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Top conferences for CIOs in 2018

CIOs and aspirational IT leaders have to stay informed about the latest technologies and the most effective business strategies. These recommended conferences can bring you up to speed quickly, whether it’s on a technology you’re implementing or one you ought to discover.

It’s not easy being a CIO. Every year, you’re put through the wringer and expected to accomplish more tasks with fewer resources. Some of those tasks are nebulous, such as “transform the company into a digital enterprise” or “elevate the end-user experience.” Other goals are specific, such as “reduce headcount in IT by 12 percent” or “develop a hybrid cloud strategy that complies with European regulatory standards.”

One perk of being a CIO, however, is travel, and one of the best reasons for traveling is to attend conferences and events geared for CIOs and senior IT executives.

“CIOs should attend these kinds of events to reinforce their personal brands and to acquire fresh knowledge about current IT trends, such as cybersecurity, blockchain, fintech, DevOps, WebOps, hybrid multicloud, and new service delivery models,” says Hugo Fueglein, a managing director and leader in the CIO and IT management practice at Diversified Search in New York. “When you go to conferences, you hear war stories from other CIOs; you’re not just listening to vendors.”

Here’s the good news: For the most part, CIO conferences aren’t junkets. They’re actually great places to pick up knowledge from peers, develop new professional relationships, talk about IT strategy, and maybe—with the help of personal networking—find a new job.

That last item is an absolutely critical part of why you should attend conferences if you are a CIO or aspiring to become one. When you attend CIO conferences, you meet recruiters from major executive search firms. They’re not there for the drinks and appetizers. Recruiters attend because they’re looking for qualified IT executives to place into vacant (or soon-to-be-vacant) posts at major firms and corporations. And since executive recruiters attend these events, you should be there, too.

The 2018 conference list, ordered by date, is by no means intended to be complete or comprehensive. It reflects the opinions and biases of a handful of CIOs, senior IT executives, academics, and tech journalists we polled informally. Some events undoubtedly percolate to your short list, based on in-depth content, senior-level speakers, serious discussions, and opportunities for professional networking. Others make more sense if your company relies on a particular technology or you're contemplating a specific strategy.

Do check the links included before making travel plans, since key conference details such as price, location, and date often change—sometimes at the last minute.

Note that some conference organizers produce not just one, but many CIO events over the course of a typical year. So even if you don’t find an event near you at a convenient time, a little poking around on their websites will probably uncover a range of conferences, symposiums, and summits that meet your needs.

One more bit of advice before you dive into the list: Don’t merely attend these events—participate in them. Bring plenty of business cards and hand them all out. Talk to the people sitting next to you at lunch. Raise your hand and ask questions. Afterward, email the hosts and tell them how much you enjoyed their event. And by all means, let them know you’d like to be a speaker, presenter, or panelist at their next conference.

Remember: The organizers need your presence to make their events succeed. Attendees are totally indispensable to the event business model. Make sure you take advantage of the events you attend and extract the maximum value, for yourself and for your organization.

CIO Leadership Forum

Twitter: @Gartner_inc


Date: Feb. 25-27, 2018

Location: Phoenix, AZ

Cost: $3,550 (early registration discounts available); $2,700 (public sector)

The theme of the 2018 Leadership Forum is “Scaling Digital Leadership.” As noted on the Gartner website, digitalization puts the CIO directly into the spotlight. The forum is designed to help CIOs lead their companies on a continuing journey of digitization and “to prepare for the opportunities of connected ecosystems.”

This year’s conference has four tracks: Think Business, Design Capabilities, Build the Foundation, and Focus on Leadership. A sample of the agenda includes “Reporting Cybersecurity to Your Board of Directors,” “Making an Impact as a new CIO,” and “Three Dimensions of Future Digital Business Model Exploration.”

Gartner CIO Leadership Forums go far beyond technology, providing inspiration for senior executives and actionable strategic advice based on Gartner’s unmatched access to information from its vendors and customers.

