by Natalie Stezovsky
Conferences strike fear in the hearts of millions. No, it’s not the fear of public speaking or the highly questionable cheese log that makes people wary – it’s the cost of attendance that makes them run for cover.
The high costs of travel, combined with the sticker shock of a conference fee, can make even the most confident leader hesitant. Those who are still building their businesses may not feel they can justify attending a conference in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago and sinking their limited funds in hotel and parking charges.
However, it’s important to understand that spending money on your growth, as individuals and as a company, is a worthwhile investment. You can meet top business and thought leaders, network, and even talk to potential investors at conferences.
Here are a few must-attend startup conferences located within the Midwest that are more wallet-friendly for those located in “the flyover zone.”
This three-day event in Austin, Tex. (home to that other can’t-miss festival, SXSW) seeks to bring together professionals who, as the conference organizers say, are passionate about combating the “complex challenges facing civil society, the economy, and the natural world.” In addition to being a vital event for those working toward sustainability, the conference enables startups and entrepreneurs to network and showcase their work through demos. The biggest draw for this conference, however, may be Austin itself, which is consistently ranked as one of the best cities for urban living, shopping, and eating.
This three-day conference in the heart of Iowa’s Creative Corridor, hosted by Brand Driven Digital, is great for both small and large marketers looking to maintain their edge in the social media sphere. Hailed by Social Fresh as one of their “Top 10 Social Media Conferences of the Year,” Social Brand Forum 2013 is an excellent opportunity to gain insight from thought leaders in digital marketing and social media. The conference will feature 10 speakers and host discussions on topics like branding, social marketing, and lead generation.
This two-day event in Sandusky, Ohio – just an hour from Cleveland and two hours from Detroit – is perfect for small business owners and their families. Held entirely at Sandusky’s Kalahari Resort and Convention Center, attendees have access to a full water park, spa, and three different restaurants. The conference will feature over 48 workshops and six keynote speakers, most of whom have created their own small businesses in addition to running or consulting for nationally recognized brands like Nike, Microsoft, and Holiday Inn.
Formerly Thinc Iowa, this two-day conference will feature six presentations for entrepreneurs and startups, in addition to at least four “parties,” which left past attendees raving about the networking opportunities. The conference is just one of three located throughout the Midwest, so if you can’t make Big Des Moines because of location or timing, make sure to check out Big Omaha or Big Kansas City.
The second installment of The Startup Conference is hosted by Nibletz – the voice of startups “everywhere else” – and is located in the heart of the Midwest: Cincinnati. With exclusive hotel and airline discounts, the two-day event is especially affordable for startups that are conscious of their bottom line. Attendees will have the chance to network, pitch to investors, and attend several panels on important topics like crowdfunding and accounting; they will also have access to a special panel for female-led startups.
Depending on your needs as an entrepreneur or business owner, one of these conferences is sure to fit the bill. Sure, the price tag for a conference in a metropolis may be intimidating, but there’s absolutely nothing to be scared of with these conferences. They’re full of Midwestern warmth and are gentle on the wallet, allowing you to take in the experience without returning home dreading your next credit card bill.
Take some time to invest in yourself – and your employees. Investing in company growth will grow your business in ways you never thought possible.
Natalie Stezovsky is Vice President for Influence & Co., a company that helps experts build their businesses through thought leadership and content marketing. She’s directly involved in developing agency partnerships; when she’s not doing that, she’s usually at the barn with her horses. Connect with her on Twitter @nstezovsky or LinkedIn.