Attending conferences is a great way to network with other small-business owners, learn about trends in your field, discover new technologies and techniques, and increase your business. And let's face it: They're also fun.
If you're wondering which ones to attend (two of which are coming up in September) and what to do while you're there, here are five suggestions for small-business conferences you'll want to check out.
America's Small Business Summit
This conference, sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, brings together hundreds of business owners, entrepreneurs, thought leaders and legislators in order to enhance the small-business climate in this country. Attendees get the opportunity to go to workshops, lectures and social events. Highlights include a B2B procurement matchmaking session, which offers business owners the chance to network with the procurement officers at government agencies.
Small Business Expo
The Small Business Expo is a B2B conference, networking event and tradeshow. Attendees can browse the exhibition hall to discover and learn more about the hundreds of products and services that can help you expand and enhance your business. You can also attend workshops and seminars, learn about new technologies, and network with other small-business owners. It's free to attend, and it's definitely worth a visit if you're near one of the cities where it's held each year.
Inc. Women's Summit
This day-long event, sponsored by Inc. Magazine and geared toward women business owners, is a chance to have lively conversations, hear provocative speakers and get new ideas for your business. Participate in a morning workout, attend a networking lunch and breakfast, listen to speakers and brainstorm with like-minded, creative women about what your next moves will be.
America's SBDC Annual Conference
Sponsored by the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), this annual conference brings together small-business owners, managers, administrative personnel, trainers and consultants for four days of workshops, seminars, luncheons and roundtable sessions intended to help business owners get energized about their endeavors. It also hosts an exhibition hall filled with products and services to help you do business more effectively. Come hear leaders in your field, talk about ideas and share a cocktail or two at the social events. This conference is also a great opportunity to learn about the other offerings and support services provided by the SBDC.
National Veterans Small Business Conference
This conference for veterans who are also small-business owners is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It's the VA's largest national annual conference, and it offers an excellent opportunity for veterans to network with each other and with companies looking to expand their supplier base. Attendees can select from hundreds of seminars and workshops as well as go to meetings with procurement officers, giving you a chance to sell yourself and your business to procurers' decision makers. Many of the small-business owners who attend the conference have reported a high return on investment, so it's worth attending if you're a veteran looking to expand your reach.
If you attend one of these conferences, remember that you may be able to deduct what you spend on registration, travel, supplies and food as business expenses, so it's a good idea to save all your receipts and consult your accountant about the potential tax benefits.
And while you're there, be sure to take advantage of all the available workshops, seminars, luncheons, meetings, roundtables and cocktail hours. Conferences are mainly about networking, and you'll be surprised how many contacts you can make in just a day or two. Take notes, stay alert, collect business cards and follow up with any critical contacts you make. You never know how those contacts will help you—and your business—down the road.
Vivian Wagner is a freelance writer in New Concord, Ohio.
Read more articles on leadership.