HMG CIO Executive Leadership Summits

Twitter: @HMGStrategy


Dates: February 21, 2018 (Palo Alto, CA); March 28, 2018 (New York); April 26, 2018 (San Francisco)

Cost: Free if you are a C-level executive or senior-level IT professional in the private, public, or nonprofit sectors from an organization with $200 million-plus revenue or the equivalent. Academics are also welcome. Vendors should submit registration requests.

The CIO Executive Leadership Summits are produced by HMG Strategy, which also hosts one of the world’s largest networking platforms for IT professionals, with more than 300,000 technology leaders, search executives, and technology partners. The company’s founder, Hunter Muller, is the author of five books on IT executive leadership and writes a series of popular blogs and newsletters focusing on contemporary issues in IT leadership.

These summits offer real opportunities for learning, peer-to-peer networking, and career advancement in relatively intimate settings. Among the expected presentations are “Driving a Culture of Extreme Transformation” and “Beyond Leadership—What Makes a Technology Executive Successful.” Because HMG Strategy events are regularly attended by representatives from top executive search firms, they are considered ideal venues for making connections and moving up the executive ladder.

The Strategic CIO's Playbook: A guide to how to create an IT environment that drives business growth.

SIM Northeast Regional Leadership Forum

Twitter:  @BostonSIM


Date: March 1, 2018

Location: Babson Park, MA

Cost: $8,850, with discounts for early registration

Like other SIM events, the Northeast Regional Leadership Forum offers a great opportunity to meet informally with established senior-level IT executives and share knowledge in a collegial setting. SIM events generally tend to be vendor-agnostic, which means you aren’t hammered with sales pitches or long-winded presentations about some company’s newest line of products.

Strata Data Conference

Twitter: @strataconf


Date: March 6-8, 2018

Location: San Jose, CA

Cost: $1,595 to $2,395, with discounts for early registration

The O’Reilly Strata Data Conference attracts thousands of innovators, leaders, and practitioners to develop new skills, share best practices, and discover how tools and technologies are evolving to meet new challenges. Strata conferences have become trusted venues for learning about the impact of big data, machine learning, and analytics on business and society at large. (If these technologies are central to your 2018 strategies, refer to our recommended 2018 data and analytics conferences and 2018 AI and machine learning conferences.)

O’Reilly conferences may come across as though they’re designed and organized primarily for software developers, but they offer a surfeit of practical knowledge for anyone interested in information technology at virtually any level. Because they feature such a wide range of expertise and innovation, they are especially useful for CIOs and other IT executives.

CIO Leadership Forum

Twitter: @ArgyleExecForum


Date: March 14, 2018

Location: Washington, D.C.

Cost: Free for executives at the director level and above from organizations with over $100 million in revenue.

Argyle Executive Forum brings together senior IT executives across a wide range of industries at its annual Washington, D.C., event. The full-day agenda includes discussions on information security, technology, and analytics. Specific topics covered include:

  • Realigning the business and leveraging information technology as a core competency and center of innovation in the digital age
  • Embracing the migration to a digital ecosystem to achieve enhanced productivity and increased speed to market
  • Harnessing the power of emerging technologies in big data, IoT, and machine learning to efficiently and effectively redefine the customer experience
  • Building, training, and attaining a nimble and flexible workforce that evolves with the ever-changing modern IT landscape
  • Navigating the top trends, capabilities, and risks that are driving IT expenditures in 2018

​Argyle Executive Forum hosts more than 150 annual full-day conferences, private breakfasts, dinners, virtual conferences, think tanks, and roundtable discussions for its screened executive membership of leaders of the largest companies in the United States.​​ In other words, you’d be in good company, even if you listen more than you speak.

CIO Summit United States

Twitter: @CDMmedia


Date: March 25-27, 2018

Location: Miami, FL

Cost: $995 for one-day events and $2,500 for multi-day events. Discounts for some professional affiliations and partner associations. Representatives from service providers can attend only via sponsorship.

