The Ultimate Guide To Conferences For Entrepreneurs 2020
Guide to Attending a Conference for Entrepreneurs
Table of Contents
Why should you attend a conference for entrepreneurs?
How to maximize the benefits of going to conferences in 2020
The 12 best entrepreneurship conferences in 2020
Top eCommerce conferences of 2020 infographic
If you’re still on the fence about attending entrepreneurship conferences in 2020, this guide can shed some light on the importance of these events. Also listed here are a handful of conferences happening this year. Those of you in the eCommerce and retail industries should find these particularly interesting.
Ready? Let’s get to it.
Why should you go to conferences?
There are plenty of reasons entrepreneurs don’t go to conferences. First, there’s the expense. Conference tickets, airfare, and hotel accommodations can add up to thousands of dollars.
There’s also the issue of time. Work gets stalled, deadlines need to be pushed back, and preparing for the conference itself can eat up precious hours. Some entrepreneurs don’t go because they’re just not sure if attending a conference will do their business any good.
However, the benefits of attending a conference for entrepreneurs can really outweigh the resources you pour into it. Business conferences give you limitless opportunities to:
- Boost your brand’s visibility
- Form relationships with potential business partners and open up new opportunities for growth
- Gain valuable insight and hear insider tips from the top players in your industry
- Stay up-to-date on the latest ideas, trends, tactics, tools, and processes that you can use to improve your business
- Learn new strategies and sharpen your skills through in-person training (in a way that you can’t from listening to a podcast or watching a video)
- See what your competitors and other companies are up to
- See how other businesses are addressing problems similar to yours
- Connect with and build relationships with speakers, conference organizers, and vendors
- Connect with service providers who can address your business pain points
- Learn from and be inspired by the success of other brands
- Learn from the failures of other brands
- Create conference-specific content for your website and social media accounts
- Talk shop in an environment that inspires networking (in a way that you can’t do over email or phone)
Conferences open countless doors. Putting yourself out there means that potential clients and partners will recognize you when they come across your brand or get an email from you. This paves the way for partnerships and other business opportunities.
Get the most out of that conference ticket
Let’s say you’ve decided to add a conference fund to your 2020 budget. Now it’s time to make sure that you get the most value out of your conference ticket. Make it worth your while by following these tips:
1. Choose well.
There are hundreds of entrepreneurship conferences taking place every year. So how do you know which ones are worth attending?
If you’re a business owner, choose conferences that address your pain points. There are conferences dedicated to customer acquisition strategies and ones for marketing small businesses. Make a list of your top business pain points and look for conferences or trade shows that address those specific problems.
If you’re an employee, choose conferences that are most suited to your role. There are various digital marketing conferences for eCommerce businesses, for instance.
You may also want to attend a conference based on who is speaking or exhibiting at the event. Grab the opportunity to meet your virtual mentors in person and get actionable advice that will help you grow your business.
2. Have an itinerary.
Before you leave, go over the conference agenda. Mark the talks, workshops, networking sessions, and other activities that are most relevant to your business. Create an itinerary that includes the events you want to participate in, how much time you’ll be spending at each session, and who you want to seek out and talk to.
You won’t be able to attend all the activities, but make sure you’re at the events that are most beneficial to you — and yes, this includes pre-conference meet-ups and post-conference parties!
Speaking of meet-ups, make sure you reach out to people who you want to connect with before the conference. Send them a short email or even a private message on social media or on LinkedIn.
Your list of targets should include not just conference speakers, but also exhibitors, conference organizers, and even your business rivals. If you keep an open mind, you can actually learn from and even build business relationships with your competitors.
How do you network at conferences? Take someone out to dinner or ask people to grab coffee with you in between talks. Sharing a meal gives you a good opportunity to know people on a more personal level.
If you’re going to the conference with a group, break away every now and then. Explore the exhibition floor on your own and check out the companies you’re interested in. (Bonus perk: you’ll collect a lot of swag!)
4. Follow up.
The schmoozing doesn’t stop once the conference wraps up.
When you get home, email the people you met. A simple “it was nice to meet you” should suffice for most of your conference contacts. You can also send them a piece of content that shows them what your business is all about.
For top-priority contacts, send a slightly longer email asking if they can get on a call with you. A short phone call will help establish the relationship and open the door for a possible collaboration.
