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The top 21 leadership conferences to attend in 2020

Keep career development on top of your priority list. Attend a conference or two to network and to consider what's next. Here's a curated list of conferences happening in 2020 that are worth a second look.

Leadership in an IT setting is a complex concept that involves a wide range of skills. A good leader must be able to communicate effectively, set a strong example, and manage the many moving parts of a dynamic team in response to shifting projects and priorities.

The bad news is that few people are born with all the requisite skills. The good news is that many of these skills can be learned.

Unfortunately, too many companies rely on a sink-or-swim model to develop leaders. When someone is successful at a given position, they may be called on to lead a team of people in similar positions based on that success. Either they intuit rapidly from the new experience or receive some expert mentoring or they risk failing as a leader.

Fortunately, there are other ways to develop leaders within a company. Online courses, books, and other self-study resources are widely available. Many people learn better in a more interactive setting, however, which is where in-person training comes in handy. Local universities and colleges often offer leadership courses that might be relevant. Private training companies such as Fred Pryor Seminars or the American Management Association offer public and corporate training programs, including leadership training.

And then you have conferences. Chances are excellent that on any given day, a number of conferences are being held on a wide range of topics in locations around the globe. To help you find events that include a leadership component relevant to IT workers, we have curated the following list, presented in chronological order. Some of these are IT-specific events, while others are aimed at a more general business audience but could be a productive learning experience for new leaders.

Something for everyone

We have included events from around the world. We have also included some events that are scheduled for the end of 2019, most of which will take place again in late 2020, though details may not be available yet.

Some of these events have a narrower focus for specific audiences, such as those intended for programmers or CIOs. It is worth noting that we found an increasing number of leadership events intended for women and have included several of those in our list.

Our list is not comprehensive in the least. Dozens of others are available, so we did our best to select conferences that might provide the most effective experience for the broadest IT audience. We also included events of different lengths, from a single day to a series that spans months, and selected programs at a variety of price points to meet different budgets. Note that many events have videos from previous years; in some cases, the collection of videos can be quite extensive. These can be extremely helpful in previewing the content to see if it resonates with you.

We have also tried to help make your selection process easier. Based on social media input, content about current and past versions of the programs, and our own informed yet unscientific observations, we have assigned gold stars to 10 of these events to bring them to your attention as the most likely candidates for attendance.

Some of the conferences are explicitly about leadership. In many cases, however, the leadership component is contained in agenda tracks or specific sessions. Keep in mind that you can learn leadership skills in sessions that address other topics, such as project management or team building presentations. Conferences also give you an opportunity to meet others who are in positions that are similar to yours so you can exchange ideas and experiences. The contacts you make at such events can develop into a broad support network that you can turn to in the future, long after the conference has ended.

Save the date! HPE Discover 2020, Las Vegas, June 23 to 25. Get access to hundreds of technical and business sessions to help accelerate your business.

Forbes 30 under 30 Summit

Twitter: @ForbesUnder30

Website: https://live.forbes.com/under30

Date: Oct. 27-30, 2019

Location: Detroit

Cost: $995

Discounts: Early registration, exhibits only

This annual event gives attendees a chance to hear from some of the most innovative and successful business leaders. Interactive sessions such as the Startup Hub and programming across 20 different industry content tracks are likely to inspire new and experienced leaders. The event is more than a conference, including a music festival and food festival. There is also an executive program available for a higher registration fee.

DevOps Enterprise Summit

Twitter: @DOES_USA

Website: https://events.itrevolution.com/us/

Date: Oct. 28-30, 2019

Location: Las Vegas

Cost: $1,975

Discounts: Early registration, group discount

This event continues to be a favorite among our sources. It has several sessions devoted to leadership and team issues, but it’s also an excellent place to connect with others in your industry. It boasts 65 sessions and more than 100 speakers, and over 1,700 attendees are expected to be there. If you want to pencil in the dates for next year’s event, it will be Sept. 21-23, 2020 (also in Las Vegas).

