Forbes / Entrepreneurs


DEC 29, 2015 @ 12:16 AM 20,150 VIEWS

5 ‘Can’t Miss’ Conferences For Entrepreneurs In 2016


Cheryl Conner
CONTRIBUTOR
I write about small businesses doing innovative PR
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Where will entrepreneurs spend their networking and educational time in 2016? Today I’m following up on one of my most read columns of 2015 with an update to my list of recommended events in 2016 for entrepreneurs. I have selected these picks with an eye toward high networking and learning benefits for entrepreneurs who are looking for connections to top mentors, new funding and innovative ideas for PR.

This is an unofficial list I compiled on the basis of quality of attendees, avoidance of hard sell platforms, social responsibility missions, and positive results for those who’ve attended. I attended all but one of these events, the NextGen Summit, in 2015. As disclosure, I serve in an unpaid role as a faculty member for one of the events I’ve listed, CEO Space.

On that note, my choices are as follows:

1) CEO Space. Now in its 28th year, this event is billed as a business growth accelerator conference and touts itself as the world’s central catalyst for Cooperative Capitalism, which I have written about in this column before. It addresses entrepreneurs of all ages, including teens at its five annual week-long events in Lake Las Vegas, in Henderson, Nev.

Benefits of CEO Space include sessions on legal, tax, strategic planning sequencing, marketing, branding, social media and sales. The organization includes high-power advocates for crowdfund investing (several advisors are former members of the SEC) and provides high-level mentorship for participating members. The event is known for assisting entrepreneurs with traditional funding as well, with several billion dollars in successful funding occurring at the event itself over the years.

All faculty members are vetted for professionalism and accountability through a due diligence process led by Avent-Guard.com. In 2016, the program will include “strategy intensive” events between forums. Says attendee R. Perez, who attended the December 2015 event, “This is a must if you want to take your business to the next level.”

Says founder Berny Dohrmann: “When business owners get together to work in cooperation, business accelerates and it’s like nothing else in the world.”

2) Secret Knock. This event began in the living room of its founder, Greg Reid. Now several years old, the bi-annual event is known forward-thinking presentations from high-profile presenters who’ve accomplished significant business outcomes and enacted wide-scale social change.

Key to these events are TED-style presentations from individuals who are pioneers of change and advocates of collaboration. For example, Dr. Frank Shankwitz, Founder of Make A Wish; Brian Smith, creator of UGG Australia and Ron Klein, inventor of the credit card mag strip have been recent presenters at these events where attendees learn directly from sources (as opposed to teachers, authors or professional speakers). Other recent instructors include

  • Gene Landrum (creator, Chuck E Cheese)
  • Sharon Lechter (NY Times best selling authority on financial literacy)
  • Sir Bruno Serato (CNN, Hero of the year)
  • Undercover Boss – Dina Dwyer (Mr.Rooter, Glass Dr, etc)
  • Judi Sheppard Missett (Founder, Jazzersize)
  • Wayne Nelson (Little River Band)
  • Dr. Gladys McGarey (Founder of Holistic Medicine)
  • Gary Goldstein (Producer, Pretty Woman)

A part of this event is that space is limited and it is exclusive. Attendees must apply and be pre-screened and approved to attend in advance. “It’s the greatest event you (cannot) attend,” Reid says. His motto: “Success guaranteed, or your old life back.”

3) The Hero Club. I first learned of this program from my friend Randy Garn, a serial entrepreneur who serves as the president of the Hero Global Initiative of Hero Partners, the organization founded by legendary Ascend Communications Founder and CEO Rob Ryan as a joint venture between his Entrepreneur America company and the Hyde Norton Group. Members of this application-only series of events receive mentoring and presentations from executives including Ryan, Hero Partners Co-CEO Tyler Norton, and others. Participants associate between sessions through online activities and periodic events at the newly acquired Teton Springs facility in Victor, Idaho (near Jackson, Wyoming). For more information on these events readers can contact Garn and team at info@heropartners.com.

4) The NextGen Summit is a new event that premiered in 2015 for millennial entrepreneurs. With the help of corporate partners that included Uber and Verizon, NextGen Summit’s inaugural event in 2015 helped startups raise more than $1 million, produced dozens of partnerships, and addressed an estimated 17,000 in-person and live-stream attendees. Run by a team “that can’t legally drink” the program is headed by Justin Lafazan, age 19, and his partner Dylan Gambardella, also 19. In 2016,the program promises Deans of Admissions to top-25 colleges, TIME 25 Most Influential inventors and activists, NYT best-selling authors and Forbes 30 Under 30 politicos.

“Our 2016 New York event is gearing up to be the best one yet,” says Lafazan, with a Shark Tank panel comprising over $100 MM of investable assets, a globally-acclaimed speaker panel including founders of billion dollar brands, and more. For more information, readers can visit NGSummit.com.

5) Digital Footprint – For entrepreneurs with e-commerce sites, the 3-day Digital Footprint events teach strategies for building web traffic and business. Digital Footprint is the creation of Ken and Kerri Courtright, co-founders of 3-time Inc. 500/5000 company IncomeStore/Today’s Growth Consultant, which buys, builds and sells “google authority” sites that help organizations to propel their online business growth. At Digital Footprint, attendees learn the strategies this team has used to build several hundred revenue generating sites that are now serving up business content to more than 100 million people worldwide and leave the event with a personalized step-by-step guide on their own iPad Mini to grow their own sites in a similar way when they return home.

Have I picked the right events for 2016? If you’ve attended any of these five, I would like to hear your experiences. I also welcome your additional suggestions below.