If people don’t respond, follow up after a few weeks. If you don’t get a response after that, let it go or risk being seen as a nuisance.
If you don’t get a lot of responses to your emails or calls, that’s okay. Even just one great connection can do wonders for your business. Nurture that connection and it may turn into a business relationship that can lead to new partnerships, opportunities, and sales.
12 of the best conferences for entrepreneurs in the eCommerce industry
Get your brand name recognized, network with peers, and connect with potential customers at these entrepreneur conferences in 2020.
1. Retail Global
When: September 2 to 4, 2020
Where: Austin, TX
Why you should go: If you sell online, don’t skip Retail Global. Now in its fifth year, Retail Global is the top independent conference for online retail professionals and online marketplaces. Whether you’re a one-man operation or work at a multinational giant, this event offers tons of networking and learning opportunities.
At Retail Global, discussions are focused on actionable insights and best practices. Previous speakers at Retail Global include executives from Amazon, PayPal, Magento, Alibaba, Google, and Microsoft.
2. IRCE (Internet Retail Conference + Exhibition) @ RetailX
When: June 9 to 11, 2020
Where: McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
Why you should go: Every year, companies like FedEx, Target, Amazon, and Dell come to IRCE @ Retail X. The event draws more than 15,000 attendees who gather to hear from over 40 speakers and hobnob with more than 1,200 exhibitors.
Details for this year’s IRCE are still emerging but we do know that the keynote speakers include StockX co-founder Josh Luber and International Council of Shopping Centers President and CEO Tom McGee. If you’re interested in the merging of online and offline retail, don’t sit this one out.
3. Prosper Show
When: March 23 to 25, 2020
Where: Westgate Hotel, Las Vegas, NV
Why you should go: Prosper Show is a must-attend for both new and seasoned Amazon entrepreneurs. Now in its fifth year, Prosper is one of the biggest annual conferences for top-tier Amazon sellers, experts, and service providers. More than 1,000 attendees flock to the Prosper Show yearly to network with over 100 exhibitors and hear 40+ speakers dole out Amazon-specific selling and marketing information.
This year, attendees will have the opportunity to learn from executives from Google, Marketplace Pulse, Seller Labs [link to landing page?], Buy Box Experts, and more. If you’re an Amazon seller with room for only one conference in your calendar this year, head to the Prosper Show.
4. CRMC (Customer Relationship Management Conference)
When: June 3 to 5, 2020
Where: Hilton Chicago, 720 South Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL
Why you should go: 700+ marketing leaders, 200+ top retail brands, 20+ big brand speakers, and 18+ case studies. If your goal is to learn applicable strategies and real-world solutions, this small-ish 3-day conference should be more your speed. CRMC brings together a diverse range of speakers, service providers, and marketing experts to talk about things like attribution modeling, cause marketing, and DTC partnerships.
5. NRF NXT (formerly shop.org)
When: July 14 to 16, 2020
Where: Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point, CA
Why you should go: NRF NXT is bringing its not-to-be-missed digital retail event to the Southern California coast this summer. If massive crowds aren’t your thing, then you’ll be perfectly at ease in this setting, where the agenda is peppered with small-group workshops and member-curated sessions.
NRF NXT gives you numerous opportunities for in-depth discussions with industry experts and like-minded individuals. As a result, you’ll walk away with unique insights into how to build your eCommerce business and double (or triple) its growth.
6. eTail East
When: August 10 to 13, 2020
Where: The Sheraton, Boston, MA
Why you should go: Since 1999, eTail East has been bringing the sharpest minds in eCommerce together to discuss some of the biggest issues and latest trends in online retail. This year’s lineup includes world-class speakers from Coca-Cola, Land’s End, ThriftBooks, Floyd, and DVF.
The agenda for the 4-day conference is filled with roundtables, discussion groups, and networking activities geared towards addressing your biggest challenges. If you want to get practical advice and expert tips that will help you better understand your market, don’t miss this conference.
When: September 30 to October 2, 2020
Where: The Westin Copley Place, Boston, MA
Why you should go: IRDC brings together an eclectic mix of retail industry entrepreneurs, investors, marketers, developers, and thought leaders. If you’re a retailer in need of first-rate information on visual merchandising, strategic planning, and marketing principles, IRDC will be worth your while. Previous speakers include executives from Amazon, Baskin-Robbins, Marriott International, and Panera Bread.
