Looking to pick the brain of thought leaders in your industry? Want to meet other professionals like yourself? Ready to kickstart your professional growth? It might be time to attend some new conferences.
Many of us have a tried and true conference we look forward to every year. While it’s great to have a favorite conference, especially when you’ve built relationships with others who attend each year, there are a vast number of other fantastic events to consider. Let’s take a look at some of the best conferences for your professional growth, as well as best practices to follow for before and after a conference.
Choose Your Conferences
There are a vast number of conferences offered throughout the year and across the world. While no list can be comprehensive, we’ve compiled many of our favorites mixed in with ones you may have never heard of. Some of these conferences may seem expensive, others may feel too far away, but it’s important to remember that even if you don’t physically attend a conference, many freely offer downloadable materials afterward and put speaker videos on YouTube which can still prove beneficial. Without further ado, here is a variety of large and small conferences organized by category:
Conferences for Technology Professionals
- AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas and Google Cloud in San Francisco are niche conferences dedicated to cloud professionals.
- Web Summit in Portugal is billed by Forbes as “the best technology conference on the planet.”
- Disrupt is a San-Francisco conference put on by TechCrunch and geared toward those interested in the startup world and the future of technology.
- Collision takes place in May in Toronto and is distinguished as the fastest-growing tech conference in North America.
- Consensus is a springtime conference in New York City, with over 250 speakers diving into blockchain and cryptocurrency.
- DeveloperWeek is the world’s largest conference for developers, taking place in San Francisco each winter.
Conferences for Female Professionals
- Women’s Summit is put on by Forbes in June and promises inspiring talks with female luminaries from different industries.
- The Conference for Women takes place throughout the year in locations across the country, making it convenient and affordable for everyone.
- The Women in Technology Summit from WITI takes place in San Jose in June and is in its 25th
- SHE EVOLVED is a yearly East Coast conference especially useful for women early in their careers.
Conferences for Young Professionals
- #MILLSUMMIT is an exciting professional development conference for Millennials, and it takes place this summer in Delaware.
- One Young World is a summit providing an international location and diverse environment for young aspiring leaders focused on social impact.
- Catalyst is a San Francisco-based conference put on by Girls in Tech, providing one of the most welcoming experiences for young women especially.
- Next Gen Summit runs during June in New York City, and is touted as the #1 event for young entrepreneurs.
Conferences Focused on Diversity
- The National Minority Supplier Development Council’s yearly conference is one of our favorites of the entire year. We’ve previously won their Supplier of the Year award, and love the work they do for the diversity community.
- The 2019 Inclusion & Innovation Leadership Summit is a standout diversity conference in L.A. each winter.
- Derby’s Diversity & Business Summit is great for the leaders of minority owned organizations.
- The Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) holds a conference in Nashville in August with a strong focus on networking and growth.
- The Hispanic Business Conference in Orlando in May is rewarding for those in the southeastern U.S. and features a former shark from Shark Tank.
Conferences for the Staffing Industry
- SIA’s Executive Forum is dedicated to leadership in the industry and is another of our favorites, featuring speakers such as ATR’s very own President and CEO!
- SIA also holds a summit in September for any professional in the workforce solutions field.
- ERE San Diego is a conference for recruiters and covers topics such as candidate ghosting, campus recruitment strategies, and much more.
- OutBound takes place in Atlanta and is a respected sales conference that can be great for account managers.
- TechServe is a can’t-miss conference for staffing professionals specializing in IT or Engineering staffing.
- StaffingTec is a Nashville conference that explores how technology impacts staffing companies and roles.
Prep for Your Conference
One of the very first things to do once you set your sights on attending a conference is to register early. Not only is it often cheaper to do so, but the most popular conferences get booked in advance. Read up on the speakers who are presenting and leading sessions. Visit their LinkedIn pages and review any industry articles they authored or publications that spotlight them so you know their background.
Similarly, review topics for keynote addresses and breakout sessions. You’ll often have a choice on what to attend as large conferences will be running several sessions simultaneously. Research these topics to gain a foundation of what’s happening in that area. This allows you to focus on the key points of a presentation rather than the background, which helps you get the most out of a session. Most importantly, this practice gives you a chance to think of questions before the conference, which means you’re in a better position to speak up and pick the speaker’s brain.
For most conferences, or unless otherwise directed, dress like you would for a job interview. While some attendees will be dressed casually, you never want to stick out as being underdressed as you never know who you will meet. To that end, bring many business cards and practice your elevator pitch. At any moment, you should be able to briefly introduce yourself to anyone, describing what your role is, who you work for, and, importantly, what you hope to achieve by attending the conference. Your intentions should be clear to others as you attend the breakfasts, sessions, and afterparties while networking and soaking in as much information as possible.
After Your Conference
It’s easy to come back from a conference, throw your folder of materials in a desk drawer, and get too busy catching up on work to ever look back. Unfortunately, that leaves a lot of the benefits of a conference on the table. Make a plan to capitalize on the lessons you learned at any conference. Place reminders in your calendar to make sure you spend time reviewing documents and digesting all the presentations you experienced. Take time to bookmark suggested articles for further reading from speakers, emailing them to yourself if necessary, and order any associated books while the titles are still fresh in your mind.
Finally, reach out to those you met at the conference. They are superb networking connections, but that benefit is lost if you don’t interact with them afterward. Send anyone who gave you a business card a “nice to have met you” email. Add them on LinkedIn, and do the same for the presenters. While it may be intimidating, don’t be afraid to message a speaker to thank them for providing their insight. It will make a good impression, and could lead to a valuable connection down the road.
What are some of your favorite conferences to attend? Let us know in the comments below!