There’s nothing that makes you feel more like a professional badass than boarding a plane for an international conference. Even if you’re not the one doing the actual conferencing (statistically likely), chances are good that you’ll learn something new, meet amazing people, and indulge in some incredibly awkward post-event networking near the canapes.
There’s a conference for pretty much everything these days, across every conceivable professional field (we even found an interstellar starship symposium). But which ones will give you the most conferencing bang for your buck? We’ve rounded up the most exciting and prestigious global conferences below. Time to start begging your boss for some PD budget…
Here are the nine best conferences to up your career game.
Anyone who’s watched HBO’s Silicon Valley will already be familiar with TechCrunch Disrupt. It’s probably the biggest tech-based entrepreneurial convention in the world, and home to the famous Start-up Battlefield competition, in which hundreds of very smart people try to ‘make the world a better place’ through streamlined data systems and integrated visual networks. TechCrunch runs annually in September or October (dates vary each year). Home base is usually San Francisco, but the conference recently jumped the pond to launch Disrupt Berlin.
South By Southwest
South by Southwest is professional conference meets Big Day Out—an eclectic gumbo of interactive media, film screenings, professional conferences and seminars that draws anyone remotely connected to music, film and entertainment. The festival started back in 1987 and has been steadily growing ever since. These days, every March, tens of thousands of people converge on Austin, Texas, turning the town into one giant multi-media party (South by Southwest chipped in $325 million to Austin’s economy in 2016—this thing is massive).
If B2B marketing gets you hot under the collar, Ignite is pretty much your Woodstock. It’s the world’s biggest B2B marketing conference, but any marketer worth their analytics can find some value here. Expect the full enchilada at Ignite: breakout workshops, keynote panels, seminars, interactive sessions, and around 1500 of Europe and the UK’s best marketing professionals, all swapping business cards and discussing the merits of Facebook advertising vs Google ad spend. Sexy stuff.
Forbes Women’s Summit
There are plenty of good conferences for professional women (Catalyst and Global Women X both have excellent reputations), and Forbes Women’s Summit is known as one of the best. Every year Forbes gathers some of the most successful, inspiring and interesting women on the planet, hosting a series of panel talks, TED-style talks and discussions. Tickets go like hot cakes, so it’s worth booking way in advance. This year’s line-up included America’s first Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, NASA’s Chief Flight Director, Holly Ridings, and the CEO of Vimeo, Anjali Sud.
Summit LA bills itself as an “the world’s pre-eminent ideas festival” rather than a hardcore professional conference. It pulls together cultural leaders, CEOs, change-makers, artists and A$AP Rocky (yep, really) for three-days of thought-provoking discussion in downtown Los Angeles. There’s tonnes of great panels to see, but the Summit also includes heaps of activities that have nothing to do with your LinkedIn profile: wellness classes, art exhibitions, food festivals. You name it.
Speaking of wellness, did you know there’s an entire professional conference dedicated to the relationship between work and human connection? It’s called Wisdom 2.0 and it runs every October in New York City. Imagine the world’s biggest mindfulness conference, but with a practical, career-minded undertone. Less profits, more purpose. Speakers include everyone from the co-founder of Twitter (somewhat ironically) to world-leading mindfulness teachers. If you want to kick things up a notch (and make your co-workers green with envy) Wisdom 2.0 also runs a retreat—the Wisdom 2.0 Retreat—in Hawaii. All of the wisdom, plus fruity cocktails.
This is a little misleading. There’s no one TED Conference. What started as a tiny workshop in Monterey, California, has grown to around 3600 TEDx events all over the world, from Tehran to Reykjavik. There’s probably one happening right now. Attendance to all TED events is application only, so you’ll have to apply beforehand. There’s plenty to choose from: TEDWomen, TEDUncharted, TEDSummit… it goes on and on. As with anything TED-related, you can expect thought-provoking discussions, eye-opening debates, and speeches that will make you cry.
Sydney & Auckland
With over 17 years of creative festival experience under their belt, the folks behind Semi-Permanent know how to put on a good show. Their three-day schedule is jam packed with talks, panels, workshops, exhibitions, parties, screenings and more, and every year they manage to piece together an epic selection of speakers. The theme for 2019 was ‘Truth’, with panel discussions focusing on how to wield it, those who blur it, and whether it’s a necessary ingredient on the path to success. Speakers included artist CJ Hendry, Emmy-award-winning filmmaker Raoul Marks, Deus Ex Machina founder Carby Tuckwell, Sonos Global Creative Director Michael Leon and pro surfer Keala Kennelly. They also hold masterclasses and workshops on everything from artificial intelligence to learning the hands-on creative processes of Wes Anderson’s designer Erica Dorn. There’s quite literally something for everyone, no matter what field you’re in.
Los Angeles & New York
One of the biggest and best beauty festivals in the world, Beautycon is a must for make-up lovers, make-up artists, and fashion enthusiasts. Last year’s event boasted over 30,000 festival goers, over 150 brand experiences, and over 10,000 pounds of glitter (you can never have enough). Get up close and personal with brands such as Mac, Revlon and NYX, and meet influencers and big names in the industry such as Patrick Star and Nikita Dragun. Held around August each year, previous speakers include Kim Kardashian and Beatycon CEO. And if that’s not enough, just think of the goodies you’ll be able to go home with. Hello free samples.
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Image Credit: Spencer Dahl via Unsplash