Our Emissary’s know firsthand that conferences are a great way to prospect and build up your pipeline. Take Jodi Watson, an Emissary and former CMO of Petco, who recalled how meeting a solution provider at a conference eventually led to a deal: “He stayed in touch with me over the years, not trying to sell me, but just checking in to say ‘hi’ or send me an interesting report. When the time came that I actually needed a solution, he was top-of-mind for me. I called him, and we ended up using them.”

With the right approach, conferences can be prospecting goldmines—and with some inside insight, you can find out ahead of time which conferences the decision-makers within your top accounts typically attend. That’ll give you time to prep your talking points, and you may even be able to identify local venues or activities they’d enjoy after hours. And since Q4 is the time to be marking your calendar and securing budget for conference travel, we put together a list of tech conferences you can’t afford to miss in 2019.

CES

January 8-11, Las Vegas, NV

CES is where the future of consumer tech happens, and it’s a great place to prospect with technology decision makers. With a staggering variety of sessions and events in multiple locations, you’ll have four full days to interact with prospects between talks and over drinks and dinner. You’ll also get to see the next big thing(s) in consumer tech, while you’re at it. Just make sure you make time to catch the keynote addresses from IBM’s chairman, president and CEO Ginni Rometty, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg, and other luminaries. 

Wine and Dine: Vegas has no shortage of client-friendly venues, so there are plenty of options to choose from. If you’re getting an upscale vibe from a prospect, a meal at Mordeo and a sampling of their extensive wine list is sure to please. If a more relaxed atmosphere is in the cards, Yardbird has Southern comfort food favorites and one heck of a bourbon selection. 

Microsoft Ignite

February 4–5, Washington, D.C.

There are over a hundred workshops for you to network and learn from during Microsoft Ignite in Washington, D.C. You’ll find networking opportunities, meetings and groups galore here, along with interactive presentations where you can learn new things about business intelligence and the latest developments in cloud tech. With a heavy focus on security and compliance, this could also be your chance to learn a few savvy talking points to drop on the data security folks during your next procurement meeting, too. 

Wine and dine: Baby Wale is just steps away from the convention center. It’s polished enough to entertain your prospects, but it isn’t stuffy or overly formal. A menu full of crowd-pleasers and an environment that’s quiet enough to actually have a conversation make this the perfect spot for post-conference T&E. 

IBM Think 2019

February 12–15, San Francisco, CA

No company has its pulse on the future of enterprise tech as consistently and reliably as IBM, a fact their annual Think event usually underscores. There’s a lot to do during this action-packed, four-day weekend, including a deep curriculum on everything from AI to infrastructure to the cloud. You’ll get insights from the many brilliant minds at IBM and hear from thought leaders at other tech companies, too. Plus, legendary quarterback Joe Montana will be in attendance, which makes this event just about as San Francisco as it gets.

Wine and dine: Close by the Moscone center is Press Club, perhaps the best wine bar in San Francisco. It’s got a robust wine list with competitive pricing that almost belies its upscale atmosphere, and it’s great for meeting new people and making connections.

South by Southwest

March 18-29, Austin, TX

SXSW has been influencing pop culture and business for almost three decades, and this year promises to be no different. Featured speakers features innovative thought leaders from across industries, as well as speakers from leading companies like Adobe and Amazon Web Services. You’ll find industry rock stars here like Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, and Valerie Jarrett, former senior advisor to President Barack Obama. And the music’s not bad, either. 

Wine and dine: Perhaps no restaurant personifies Austin more than The Peached Tortilla, which boasts an eclectic fusion menu of dishes that are full of Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese influences, sometimes in taco form. Or hit up Jeffrey’s of Austin, a throwback to a time where restaurants prided themselves on sophistication and detail. It’s a wholly unique dining experience.

Adobe Summit

March 24-29, Las Vegas, NV

Usually what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but it would be a shame to keep everything from 2019’s Adobe Summit at The Venetian a secret. It’s a networker’s dream, with a community pavilion and over 300 sessions and labs on everything from content management and email marketing to advertising and personalization. Decision-makers or influencers within your top accounts are sure to be in attendance. Plus, Richard Branson headlines the list of keynote speakers, which also includes leaders from Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Wine and dine: If you need a good crowd-pleaser, you can’t go wrong with Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonico Steakhouse at The Venetian for their mouthwatering cuts of ribeye. If you need a good ice-breaker, tell your party that the famous chef’s Las Vegas restaurant has nothing to do with either the Delmonico’s in New York City, or the chain of Delmonico’s in upstate New York.

CSO50

April 8-10, Scottsdale, AZ

Security and infrastructure are the name of the game at CSO50. This is an IT wonk’s dream event, and attendees will be eagerly talking shop and soaking up the latest insights from panels and seminars. In between those, however, is when you can work your magic. Here’s a tip, though: consider bringing a technical account manager with you, as the attendees here will likely want to get in the weeds of your solution, and some tech back-up won’t hurt. 

