Trade shows and conferences can be great catalysts for networking, marketing and getting new ideas for your own business. But since there are so many out there, I have asked the terrific CarolRoth.com contributor network of business owners, experts, advisors and entrepreneurs to list their own favorite business-related trade shows or conferences. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice the same trade show or conference listed, but I kept the submissions separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. A Personal Finance Must-Attend
I've been running a personal finance website for over five years now. I've been to a number of industry shows that relate to my niche. By FAR, the best one is the Financial Blogger Conference, also known as FINCON.
At other conferences, you hear some folks speak and then have company wares pushed on you at booths. With FINCON, you actually get to meet and network with real people, both beginners and experts, in the niche. It's the one conference where I know I'll take something away from it.
2. Best Conference on the Planet
CEO Space is based on "cooperative capitalism" where everyone helps everyone else to achieve their dreams. It meets 5x/yr. I've made JV & referral partners & lifelong friends, gotten many clients, helped many people, & have watched many people reach their dreams through connections made at CEO Space. It serves people in all industries and professions, and also helps people in transition looking for great projects to join. It's networking on steroids.
3. Direct Response Forum is Best
The DRF is the best business conference that I have been associated with because the members really are a close-knit group. The organization has been meeting since 1989 and it really feels like a family. They are a non-profit and their focus is serving their members over the entire course of the year with a job board, a panel that will answer any question, quarterly original research, and a clipping service. If you process CNP payments, it's just silly if you don't belong to the DRF.
4. Feeling Stuck, Go to Hawaii
The self storage business was getting tough in 2008. People were worried, so I decided the best thing to do was to get a small group of industry leaders together in Hawaii to kick back, regroup and talk things out. StorageMart, PhoneSmart, Extra Space, US Storage, Automatit, Minico, CenterShift, and others made it happen. We called it an un-conference because it was more networking and idea sharing than anything else. It was exactly what we needed. Go do an un-conference somewhere spectacular.
5. Financial Geeks Unite!
The Financial Blogger Conference was a much needed event that is now working on its 3rd year. With almost 500 personal finance bloggers in attendance, it has also got the notice of big sponsors such as Chase, Ally Bank, USAA, and Fidelity.
6. Ideas Worth Catching
Technology + Education + Design = TED Conferences. TED's slogan: Ideas Worth Spreading.
View just one TED Talk to rattle perspectives and wake-up potential. Attend just ONE TED conference and you'll feel like a freshly lit sparkler - ideas sparking inside and out.
The connections made at TED events naturally root deeply within goals and dreams. Each person I've met has a sincere desire to learn, laugh and love life fully.
7. Close Contact & Cut the Hype
Travel Media Showcase is one of the top business conferences because it cuts through the clutter of having thousands of people swarm your booth and instead, is invite only. This gives Travel PR folks a great opportunity to build real relationships with travel bloggers and other media by scheduling one-on-one meetings, as well as mixers and Fam Trips vs. having to worry about how many swag items or how fancy the booth is.
8. Big Bang-Little $$$
The International Esthetics, Cosmetics and Spa Conference offers 3 locations each year; New York City, Las Vegas and Ft. Lauderdale, combining the best in product training, innovative non-manufacturer education, business workshops and networking. The variety of courses, speakers, topics and presentations is truly amazing. If you are in the spa, wellness, beauty, or salon industry, this is one for you!
9. The Art of Marketing
The Art of Marketing conference will be held in Toronto June 5th this year. Great event, great speakers and great networking. I believe that they will be doing a sister event in Vancouver in the fall, but the dates don't seem to be on the calendar yet.
10. ONE Best Business Conference
Join forces. Succeed Together. WBENC's 14th Annual Business Fair represents the year's best opportunity for your business to connect with more than 3,000 WBENC-Certified WBEs, government agencies and WBENC Corporate Fortune 500 enterprises that want to do business with your business.
Hone Your Skills. Leverage Expertise. Build Capacity - Discover how to reach the next level at workshops taught by knowledgeable experts from an array of industries and disciplines.
Julie Auslander of WBENC
11. Star Power
This year's National Association of Professional Women (NAPW) conference hosted by Star Jones was jam packed with star power. Super inspirational and pioneering business women, Arianna Huffington and Martha Stewart, were the key note speakers. Add a networking breakfast, a high quality canvas tote, a gourmet wasabi couscous salad for lunch, all for $99 and you have the best networking investment!
12. THE Must-Attend Conference?
Usually I say it depends on your field and industry, but events like SXSW Interactive (in Austin) can be quite valuable for most every type of business person.
No, not because of the content (although much of it is great), but because of the serendipitous happenings, the energy, the ideas that are shared, the diversity of the attendee pool and the people you'll meet.
I have attended for 4 years and always come away more engaged and energized, and better connected, than before I attended.
13. FinCon - Blogger Conference
FinCon is a conference for financial bloggers (read: nerds). It's also awesome. FinCon is a peer conference with sessions on the latest trends in blogging, social media, video, podcasts, journalism, marketing, and more. The organizers hit a home run with this conference with over 200 attendees in year 1; 400+ in year 2. Year 3 promises to be even better and I can't wait.
14. Essential for Promo Marketers
Effective face-to-face networking, upbeat education sessions and the industry's hottest products make the PPAI Expo a worthwhile event year after year. The new product expo provided HALO with many ideas for marketing campaigns and, coupled with industry staples, the inspiration received at this year's Expo gave us the energy and knowledge necessary to entice new and existing customers alike. We look forward to this annual event, as it is an essential component of our marketing strategy.
15. Go to the Source
As a speaker at the MPI event, I enjoyed meeting many event planners who could, in the future, recommend me as a speaker. MPI stands for Meeting Professionals International. I have never been to a better conference, although going to Utah in the middle of July wasn't my cup a tea! I learned a lot, attended many workshops, and they had a picnic to end all picnics in a park with a picnic basket and all you think of when you dream of an ideal picnic.
16. Search Matters for Everyone
I've attended Search Engine Strategies Chicago two years in a row and have learned a lot about online marketing and digital strategy. It's a great way to meet other online marketers and network with industry experts. In today's digital world, online marketing and social media are relevant for all businesses. Attending SES is a great way to stay up to date on the latest marketing developments and give your business an advantage over competitors who aren't paying attention to online marketing.
17. E-Commerce is the Future
I never miss the exhibit hall at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition. 600+ exhibitors (representing over 90% of the vendors servicing the e-commerce market) tout tech platforms, online marketing services, merchandising tools, customer care and fulfillment partners, and technology add-ons to improve user experience. In its 9th year, this event has grown quickly. Given the growing importance of e-commerce in all industries today, any business leader could find value here.
18. Small Business. Hot Issues.
If you care about small business issues, attend the National Small Business Association’s biennial Small Business Congress in Washington. It’s a chance to get updated on legislation (some of it unbelievable). More importantly, you meet business owners from around the country and vote on the top small business priorities. Then, NSBA gets our agenda in front of lawmakers. This year, President Obama made a surprise appearance during our White House briefing. This conference is a must.
Do you know great business-related trade show or conference that wasn’t included? If you do, please share it below. And as always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!