CDM has earned a reputation for producing well-run and interesting CIO conferences that feature a reasonably balanced combination of keynotes, fireside chats, vendor presentations, case studies, and “think tanks,” which are end user-led roundtable discussions.

The agenda is not yet posted—it’s early days—but CDM says that its summits “are an engaging mixture of interactive small group sessions, keynote presentations and panels, one-to-one breakouts designed to facilitate collaborative discussions, networking, and face-to-face interactions amongst our attendees and partners. Participants come away with new perspectives, ideas, and connections to tackle the challenges of the modern IT organization and beyond.”

Future Workplace Summit

Twitter: @ISG_News


Date: March 26-27, 2018

Location: New York, NY

Cost: $795 (conference only); $1,290 (conference and workshop)

All of us know that digitization and automation are radically transforming the modern workplace. The lines between the physical office and where work actually happens are blurring. CIOs need to understand how the workplace is changing, so they can provide appropriate tools and technologies that meet their workforce’s needs.

ISG’s Future Workplace Summit will explore the technologies that are driving collaboration, innovation, and productivity in ways that accommodate a multi-generational workforce. “It’s time to embrace the natural evolution of the workplace,” according to the ISG website.

​Through a series of analyst presentations, customer panels and expert roundtables, the summit will explore four technology trends impacting the workplace of the future:

  • Collaboration and Innovation
  • The Employee Experience: New ways of working
  • IoT and the Intelligent Workplace
  • AI and Machine Learning

Columbia Data Science Day

Twitter: @DSI_Columbia


Date: March 28, 2018

Location: New York, NY

Cost: $100, plus minor fees based on faculty, student, or industry roles

Columbia University’s Data Science Institute has become a global center for multi-disciplinary learning and research, so there’s always something new and exciting going on. The annual Data Science Day conference is a fabulous opportunity for discovering new technology trends long before anyone else is aware of them. The topics covered range from AI and machine learning to emotional state analytics and advanced image recognition systems.

Technically, this isn’t a CIO event. But the topics discussed and the quality of speakers makes it well worth attending. Columbia Data Science Day is one of those tech rare events that consistently exceeds expectations. You will definitely learn about data science, and you’ll pick up valuable clues that are helpful in formulating an IT strategy. If there’s one event where you’re most likely to get a glimpse of the future of information technology, it’s this one.

Global CIO Executive Summit Q2

Twitter: @Evanta


Date: April 10-11, 2018

Location: Santa Monica, CA

Cost: Attendance is by invitation only. Registrants are granted confirmation based upon qualifications and space availability.

Access to the conference is open to individuals that meet the following criteria:

  • Private sector: active CIOs (or equivalent) from multibillion-dollar corporations, or active divisional CIOs (or equivalent) from $10 billion-plus divisions
  • Public sector (government, education, and not for profit organizations): active CIOs (or equivalent) from agencies or organizations with more than 1,000 employees

“Welcome to the inner circle of information technology leadership,” according to the Evanta website. “Now in its 10th year, our invitation-only conference unites the most influential CIOs from North America and abroad for a crucial day of insights, networking, and candid conversations.”

Evanta has been producing CIO conferences for many years, and it knows how to stage a good show. The event producers are reasonably careful to avoid being perceived as “vendor heavy,” and keynotes are delivered by seasoned IT executives with real experience.

RSA Conference 2018

Twitter: @RSAConference


Date: April 16-20, 2018

Location: San Francisco, CA

Cost: $2,695, with significant early-bird discounts available

In many ways, the annual RSA Conference has become the gold standard for large-scale security-themed events aimed at corporate and enterprise executives. It is truly epic in scope and size, and yet it manages to stay focused on business needs. That makes it an excellent destination for CIOs who want to learn about cybersecurity trends firsthand, instead of hearing about them from vendor sales pitches.

