Professional development plays a big part in growing a business. And whether it’s helping your technicians extend their technical knowledge, working on your business development skills, or connecting with your MSP peers, nothing beats a great conference.

Sure, the quality of the keynotes, sessions, and workshops are critical for learning. But there’s also a huge benefit to meeting speakers, vendors, and fellow MSPs in person. Sometimes the connections you make over a beer or walking down the hall to the next presentation lead to deals, joint ventures, and even good friends.

At a minimum, it’s worthwhile to attend the user conferences for the major tools you employ in your business. The events tend to be well-attended, offer a chance to learn more about the platform, and allow you to connect with your partner service team.

Todd McQuilkin, managing director of Air-IT, considers vendor events a great investment for his team because you get to “increase the influence you have on the trends in relevant technologies that support you as an MSP” and you become “closer to your business partners and the level of trust [increases] — it becomes a win-win for both parties.”

With all that in mind, here are 11 conferences for MSPs we recommend. (Listed in date order.)


SMB TechFest

When: Quarterly / Jan 21 – 22, Apr 21 – 22, Jul 21 -22, Oct 20 – 21, 2016
Where: Anaheim, CA
More info: http://www.smbtechfest.com/

Dedicated to teaching small MSPs and IT shops about the latest developments in technology, management, and sales. If California is too far to trek, there’s an option to attend this event by webinar instead.


ChannelPro – SMB Forums

When: Mar 2, May 4, Sep 14, Nov 3, 2016
Where: Dallas, TX; Anaheim, CA; Washington, D.C.; Boston, MA
More info: http://events.channelpronetwork.com/

Can’t carve three or four days out of your packed schedule to attend Cisco Live or a similar big conference? Consider these one-day forums that focus on building, managing, and marketing a business that serves the small and mid-sized market. With four different locations across the country, you can choose the one that’s closest to you.

attendees at ChannelPro SMB Forum

ChannelPro SMB Forum / ChannelPro


CRN – Xchange Solution Provider

When: Mar 6 – 8 , 2016
Where: Los Angeles, CA
More info: http://www.xchange-events.com/xsp16

More than 800 people attend this long-running conference for MSPs. From the website: “The actionable agenda focuses on the products, programs and business models making the biggest impact on the channel today.”


Interop

When: May 2 – 6, 2016
Where: Las Vegas, NV
More info: http://www.interop.com/

IT pros flock to this respected conference each year because it’s one of the few independent technology events on the calendar. Over five days of lectures, demo labs, round tables, and vendor exhibitions, you and your team can expect to learn about the developing trends in networking technology and IT leadership.

Interop technology conference crowd at the door

Interop / Bugeater on Flickr


Datto – DattoCon

When: Jun 20 – 22, 2016
Where: Nashville, TN
More info: http://www.dattocon.com/

Awesomeness alert! DattoCon’s keynote speaker for 2016 is Steve Wozniak. And if that doesn’t grab you, maybe this stat will: Datto partners who attend this conference tend to see triple-digit-percentage growth in their Datto sales in the 12 months following the show.


LabTech – Automation Nation

When: Jun 20 – 22, 2016
Where: Orlando, FL
More info: http://automationnation.labtechsoftware.com

“Attendees will have the opportunity to learn practical how-to’s, automation best practices and the latest trends in business solutions along with LabTech Geeks from across the globe.” Unfortunately, Automation Nation’s dates are in direct conflict with DattoCon, so if you use both tools you’ll either have to miss one show or split up your team to go in two directions.


Cisco Live

When: Jul 10 – 14, 2016
Where: Las Vegas, NV
More info: https://www.ciscolive.com/

Attracting more than 24,000 attendees, Cisco Live is one of the biggest tech conferences in the world. Choose from a ton of great session tracks, talk one-on-one with a Cisco engineer about a problem you’re grappling with, or have your techs sit for a Cisco certification exam — free! (Oh, and Cisco Live always has some cool band for the mid-week party. Last year it was Aerosmith.) Your five days at the event will be an exhausting but exhilarating whirlwind.

crowds at the vendor booths, Cisco Live

Cisco Live / John Spade on Flickr


Autotask – Community Live!

When: Sep 25 – 27, 2016
Where: Miami, FL
More info: http://www.autotask.com/commlive

As the second largest PSA (professional services automation) vendor, Autotask puts on a good event. Worth attending if you’re an Autotask partner looking to bump your efficiency to the next level.


Continuum – Navigate

When: Sep 28 – 30 , 2016
Where: Boston, MA
More info: http://www.continuum.net/navigate2016

Navigate 2016 will only be Continuum’s third annual partner conference, but it’s already a noteworthy event on the MSP calendar. The Auvik team attended last year and was impressed with the caliber of partners in attendance.


ConnectWise – IT Nation

When: Nov 9 – 11, 2016
Where: Orlando, FL
More info: http://theitnation.com/

IT Nation is arguably the biggest and best MSP tech conference of the year. In 2015, the event featured sessions from industry heavyweights such as Gary Pica, and the keynote from Marcus Lemonis brought cathartic tears to many a partner eye. True story! Sure, it’s ConnectWise-focused but there are also a ton of other valuable sessions and vendors to check out so this is one to consider even if you’re not a current ConnectWise user.

Connectwise IT Nation 2015

IT Nation 2015 / Auvik Networks


MSP Alliance – MSPWorld

When: TBA
Where: TBA
More info: www.mspworldconference.com

Open to everyone, not just MSPAlliance members. MSPworld is a great place to meet new colleagues.


Auvik will be at most of these events in the coming year, so keep an eye out for the purple booth and drop in for a chat.