2016 is here, and if you’re an entrepreneur interested in more professional success, 2016 should include a fresh start and a new personal commitment to improving yourself and creating new and stronger professional relationships.

Improve Your Business

For many entrepreneurs, freelancers, and managers, the first practical steps towards self-improvement may be unclear, but luckily you aren’t the only entrepreneur or professional seeking to learn and network with others like yourself. Local, regional, and national small business events provide excellent opportunities to accomplish at least two objectives: learning and improving upon your current methods for operating your business and providing excellent in-person, face-to-face networking opportunities that can help you form valuable new partnerships and opportunities to grow and expand your business. Whether you’re attending your first small local conference or you’re diving in head first and attending a large, nationally-recognized industry trade show, it’s important to know the differences between the types of events, choosing between a local or national event, and how to get the most out of the experience.

Conferences, Seminars, Trade Shows, And Expos: What Are The Differences?

If you are attending your first business event as an entrepreneur, freelancer, or manager, it is important to know the differences between the various types of business events, as a conference can be different from a trade show, and both may be different from an expo. Before you begin planning your calendar for 2016 and investing in travel and other expenses, review what each event is designed to accomplish and whether or not they fit with your goals and expectations of what you want to take away from the event.


A business conference is a formal event designed specifically to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and ideas on a specific topic or range of topics. Business conferences are perfect for learning more about an issue vital to your industry and both learning from and questioning experts.


A business seminar is similar in some ways to a conference, but on a much smaller and less formal scale. Instead of hosting a roundtable of industry experts, a seminar is usually hosted by either one or a small group of experts and is more similar in format to a class. A workshop is very similar to a seminar, but with a stronger emphasis on “hands-on” activities and learning.

Trade Shows

A trade show is an industry event in which companies both big and small, new and established can showcase their new products and services to retailers and other types of buyers, the press and, due to the open nature of the format, their competitors. Trade shows are usually closed to the public and aside from keynote addresses by industry leaders or innovators, rarely provide formal opportunities for learning like conferences and seminars. A hybrid of the two formats, often referred to as an expo, also exist as well.

What Events Should You Attend?

Which type of events you should attend relies heavily on how much time and money you have at your disposal and the goals that you are trying to accomplish for yourself and your business. If you have the time and financial means to attend a variety of industry events, it is optimal to attend as many events as possible, as conferences and trade shows both big and small, local and national provide different opportunities and resources. However, if your time and money are limited, it is important to study the calendar of events available and make strategic decisions that will provide the greatest benefits.

In our next blog post, we will discuss the pros and cons of attending local, regional, and national events and some of the ways you can maximize your experience and avoid many “rookie” mistakes that can cost you time, money, and opportunities.