8. eCommerce Operations Summit
When: April 14 to 16, 2020
Where: Marriott Orlando World Center, Orlando, FL
Why you should go: If your focus is logistics, the eCommerce Operations Summit is your can’t-miss event. This 3-day conference is dedicated to the operations end of eCommerce. You’ll learn strategies and innovations essential to omnichannel operations, supply chain optimization, payment processing, and more.
This year’s exclusive keynote will be delivered by Willis Weirich, Senior Vice President for Supply Chain and Operations for Neiman Marcus. The speaker roster for 2020 also includes experts from Microsoft, TUMI, Nike, Best Buy, and Lowes Foods.
When: March 22 to 25, 2020
Where: Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, NV
Why you should go: After growing to more than 8,000 attendees in less than 3 years, Shoptalk holds the distinction of being the fastest-growing retail event in history. Since 2015, this world-class conference has been bringing together established brands and retailers with investors, tech startups, direct-to-consumer companies, and more. At this year’s Shoptalk, more than 600 brands will be exhibiting and 200+ speakers — from companies like Pinterest, Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba, and HSBC — will be sharing insights about the future of retail.
Fun fact: Shoptalk is advocating gender parity in the retail industry by featuring an all-women speaker lineup. Read more about that brave step here. According to Shoptalk, the conference will have 50/50 female and male speakers every year from 2021 onwards.
When: July 28 and 29, 2020
Where: New York Hilton Midtown, New York, NY
Why you should go: Some of the most well-known names in the retail industry come together at CommerceNext to discuss the future of retail marketing. At this 2-day conference, top-notch speakers discuss the marketing strategies behind some of the previous year’s best campaigns and share their experience working with world-class brands.
The CommerceNext attendee list is limited to about 1,200 to ensure a 2:1 retailer-to-sponsor ratio. This allows for more in-depth conversations and more intimate peer-to-peer networking events.
11. West Coast eCommerce Summit
When: January 28 and 29, 2020
Where: The Westin Long Beach, Los Angeles, CA
Why you should go: The West Coast eCommerce Summit delivers speakers from a broad cross-section of eCommerce companies. These 20+ speakers are innovators and industry leaders responsible for developing and refining their companies’ customer acquisition strategies.
With just over 300 attendees, the 2-day conference is another smaller event where you get the chance to have meaningful conversations with business leaders, get answers to your most pressing eCommerce questions, and build connections with your peers. If you’re new to eCommerce conferences, this is a good place to start.
12. NRF (National Retail Federation’s Retail Big Show)
When: January 11 to 14, 2020
Where: Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, NY
Why you should go: NRF is the largest retail conference in the world. This year, more than 40,000 people showed up to the supersized 4-day event. Attendees interacted with more than 800 exhibitors and participated in over 100 exhibitor-led sessions. They also heard from 400+ speakers chosen from the most established retail and eCommerce brands.
NRF 2020’s keynote speakers included Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian, Amazon Pay Vice President Patrick Gauthier, and Goop Founder and CEO Gwyneth Paltrow. Bummed you missed this one? The 2020 show may be over, but you have plenty of time to reserve your ticket for next year!
Before you go
Before you pack your bags and get on that flight, make sure you’ve ticked off these to-dos:
- Have plenty of business cards printed.
- Prepare your elevator pitch.
- Practice your conversation openers.
- Set your out-of-office email reply.
- Pack power banks and power strips.
- Pack comfortable shoes for walking around the exhibition hall.
- Familiarize yourself with the conference venue.
- Print out your conference itinerary or save it in a notes app on your phone.
- Make sure you have a copy of the site map.
- Pack a nice outfit for the after-parties.
- Make sure you know the conference hashtag.
Attending a conference for entrepreneurs is one of the best things you can do to supercharge your business’s growth. But whether your trip ends up a success or a dud depends as much on your preparation and networking efforts as much as it does on the caliber of the speakers and the number of exhibitors.
Wanna meet the 20four7VA team in person this year? Visit our Events page to find out where we’re going in 2020. If you’re heading to the same conferences, please email us to meet up!