How a Conference Can Make You a Bad*** Business Owner

shannonw
Shannon Willoby Director of Content Marketing, Scott's Marketplace

Posted on February 13th 2014

How a Conference Can Make You a Bad*** Business Owner

Attend a small business conference and become a badassWait, before you go getting all offended, I'm definitely not saying you're not already a badass business owner.

I mean, you started a company from scratch with nothing but a dream and the ambition to make it a reality, and that's pretty badass by anyone's standards.

But as you've learned, creating (and maintaining) a successful business takes constant effort, hard work, and determination, as well as the desire to continually grow.

Find out how attending a small business conference can advance both your skill set and your business in some pretty badass ways you may have never even thought of before.

Who's ready to put their learning pants on?

Conferences are all centered around one crucial thing: drink tickets.

Okay, not really. While drink tickets (and the fun parties most conferences host) are a definite bonus of attending, they’re not the real reason they’re held.

The real reason is for the classes each small business conference offers that either teach you something new or advance your skills in various areas.

For example:

  • Attend a marketing conference and you might learn effective new tactics that'll help you get more customers and more profit.
  • Attend a blogging conference and you might learn how to elevate your content and make your blog posts better than ever before.

Starting to see the value? Most sessions are also videotaped so you can watch them again online later if you missed anything due to consuming too much free champagne at the expo hall. (In case my boss is reading, I am definitely not speaking from experience.)

Bonus tip 1: Conferences all post their sessions or “tracks” online to encourage signups, so carefully view these and read descriptions thoroughly before signing up to ensure the information presented will align with your skill level. (Is the conference too basic for you? Too advanced? Or just right?)
Bonus tip 2: Don’t be afraid to leave a session even halfway through in favor of attending another one. You’ve paid for this – and you need to get your money’s worth.

Networking so easy even the socially awkward can do it

Even the socially awkward can network easily at a small business conference.Shy? No problem. Conferences make networking easy and comfortable for everyone. (Drink tickets help too.)

From sessions and break time to the networking parties held specifically for this purpose, conferences give you the perfect chance to make valuable business connections.

When I attended BlogHer 2013, a blogging conference held in Chicago last year, I was pretty nervous (like hide-in-my-hotel-room nervous) since I was going alone. But I found almost every attendee I came into contact with to be extremely friendly and all about networking.

I would barely sit down before the people around me were handing me business cards and asking what I do – which was great because it made networking almost effortless. (And effortless networking is very helpful for a shy, some might say socially awkward, person.) And I went home with more business cards than I’d even thought possible.

You have to remember, everyone attending these conferences is going for the same reasons: to meet people whom they can learn from, help grow their business with, and/or share similar struggles with. Conferences just make it easy for you.

Bonus tip: While you will definitely make many connections by simply attending sessions, don’t skip the optional networking parties. You’ll have a greater chance of connecting with the founders of each conference and the people who are teaching the sessions. This can possibly lead you to a mentor, or at the very least, some awesome new friends whom you can share ideas with and get advice from.

2014 Small Business Conferences

Sold on the benefits of attending a conference? Check out this list of some of the larger ones being held this year:

Small Business Development Center: September 9-12, 2014 in Grapevine, Texas. This event will showcase over 100 workshops, training sessions, and meetings designed to help small business turn into big business.

Social Media Marketing World: March 26-28, 2014 in San Diego, California. This conference is designed for intermediate to advanced social media users. If you go, you’ll rub shoulders with the biggest names and brands in social media, soak up countless tips and new strategies, and enjoy extensive networking opportunities.

Small Business Summit: June 11-14, 2014 in Washington, D.C. This event will allow you to access the experience and perspective of hundreds of small business owners facing the same challenges as you, and get the tools, strategies, and best practices to compete successfully in today’s rapidly changing business environment.

Small Business Expo: Hosted in seven of the largest small business cities, this event brings together thousands of business owners and decision-makers to network, attend business critical workshops, build new business relationships, and shop from vendors that provide unique products and services to help grow their business. This event is FREE! Click the link for dates.

BlogHer: July 24-26, 2014 in San Jose, California. Learn blogging fundamentals for newbies, find out how to take your blog to the next level for those who are more advanced, score tips, tricks, and upcoming trends in blogging and social media, and attend great networking parties where you can connect with other bloggers and meet sponsors.

ICON14: April 23-25, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. This is the eighth annual conference for small business, hosted by Infusionsoft. Experience three exciting days packed with big ideas, powerful strategies, and actionable insights to grow your business. More than 3,000 small business owners and entrepreneurs from around the world gather here to network, learn and share.

The StartUp Conference 2014: May 14, 2014 in Redwood City, California. Join 2,000 entrepreneurs for one of the biggest events of the year and learn how to find the right co-founder, get the press to cover your startup, learn how to pitch investors, and get tips on how to launch your product. Past speakers include Phil Libin, Naval Ravikant, Guy Kawasaki, Aaron Patzer, Drew Houston, Jeff Clavier, and Robert Scoble.

But aren't conferences pricey?

Yes, some conferences can be pretty expensive, especially if travel is involved, but you're a badass business owner, right?

You already know that if you're going to treat yo' self to something great this year, you should make it something that can not only help you grow individually but professionally too.

And when you think of it this way, a conference can be a very wise investment.

Still, there are ways you can try to make things a little more affordable for you. Check them out below:

  • Always do a Google search for the name of the conference you'd like to attend + "coupon code" and/or "discount code," because you can often get an exclusive offer this way that you wouldn't have had access to otherwise.
  • As conferences get closer, ticket prices may be cut by up to 50% to entice last-minute attendees to sign up. Of course, this isn't a guarantee, but can save you quite a bit when it works.
  • Be sure to follow the conferences you want to attend on Twitter and other social media outlets, as well as any sponsors of each conference. They will often run contests for free tickets and you just might be able to score one!
  • If you're traveling, why not ask around to find out if any other small business owners you know would want to share a hotel room. Conference forums are also a great place to find a roomie, but if it's a complete stranger, do your own intel to make sure they're not a weirdo. (I only give suggestions and can't be held responsible for any creepy roomies.)
  • Is the conference close enough to drive to but far away enough to cost you an arm and a leg in gas? See if you can find someone to carpool with to at least cut that price in half, if not more.

See? Attending a small business conference can help you to make stronger connections, become more confident, and fill your head with all kinds of badass business knowledge that'll help you kick ass this year and beyond.

Will you treat yourself to a small business conference this year?

shannonw

Shannon Willoby

Director of Content Marketing, Scott's Marketplace

Shannon Willoby is the director of content marketing for Scott's Marketplace, and has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. (Or crayon.) When she's not blogging, you can find her daydreaming that she's Khaleesi from Game of Thrones.

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