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By Roy Rasmussen Updated on December 17, 2021

The 9 Best Small Business Expos You Should Attend This Year

The best small business expos let you learn about the latest industry trends, network with others and promote your company. Here are 9 worth considering:

  • World Business Forum
  • New York Business Expo & Conference
  • Startup Grind Global Conference
  • Small Business Expo
  • International Manufacturing Technology Show
  • Women’s Business Enterprise National Council
  • National Retail Federation Annual Convention & Expo
  • Consumer Electronics Show
  • South by Southwest

Why Attend a Small Business Expo or Conference?

Attending a small business conference or expo can benefit your business in multiple ways:

  • You can network with other business owners and other companies’ representatives to attract business-to-business (B2B) clients or form promotional partnerships
  • You can promote your products and services to other businesses in your industry or other industries
  • You can learn about trends affecting your industry or other industries

Here are some of the top small business events you can attend for each of these purposes.

Best Small Business Networking Events

If you’re looking to build your network of contacts, you can make high-level connections by attending some of today’s most eminent business conferences. These include:

  • The World Business Forum
  • The New York Business Expo & Conference
  • The Startup Grind Global Conference

Attendees of a business expo network with each other.

1. World Business Forum

The World Business Forum, held each year in New York and other cities throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia, brings together top business thought leaders from throughout the globe. The event is organized by the World of Business Ideas, a firm that produces management media content to help top executives and their companies improve their management performance. The 2020 World Business Forum will bring together 2,500-plus executives representing more than 500 companies from more than 40 countries.

The forum’s keynote speakers come from the ranks of leading business, political and celebrity figures. For instance, topping the 2020 speaking lineup is former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell. He will be joined by figures such as “Terminator” and “Titanic” film director James Cameron, former Goldman Sachs Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein and bestselling author Sir Ken Robinson. The speaking agenda covers timely topics such as preparing for the future of work, unlocking consumer engagement, taking leadership during turbulent times and the strategic challenges of business transformation.

The 2020 World Business Forum in New York will be held on Oct. 20 and 21. WOBI also features sister events at other locations throughout the year. For instance, on June 10 and 11, the Miami Beach Convention Center will host a World Business Forum event with more than 1,500 senior executives and a slate of speakers headed by organizational performance expert Simon Sinek.

2. New York Business Expo & Conference

The New York Business Expo & Conference is the largest business networking event in the Northeast. The trade show and conference, focused on small and midsize businesses, brings together chief executives from all industries to network with their peers and receive cutting-edge business educational tips.

Speakers for the Oct. 27 expo in New York will include CEO Jeff Braverman. Speakers will cover topics such as how to build the ultimate inbound marketing website, how to sell just about anything and how to overcome feeling overwhelmed and out of control.

3. IBM Think

IBM’s annual Think conference brings together the top leaders in business and technology. Attendees can see demonstrations of the latest innovations in cutting-edge technologies such as the cloud, big data and artificial intelligence. They also get to hear presentations by the innovators behind these technologies and learn about how they can be harnessed for business purposes.

Attendees can choose between passes that focus on presentations emphasizing business applications and general passes that let enthusiasts dive deeper into the tech waters. The conference also provides opportunities for hands-on lab training with new technologies and certifications.

Think 2020 will be held from May 4-7 in San Francisco. Speakers range from gamers and artists to CEOs and lawyers. This year’s speakers include IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst and international law and human-rights specialist Amal Clooney. Topics will include automation, blockchain, the cloud, big data, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, the internet of things and the impact of technology on human resources and supply chains. Conference organizers encourage networking and have designed the event to make it easier to connect with other participants.

Best Small Business Marketing Events

Business expos and conventions can also be a great opportunity to showcase your products and services to potential buyers from other companies. Some of the best events for marketing your business include:

  • The Small Business Expo
  • The International Manufacturing Technology Show
  • The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council national conference and business fair

4. Small Business Expo

As a unique national B2B trade show, the Small Business Expo offers an unparalleled opportunity to promote your company. You can reach more than 1.2 million business owners with decision-making power, providing an opportunity to generate leads, make sales and grow your revenue.

In 2020, the Small Business Expo is touring 20 major markets, including Dallas on Feb. 27, Miami on March 19, Orlando on March 25, Boston on April 7 and Philadelphia on April 29. Additional events will continue throughout U.S. over the year, wrapping up in Houston on Dec. 8. Industries advertising at the Expo encompass everything from accounting to health care to web hosting.

5. International Manufacturing Technology Show

Organized by the Association for Manufacturing Technology, the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) is the premier manufacturing show in North America. The 2020 show in Chicago from Sept. 14-19 will feature more than 2,400 exhibitors displaying more than 15,000 new machine tools, components, controls, computers, software, processes and systems.

Manufacturers can promote their wares at 1,900 booths in 9 pavilions. Industries represented include abrasive machining, fabricating and lasers, machine components and tooling systems. In addition to booth displays, the show features speakers discussing hot topics such as additive manufacturing and digital manufacturing. Attendees can learn firsthand about cutting-edge and emerging technologies.

6. Women’s Business Enterprise National Council

The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is the largest certifier of women-owned companies in the U.S., providing validation that a company is at least 51% owned by women. The group’s national conference has become the most influential business fair for women-owned businesses in the U.S.

The WBENC provides an opportunity for exhibitors to get in front of over 4,700 small business owners, Fortune 1,000 companies and government agencies interested in doing business with women-owned enterprises. Attendees and exhibitors can meet with supplier diversity and procurement executives from WBENC-certified businesses and major corporations. This year’s WBENC’s national conference and business fair will be held in Atlanta from June 23-25.

A panel of women speak at a conference.

Best Trade Shows for Small Business

Trade shows can be a fantastic way to learn about the latest trends and tips in your industry or industries in your companies target market. Some of the most informative trade shows include:

  • The National Retail Federation Annual Convention & Expo
  • The Consumer Electronics Show
  • South by Southwest

7. National Retail Federation’s Annual Convention and Expo: Retail’s BIG Show

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is the world’s largest trade association representing the retail industry, which includes department stores, discount warehouses, catalog sellers, Internet retailers, restaurant and grocery chains and multi-level marketing companies. Its annual BIG Show brings together retailers from all over the world to discuss current trends and the future of the industry.

The 2020 Retail’s BIG Show was held in New York earlier in January. The 2021 Big Show will be held in New York City on January 17-19, 2021.

8. Consumer Electronics Show

Organized by the Consumer Technology Association, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has showcased cutting-edge technology for the last 50 years. The event brings together the world’s business leaders and innovators to see the latest technology and products in the consumer electronics industry.

Recent CES events have drawn over 175,000 attendees to see more than 4,500 exhibitors and hear 1,000-plus speakers. Popular topics include 5G wireless technology, the Internet of things, robotics, machine intelligence and virtual reality. Held in Las Vegas, the next CES will be held Jan. 6-9 in 2021.

9. South by Southwest

Originally organized as a music festival, South by Southwest (SXSW) has grown into a popular international festival bringing together the music, film and interactive entertainment industries with a conference featuring today’s technology leaders.

The 2020 SXSW is scheduled for March 13-22 in Austin, Texas. Keynote speakers include immersive artist Gabo Arora, film director Erin Lee Carr, musician Diplo and former Nintendo President Reggie Fils-Aimé. Topics of focus include how humans connect through entertainment technology, how to build products people love and the future of creative agencies. Trade-show exhibits will feature products from industries ranging from technology for the music and food industries to robotics and virtual reality.

Roy is a respected, published author on topics including business coaching, small business management and business automation as well as an expert business plan writer and strategist.
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