Conferences, summits, gatherings, “un” conferences. . . it seems that every week, yet another new, “must-do” conference comes along, demanding your time, attention and money. As a fellow entrepreneur, I feel your pain.
The conference circuit can truly drain you, not to mention your bank account. Flights, hotels and conference fees aren’t cheap. And if you’re not careful, the conference circuit can become one endless meet-and-greet, without any meaningful networking or creative inspiration.
That said, the right conference can be an invaluable means for networking beyond your immediate field and connecting with innovators in other fields whose work parallels your own. “Conferences are especially helpful for entrepreneurs who otherwise risk getting stuck in their own echo chamber,” says Ros Shelley at Venue Search London, a leading UK-based conference venue provider.
“We help event planners host hundreds of conferences each year, and I’ve seen my fair share of good and bad events," Shelley continues. "Entrepreneurs just need to be smart about picking the right conferences for their unique professional needs.”
So, which conferences are actually worth your time and money? From the United States to Australia, as you plan your travels for 2016, keep these ten conferences on your radar:
1. China Entrepreneurs Forum
When: January 15-17, 2016
Where: Yabuli Ski Resort, China
Why: Bringing together 500-plus of China’s most influential entrepreneurs from finance, IT, manufacturing, real estate and other major industries, this three-day conference promotes sustainable development through entrepreneurship and strategic growth partnerships. The China Entrepreneurs Forum partners with CIF.CO International Group and the Chinese-U.S. Business Leaders Roundtable.
When: March 20-23, 2016
Where: Sun Valley, Idaho
Why: Dent brings together CEOS, executive directors, entrepreneurs, scientists and political leaders who are driven to “become more effective leaders and dent the universe.” The conference explores the “magic and science of visionary leadership and ground-breaking success." Conference highlights include intimate nightly dinners (capped at 25 people) that are designed to connect motivated, talented leaders and build meaningful relationships.
3. The Entrepreneurs’ Un-Convention
When: March 5, 2016
Where: Sydney, Australia
Why: As Australia and New Zealand’s largest conference for entrepreneurs, the “un-convention” aims to connect like-minded entrepreneurs in order to build business momentum and expand networks. The Entrepreneurs’ Un-Convention holds one-day meetings throughout the year in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and Auckland.
4. MADE: The Entrepreneur Festival
When: TBD 2016; October 22, 2015
Where: Sheffield, United Kingdom
Why: As the UK’s premiere event for entrepreneurship, the MADE Festival features a range of skills-development master classes dedicated to improving brand awareness, understanding customers, developing new products, increasing sales and maximizing one's impact in developing a small business. The festival includes success stories and “fringe events” on branding, intellectual property, social media, sourcing financing and more.
5. Podcast Movement
When: July 6-8, 2016
Where: Chicago, Illinois
Why: Have you ever thought about starting your own podcast but are not sure how to get it off the ground? Podcast Movement is for you! The 2015 conference drew over 1,000 past, present and future podcasters to discuss tips on content creation, marketing, monetization and techniques for how to use podcasts as a free platform to build your own entrepreneurial brand.
When: TBD 2016; October 22-24, 2015
Where: Camden, Maine
Why: PopTech brings together 600 diverse entrepreneurs and innovators to share insights and work toward lasting change. Conference initiatives incubate high-impact collaborative ideas aimed at solving the world’s toughest problems by getting leaders outside of their silos and working in complementary white spaces. The annual PopTech conference is among the highest-rated in the world aimed at disruptive change.
7. South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi)
When: March 11-15, 2016
Where: Austin, Texas
An incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity, SXSW Interactive is the must-do conference for every entrepreneur in the tech space. Showcasing an unbeatable lineup of cutting-edge websites, digital tech, social media and video games, the conference brings together the greatest minds in emerging technology. It’s a veritable who’s who of the Bay Area, Los Angeles and New York City.
8. TechCrunch: Disrupt New York
When: May 9-11, 2016
Where: New York, NY
Why: TechCrunch Disrupt bills itself as the leading authority for debuting revolutionary startups for the tech industry’s key innovators, and with good reason: By gathering together major players in the innovation space, including entrepreneurs, investors, hackers and tech fans, TechCrunch Disrupt's Startup Competition and Startup Alley are must-do launching platforms for startups seeking maximum publicity and industry exposure without hefty PR agency fees.
9. World Domination Summit (WDS)
When: August 11-15, 2016
Where: Portland, Oregon
Why: The World Domination Summit is an annual gathering dedicated to “making a remarkable life in a conventional world” and features a series of mini-academies on a wide array of topics, ranging from language labs and book publication to overcoming rejection and fueling passion projects. 2016’s WDS will introduce a new series of mini-events held throughout Portland, including art shows, dinners and even a 5K fun run.
10. Women Entrepreneurs Festival We6
When: April 13-14, 2016;
Where: New York City, NY
Why: Now in its sixth year, the Women Entrepreneurs Festival brings together powerful women eaders and innovators from across the globe for two intense days of networking and discussions about how to be a successful female entrepreneur. The past five festivals have seen the genesis of new business partnerships, companies and mentoring arrangements.
The bottom line
Conferences are only as good as your follow-up. Have a system in place for recording and remembering the people you meet. I like entrepreneur and NerdWallet co-founder Jake Gibson’s recommendation for keeping a Google spreadsheet. Gibson advises recording personal details about people you meet, including what you discuss. Make sure to follow up with everyone you meet within a week of the event, even if it’s just a short "great to meet you" note on LinkedIn. Carry the momentum forward!