicians, writers and more in Long Beach, Calif., to tackle global issues via short talks and demos on a wide range of topics. It's pretty much off-limits to up-and-comers, but its organizers have wisely licensed the concept and created TEDx--local, independently organized TED-like events that can be put on by schools, businesses, communities or anyone else who wants to follow the format. The events provide an accessible stage for idea sharing and can be found in nearly every major U.S. city. (Fees vary from city to city.) Upcoming locations include Houston (June 12), Charlotte, N.C., (Sept. 24) and Honolulu (Nov. 4).
Ignite: Speed Enlightenment
Ignite is a smaller, cheaper and less intense version of TEDx, but it is more likely to produce commercial ideas and expose new talent on a regional or local level. Presenters get five minutes and 20 slides to share their ideas. Some presentations, such as "Cupcakes and Dating," are fluffy, but others have practical and commercial applications. Bre Pettis and O'Reilly Media's Brady Forrest started Ignite in 2006, and more than 200 events are now held nationally and internationally. And guess what? Many of them are free.
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