Wine and dine: The event is being held at the Talking Stick Resort, which is in walking distance to… nothing, really. But there are plenty of strong options in the resort itself, like Orange Sky, which features an extensive wine list and a killer menu. Plus, the spectacular sunset vistas are an easy conversation-starter. 

Google Cloud Next ‘19

April 9-11, San Francisco, CA

If you sell SaaS, you can’t miss Cloud Next. This event is also where the company announces updates to its popular cloud platform, so it’s a great opportunity for the salespeople to learn the latest on all things Google. Details other than the time and place have not been announced yet, but you can sign up for updates and view last year’s content here.

Wine and dine: Close by the Moscone Center is The Cavalier, created by some of the best restaurateurs in town. Their scotched duck eggs are an elevation of typical British pub food, and you can move on to Marianne’s, the semi-secret spot within The Cavalier, for cocktails. 

Dell Technologies World

April 29-May 2, Las Vegas, NV

Dell is among the leaders of today’s technological innovations, and their annual conference is typically the kind of star-studded affair that will make your friends and coworkers jealous. Next year’s event in Las Vegas promises more of the same, with concerts, pop-ups, sponsor parties, and of course, networking events. This is a terrific opportunity to connect with top tech leaders and build the kind of relationships that lead to deals down the line. While details have not been firmed up as of this writing, for now you can check out information from last year’s event—and we’ll be sure to update this when details on the 2019 event become available. 

Wine and dine: If you’ve worked your way through the other Vegas spots on this list, then head to Public House for a warm, un-Vegas-like atmosphere to keep the conversation going.

SAP SAPPHIRE NOW

May 7-9, Orlando, FL

SAP’s annual SAPPHIRE NOW conferences are the gold standard for cloud and business technology events. Business and IT leaders galore will be in attendance, so plenty of prospects from your top accounts will be there and primed for prospecting. Details on the sessions themselves have yet to be released, but there’s never any shortage of insightful panels and sessions. There’s even a downloadable “Get Your Boss on Board” letter to help you secure budget now. 

Wine and Dine: Want to impress after the event? Then head to Bull & Bear in the Waldorf Astoria for a top shelf dining experience. For some local flavor and a more laid-back atmosphere, Highball & Harvest has a menu with locally sourced ingredients and killer cocktails in an open, conversation-friendly layout. 

E3

June 11-13, Los Angeles, CA

E3 is the biggest conference in the gaming world, and every developer and studio that matter will be in attendance. That’s a lot of opportunity to meet, greet, and talk storage, security, and more. Keeping all those servers up and running and keeping customer’s personal data safe isn’t easy—and your solution may be just the thing they’re looking for. And, you know, you can play video games. So there’s that.

Wine and dine: The Palm LA is just a couple blocks from the event, and is always a solid choice for almost any taste. For something a bit more adventurous, Faith and Flower is also nearby. It’s got great cocktails and live jazz every Wednesday, meaning it could be a great spot to entertain a prospect after the second day of the show.    

Cisco Live

June 9-13, San Diego, CA

Cisco is hosting big-ticket events all over the world in 2019, including in Barcelona and Melbourne, but the one in San Diego is probably most accessible for stateside sellers. Cisco’s conferences are an excellent way to catch up with developments in the space, complete with testing, training, education, and even certification on Cisco products if you want to go the extra mile and build up your tech bona fides. Trust us, there will be networking opportunities a-plenty.

Wine and dine: Few restaurants in Southern California do seafood as adventurously as Lionfish, the stellar fresh-catch joint located near the San Diego Convention Center. Sharing these cold plates are a great way to experience the cuisine—and could be a great conversation-starter for your prospects.

Dreamforce

November 19-22, San Francisco, CA 

The Salesforce Dreamforce isn’t only a must-attend tech event each year. It’s also generally a raucous good time—look no further than last year’s event for proof. Though solid details for 2019 have not been announced, you’re sure to have plenty of access to hands-on demos and opportunities to prospect. If you’re still having trouble convincing your boss to approve the budget, they’ll even help by providing a template letter to justify your trip with demonstrable ROI. 

Wine and dine: Impress your prospects with one of the best views in SF at The View Lounge. Located at the top of the Marriott Marquis, this spot offers stunning views of the City by the Bay, as well as hand-crafted cocktails, small plates, and a sophisticated atmosphere. 

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Executive Insights

Industry conferences are fertile ground for prospecting and planting the seeds of long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. And with just a few months left in 2018, now’s the time to secure budget for attending next year’s top tech conferences. You’ll have the chance to interact one-on-one with prospects, build rapport, and share industry news and best practices. You might even learn something while you’re at it.