Web Directions Culture 2019

Twitter: @webdirections

Website: https://webdirections.org/culture/

Date: Oct. 30, 2019

Location: Sydney, Australia

Cost: $895

Discounts: Early registration

Gold star: Yes

Web Directions Culture is an event designed to help you get the most out of your team. The one-day program is highly interactive and includes workshops with experts in culture creation. It is followed by the two-day Web Directions Summit.

Women Advance IT

Twitter: @NebraskaITS

Website: https://its.unl.edu/conference/

Date: Nov. 5-6, 2019

Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Cost: $225

Discounts: Early registration, student discount

Presented by the University of Nebraska Office of Information Technology Services, this two-day program focuses on developing future leaders and bringing more women into IT. Leadership is one of the four tracks for the concurrent sessions.

Grace Hopper Celebration India

Twitter:@AnitaBorg_India

Website: https://ghcindia.anitab.org/

Date: Nov. 6-8, 2019

Location: Bangalore, India

Cost: $250

Discounts: Student discount, one-day pass

Billed as “Asia’s largest gathering of women technologists,” this event honors the legacy of one of the first women of information technology, Grace Hopper. The program includes nine separate tracks, including one titled “Technology for Social Good.” This conference is held annually, so you can plan on attending in late 2020 if you can’t make it to this year’s event.

Women with Wings Leadership Seminar

Twitter: @WingsSeminars

Website: https://wings-seminars.com/women-with-wings-leadership-seminar/

Date: Jan. 9-12, 2020

Location: Portland,Oregon

Cost: $695

Discounts: Group discounts

This is a small group event that is also available on other dates and at other locations. The emphasis is on building leadership vision, awareness, confidence, and compassion for others. The seminar format is highly interactive and builds support within the group of participants. It is not specifically for IT workers but rather for women in all sorts of leadership positions, from management to community service.

World-Changing Women's Summit

Twitter: @ConsciousCoMag

Website: https://consciouscompanymedia.com/womens-summit/

Date: Jan. 29-31, 2020

Location: Sonoma, California

Cost: $1,927

Discounts: Early registration, second participant, commuter

This small group program covers a range of leadership issues, from managing work-life stress to working more effectively across generations. Participants will learn best practices for becoming an authentic leader in the workplace.

Executive Leadership Development: Analysis to Action

Twitter: @stanfordgsb

Website: www.gsb.stanford.edu/exec-ed/programs/executive-leadership-development

Date: Feb. 9-14, 2020

Location: Stanford, California

Cost: $28,500

This intensive program for executives is built along the lines of the Stanford MBA program. Leadership is one of three key themes, along with business acumen and innovation. Unlike the other events listed here, this is a three-part program that spreads over a series of months. There are weeklong on-campus sessions in February and April (the full list of dates is at the event website), with an online module between those dates. The fee includes accommodations and meals while on campus.

Gartner CIO Leadership Forum 

Twitter: @Gartner_inc

Website: www.gartner.com/en/conferences/na/cio-us-west

Date: Feb. 23-25, 2020

Location: Phoenix

Cost: $3,650

Discounts: Early registration until Dec. 13, 2019, public-sector discount, alumni discount

This three-day event is intended exclusively for CIOs, and an application is required to qualify for registration. The focus is on leadership skills and creating a powerful network among other leaders. The program includes more than 60 sessions and is attended by more than 800 participants. An East Coast edition of the event will be held March 30-April 1, 2020, in Hollywood, Florida.

Power Up Women’s Leadership Summit

Twitter: @FIUBusiness

Website: https://powerupsummit.fiu.edu/

Date: March 6, 2020

Location: Miami

Cost: $200

Discounts: Early registration

Held by Florida International University College of Business, this one-day program is intended to help empower women to build their leadership skills and make new connections with other leaders.

Business Agility Conference

Twitter: @BizAgilityConf

Website: https://businessagility.institute/attend/business-agility-conference-11-12-march-2020-new-york-city/

Date: March 11-12, 2020

Location: New York

Cost: $1,800

Discounts: Early registration, team discount

The fast-paced world of business today requires leaders that can respond quickly to changing conditions. While this is not intended specifically for IT leaders, the format is designed to promote leadership skills. It relies on a single large group setting with sessions led by “executives, thought leaders, and practitioners.” The organization holds similar events at other locations around the world.