The RSA Conference offers the most complete and probably the deepest cross-section of cybersecurity vendors and experts in the world. It’s not the sexiest or glitziest of the cybersecurity conferences, but it does offer CIOs incredibly valuable opportunities for meeting face-to-face with people who spend their lives dealing with security challenges.

MIT Sloan CIO Symposium

Twitter: @mitcio


Date: May 23, 2018

Location: Cambridge, MA

Cost: $295 (Very Early Bird Special, ends Jan. 15); $295 (Academic); $99 (full-time MIT student); $595 (government)

This year’s symposium is focused on the widening gap “between companies that have advanced digital capabilities and those that do not.” Speakers include MIT academics, leading CIOs and senior executives, and industry experts. Topics include emerging and evolving technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, the Internet of Things, cybersecurity, blockchain, and cloud computing.

The MIT Sloan CIO Symposium adds an extra dimension of genuine academic excellence and curiosity to the typical mix of IT-related topics. For example, attendees are urged to consider the ethical and broader economic impacts of their decisions as IT executives. Moreover, the agenda includes sessions that help CIOs elevate and execute IT strategy by “building a digital organization that scales and implements new business models…developing platforms, managing hybrid IT and business talent, establishing cross-functional partnerships across your organization, and capitalizing on agile and DevOps.”

Charlotte Premier CIO Forum

Twitter: @PremierCIO


Date: May 30-31, 2018

Location: Charlotte, NC

Cost:  Registration required; non-vendor registrants will receive complimentary attendance. 

A low-key conference for IT professionals, produced in partnership with the local SIM chapter, the forum provides the usual blend of presentations, panels, and breakout sessions with plenty of opportunities for peer-to-peer networking.

Like Research Triangle Park, Charlotte is an underappreciated hive of technology innovation in North Carolina. It’s easy to forget that Charlotte has become a banking and financial services center, which naturally attracts some of the best minds in fintech and data analysis. Charlotte is also home to the University of North Carolina, which is second only to UNC-Chapel Hill in the quality of its computer science and statistics offerings. The takeaway here is that Charlotte is a great place to meet and interact with smart people who really understand digital tech.

HPE Discover 2018

Twitter: @HPE_Discover


Date: June 18-21, 2018

Location: Las Vegas, NV

Cost: To be announced 

This event focuses on the continual changes in IT and how to not only stay abreast of them but how to get ahead of the curve. In today’s hyper-competitive market, it’s not possible to maintain a competitive advantage for very long so new ones must be continually in development. If you use HPE products or services, it's an excellent way to learn about the company's direction and to interact with the technical staff on matters large and small.

HPE Discover is held in June in Las Vegas, and in a European country in the autumn. Expect these events to give particular focus to Hybrid IT, IoT trends, Big Data and analytics, and infrastructure innovations.

CIO 100 Symposium

Twitter: @CIOevents


Date: August 13-15, 2018

Location: Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Cost: TBD

The annual CIO 100 Symposium is billed as the “can’t miss CIO event of the year,” and it usually delivers on its promise. The three-day event includes a CIO 100 Award Ceremony and Hall of Fame induction. Topics covered include enterprise mobility, cloud, big data analytics, social/collaboration tools, risk management, and disruptive technologies.

If you need reassurance that CIOs are essential to the modern enterprise, these symposiums will provide you with a sense of comfort and security. CIOs are front and center; they are the stars of the show, and it’s nice to watch your peers and colleagues bask in the spotlight.

TechCrunch Disrupt

Twitter: @TechCrunch


Date: Sept. 5-7, 2018

Location: San Francisco, CA

Cost: $2.995

Over the years, TechCrunch Disrupt has earned a solid reputation as a trusted venue for debuting revolutionary startups, introducing game-changing technologies, and discussing what’s top of mind for the tech industry’s key innovators. Disrupt presents a carefully selected roster of entrepreneurs, investors, hackers, and tech fans for on-stage interviews, the Startup Battlefield competition, a 24-hour Hackathon, Startup Alley, Hardware Alley, and of course, lots of parties!

