Getting outside the four walls of your organization is one of the best things you can do to get perspective, reframe problems, and reignite your enthusiasm and urgency about your team mandates. If you can take the time to immerse yourself in a high-quality leadership conference, all the better.
There are a number of recurring events worth considering, including MIT Sloan CIO Symposium (this May, in Boston) The Economist’s Innovation Summit held this March in Chicago (this year focused on the future company), the fast-growing Collision tech conference happening in Toronto in June (featuring 100-plus marquee speakers from around the globe), Gartner’s CIO Leadership Forum hosted in Phoenix in late February, and Leadercast Live in May (focused on positive disruption and offering optional virtual attendance).
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Looking for conference options equally powerful but a little different? We gathered seven more confabs worth exploring 2020:
When: Feb. 9-14, 2020
Where: Stanford, CA
Why you should attend: If you can manage a short sabbatical away from the office, this intensive program is like an MBA without the MBA for busy executives. The curriculum is built around three themes: business acumen, innovation, and leadership. The program’s unique structure, with two on-campus modules and one on-the-job module in between, will enable IT leaders to apply what they learn to their real-life business and leadership challenges and put new leadership skills into practice. It’s not cheap, but the program also includes one-on-one coaching that continues after classes are done and a 360-degree reassessment to keep participants engaged and accountable after they return to their day-to-day roles.
When: March 11-12, 2020
Where: New York, NY
Why you should attend: Business moves fast; IT needs to move faster. The Business Agility Conference will bring together seasoned business agility practitioners and thought leaders to share their insights. Forget about your tried-and-true conference tracks approach. This one’s different, with speakers sharing their stories in 20 minutes or less, with lightning talks scheduled throughout each day. Complementing those quick talks from the likes of Zappos’ head of people, facilitators will also be available to guide participants through deep-dive discussions with their peers about their challenges and triumphs. If you can’t make the New York event, keep an eye out for others to be held elsewhere in the U.S. and beyond.
When: May 17-20, 2020
Where: Orlando, FL
Why you should attend: Aimed at self-defined trailblazers and rule-breakers, this four-day event draws more 4,000 participants, from small business owners to Fortune 500 executives, with a focus on leadership issues. While it is intended for a general business audience, it is sharply focused on leadership issues. This year’s speakers include FOCUS Brands COO Kat Cole, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, Boston Philharmonic founder Benjamin Zander, and TV host Mike Rowe.
When: May 28-31, 2020
Where: International waters (departing from Port Everglades, FL)
Why you should attend: “One doesn’t discover new lands,” wrote French author André Gide, “without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore.” If you really want to unmoor yourself, try the aptly named Summit at Sea. If you can snag an invite, you’ll be among some 1,700 hundred leaders who board this ship for three days of dynamic experiences. There will be more than 40 talks and workshops; 30-plus performances; and a variety of wellness, art, and culinary experiences to boot. Past attendees include former U.S. president Bill Clinton, TV writer and producer Shonda Rhimes, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Virgin founder Richard Branson, and entertainer John Legend.
When: July 14-16, 2020
Where: San Francisco, CA
Why you should attend: Hung Pham was a frustrated and disengaged engineering employee when he founded Culture Summit in 2014. As a result, this conference is focused on creating cultural change not just from the top down, but from the bottom up. This conference is more practical than pie-in-the-sky, with interactive learning experiences and workshops that arm participants with data, frameworks, and strategies to help them drive change in their own organizations. Keynoters include Twitter VP and “The Joy of Work” author Bruce Daisley, Vaynermedia’s Chief Heart Officer Claude Silver, and Patagonia HR director Shannon Ellis.
When: Sept. 15-17, 2020
Where: Toronto, Canada
Why you should attend: While not a leadership conference per se, Trend Hunter’s flagship three-day event is rated by 97 percent of attendees as the best innovation conference they’ve experienced. Billed as a “highly choreographed immersion” into the future, Day One kicks off with trend safaris, Day Two is focused on patterns of opportunity and key drivers of new trends ahead, and Day Three takes participants from insight to action with workshops that enable them to prototype five to ten ideas to bring back to their teams. The summit wraps up with a Future Party that includes demos of some of the latest tech releases yet to hit the market.
When: October 20-21, 2020
Where: New York, NY
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Why you should attend: This two-day event will include speakers who are CEOs, entrepreneurs, innovators, thinkers, artists, and sportspeople, all covering this year’s theme: The Incredible Now. “In times of change and volatility where business confidence is waning, there is a resounding call for leadership,” conference organizers write. “Today’s business leaders must govern their organizations to instill best practices in leadership, talent, decision-making, and performance to drive their businesses forward.”
This option also offers significant networking opportunities, with its audience of 1,500 senior executives from around the world. Speakers here have significant star power: This year’s lineup includes film director James Cameron on performance, General Colin Powell on leadership, former Goldman Sachs’ chairman Lloyd Blankfein on strategy, Sir Ken Robinson on innovation, London Business School’s Linda Gratton on talent, Harvard’s Rebecca Henderson on sustainability, Morgan Stanley managing director Carla Harris on management, and Cirque de Soleil CEO Daniel Lamarre on creativity.
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