Dev.next

Twitter: @devdotnext

Website: www.devdotnext.com/

Date: March 24-27, 2020

Location: Broomfield, Colorado

Cost: $799

Discounts: Early registration; group discount

If you’re looking for an IT-focused event, look no further. Leadership is one of the main topics, along with languages, cloud, agility, and DevOps. The agenda has eight tracks each day. The organizers expect to have more than 600 attendees at the event, which includes more than 120 sessions.

Women's Leadership Conference

Twitter: @baypathconf

Website: www.baypathconference.com/

Date: March 27, 2020

Location: Springfield, Massachusetts

Cost: Not available yet

Discounts: Not available yet

The Women’s Leadership Conference has been held for the past 24 years, serving the Springfield-Hartford region of central Massachusetts and Connecticut. It is an excellent example of a regional event that can have a lot to offer participants from other parts of the country (or the world). Breakout sessions are offered twice, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, so you get the opportunity to attend the two that interest you the most.

Simmons Leadership Conference

Twitter: @SimmonsLeads

Website: http://leadership.simmons.edu/boston/

Date: April 16, 2020

Location: Boston

Cost: $749

The 41st annual Simmons Leadership Conference is the leading one-day leadership program for women. The goal is to motivate, educate, and empower women in leadership roles, whether they are just starting their careers or have years of experience. The program includes featured presentations and skill-building workshops.

Leadercast Live

Twitter: @Leadercast

Website: https://live.leadercast.com/

Date: May 7, 2020

Location: Duluth, Georgia

Cost: $129

Discounts: Student, group discounts

In addition to being a live event held in the Atlanta area, the entire program will be simulcast at locations throughout the U.S. and Canada so that you can get the experience without extensive travel. There are even provisions for you to host your own private or public simulcast. For the in-person event, an Executive Experience is available for a higher registration fee.

Strategy Summit for Data Management

Twitter: @TDWI

Website: https://tdwi.org/events/strategy-summits/chicago/home.aspx

Date: May 11-12, 2020

Location: Chicago

Cost: $2,060

Discounts: Early registration, team discount, young professionals, student and faculty, nonprofit

If you have a particular interest in data management and analytics technologies, you might want to consider this event. The agenda is designed to help leaders apply best practices and avoid common pitfalls. While the program does not have much content labeled as “leadership,” the focus is on practical information that leaders can use to implement, monitor, and manage their projects.

EntreLeadership Summit 2020

Twitter: @EntreLeadership

Website: https://www.entreleadership.com/summit

Date: May 17-20, 2020

Location: Orlando, Florida

Cost: Not available yet

Discounts: Not available yet

This four-day event is expected to have more than 4,000 participants, from small business owners to managers and executives. While it is intended for a general business audience, it is sharply focused on leadership issues.

WeAreDevelopers World Congress 2020

Twitter: @WeAreDevs

Website: https://events.wearedevelopers.com/

Date: May 28-29, 2020

Location: Berlin

Cost: Not available yet

Discounts: Early registration

This is a massive event with more than 10,000 participants expected to attend. More than 250 speakers and more than 80 workshops will address the specific needs of developers, from languages to platforms, testing to security. Attendees can learn about the latest technology for cloud storage, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

Developer Week New York

Twitter: @DevWeekNYC

Website: www.developerweek.com/NYC/

Date: June 16-18, 2020

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Cost: Not available yet

Discounts: Student, government, and group discounts

This New York conference is one of several offered in different locations around the country. The program is designed for developers, engineers, managers, and IT professionals. One of the tracks is the Team Lead Summit, which covers project management, team building, and best reporting practices.

Collision 2020

Twitter: @CollisionHQ

Website: https://collisionconf.com/

Date: June 22-25, 2020

Location: Toronto

Cost: $595

Discounts: Two-for-one early registration

Collision is another IT conference that gets high marks from our contacts. It is one of the largest, with more than 30,000 attendees expected to take part in the 18 different program tracks. The tracks focus on everything from autonomous cars to future societies. While there is no track dedicated to “leadership,” participants are likely to gain useful skills and insights from the Growth Summit and Startup University.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.