If you’re a CIO, you simply cannot afford to let the vendor community become your primary source of information about what’s going on in the startup world. The best place to see the “best and brightest” of the startups is TechCrunch Disrupt.


Twitter: @Dreamforce


Date: Sept. 25-28, 2018

Location: San Francisco, CA

Cost: NA

So far, there are few details about the upcoming 2018 Dreamforce, which is’s premier annual showcase event. Based on our experiences in previous years, Dreamforce can be expected to deliver a high-octane agenda reflecting the tech-friendly utopian vision of CEO and founder Marc Benioff. Dreamforce is all about the marvels of IT, and that makes it a great show for IT professionals seeking a jolt of inspiration, even if you aren’t a fan or user of products.

Here’s a good reason to consider attending: Since the passing of Steve Jobs, Marc Benioff has assumed the mantle of technology’s unofficial master of ceremonies, and he revels in the role of entertaining provocateur. Dreamforce is glitzy and brassy. You might not pick up a ton of useful information, but you will definitely come away with a heightened sense of energy and purpose. From that perspective, it’s worth attending.

IOT Solutions World Congress

Twitter: @IOTSWC


Date: Oct. 16-18, 2018

Location: Barcelona, Spain

Cost: €995 (Full Congress Pass); €60 (Exhibit Pass)

Held annually at Fira de Barcelona, an enormous conglomeration of conference halls that feels like a futuristic space station, the IOTWSC has become an important showcase for services, platforms, and technologies related to the Internet of Things. The IOTWSC attracts hundreds of vendors and thousands of techies from all over the world, which makes it a great place for encountering different viewpoints and fresh ideas about the consumer IoT and its smaller cousin, the industrial IoT, both of which are becoming increasingly important to corporate IT strategy.

Excellent speakers, panelists, and presenters from organizations large and small make this conference a great choice for CIOs who genuinely want to learn more about the impact of new IoT technologies on traditional enterprise IT. Related topics covered at the congress include IoT governance, smart cities, smart buildings, and smart transportation.


Twitter: @velocityconf


Date: Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2018

Location: London, England

Cost: TBD

The O’Reilly Velocity conferences are organized to help systems and site reliability engineers, architects, and application developers build and manage performant, distributed, resilient, and highly available websites and applications. But like the O’Reilly Strata conferences, they are also extremely useful venues for CIOs looking to meet developers and acquire critical working knowledge.

As a CIO or senior IT executive, you might feel a bit out of place at a Velocity conference, but that’s no reason to avoid them. Sometimes it’s good to step out of your comfort zone, and Velocity is the perfect place for challenging yourself. You’ll be surrounded by really smart people with amazing coding skills—and you just might want to hire some of them on the spot!

Raleigh Premier CIO Forum

Twitter: @PremierCIO


Date: Dec. 5-6, 2018

Location: Raleigh, NC

Cost: Registration required; non-vendor registrants receive complimentary attendance. 

Launched in 1968, the Society for Information Management (SIM) is unquestionably the most venerable and respected of the many organizations catering to career-minded IT leaders and executives. Its meetings regularly attract some of the most senior and prestigious CIOs in the United States. You don’t attend SIM events for their glitz. Rather, you attend because you are surrounded by colleagues who take their roles as IT leaders seriously and who aren’t afraid to take contrarian positions on the latest technology trends. 

A low-key conference for IT professionals, produced in partnership with the local SIM chapter, this forum provides the usual blend of presentations, panels, and breakout sessions with plenty of opportunities for peer-to-peer networking.

Every CIO (and aspiring CIO) should visit Research Triangle Park at least once a year, and that alone is a great reason for going to the Raleigh Premier CIO Forum. RTP is an under-appreciated engine of technology innovation, and it’s played an absolutely critical role in North Carolina’s economic renaissance and emergence as a legitimate tech hub.

Did we miss any conferences CIOs should know about? Tweet us about them at @enterprisenxt.

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