Everyone loves a good industry conference, and for IT professionals it’s practically a necessity. But why? Because IT helpdesk professionals like you often find themselves working alone or as part of a small team, you often don't have the opportunity to sit in a room full of like-minded peers to learn about the latest innovations or bond over shared frustrations.
Not only are tech-focused conferences an inspiring and comforting reminder that you’re not alone in the professional challenges you face, but these events can help introduce you to upcoming industry trends, network with fellow IT helpdesk professionals, and prepare for the next step in your career.
To help you along in this journey, we’ve rounded up the top 15 best IT conferences of 2018, and also put together a few tips to help you make the most of the events you attend in the year ahead.
How to Get the Most Out Of A Tech Conference
If you’ve never attended an IT convention or trade show event, there’s one thing you need to know: it can be overwhelming. Depending on the size of the event, there’s a good chance you won’t get to see and do everything, so you need to strategize ahead of time. Here are five things to do to make sure you’re getting the most value from the event:
1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Most conferences publish agendas and expo lists several weeks before the event kicks off. This gives you plenty of time to read through descriptions of break-out sessions, study up on speakers, and determine which vendors offer solutions you want to learn more about. That way, once you arrive, you’ll have a clear idea of how you’ll spend each day.
2. GET COMFORTABLE. Whether it’s being held in a large, several-story hotel, a sprawling convention center, or across multiple city blocks, you’ll likely be walking a lot. Most IT conferences are casual affairs, so feel free to leave your dress shoes at home and slip into a comfy (but clean) pair of sneakers. Not sure what’s appropriate to wear? Check out photos from the previous year’s event so you know what you’re walking into.
3. COME PREPARED. Whether you prefer to take notes on a tablet, laptop, or good ol’ fashioned paper, make sure you have what you need. Conferences are great places to learn, but it’s not uncommon to experience information overload (or brain fog from one too many complimentary cocktails at the previous night’s happy hour). Take good notes so you can remember all the newfound knowledge when you return to the office.
4. BE SOCIAL. While it’s tempting to head back to your hotel room after a long day of sessions, it's a well-known fact that it's over dinners and happy hours are where the real magic happens. So break out of your shell and strike up conversations with strangers over a warm meal or a cold beverage. Many people attend conferences alone and are just as eager to make new connections. You never know when you’ll meet your next client or future boss.
5. GO OFFLINE. Whether you’re paying out of your own pocket or your organization is fronting the bill, conferences are an investment. As an IT helpdesk professional, it can be difficult to disconnect from the inevitable fire drills happening back at the office, but it’s important to make sure someone else has your work covered so you can focus on learning. As long as you have a well-trained team and a good IT help desk and ticketing solution, you should be able to sign off for a few days.
The 15 Best IT Conferences in 2018
Now that you know what it takes to get the most from an industry event, check out this list of the best IT conferences happening in North America this year (arranged chronologically).
When: March 4 - 6, 2018
Where: New Orleans, LA @ New Orleans Marriott
The Lowdown: Called “the world’s premier managed services and cloud computing event”, this event serves to support MSPs and their ecosystems. Expect to hear from MSPs and cloud service providers, users, and thought leaders about upcoming trends and technologies. While it’s presented by the MSPAlliance professional organization, MSPWorld is open to non-members as well. Learn more here
2. InfoSec World
When: March 19 - 21, 2018
Where: Lake Buena Vista, FL @ Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Tickets: $75 - $4195
The Lowdown: A top security conference for more than two decades, InfoSec World is where you’ll learn about today’s top threats and best security practices to help you detect, prevent and respond to challenges that could impact your organization. Hear from top IT security thought leaders and network with more than 1,000 fellow attendees. Learn more here
3. HDI Conference & Expo
When: April 10 - 13, 2018
Where: Las Vegas, NV @ MGM Grand
Tickets: $1899 - $2699
The Lowdown: Coined “the technical support industry’s most comprehensive event,” this event caters to professionals at every level — from new technicians to seasoned CIOs. Expect a packed agenda full of sessions where you can learn new techniques and skills, an expo hall filled with cutting-edge tech solutions to make your job easier, and plenty of networking opportunities. Learn more here
4. IT Financial Management Week
When: April 30 - May 2, 2018
Where: Chicago, IL @ Venue TBA
Tickets: $499 - $2499
The Lowdown: Given its niche among IT finance technology users, this conference is smaller and more intimate than many others on the list. But with a jam-packed two-day agenda, you can still expect to learn plenty. From practical knowledge to inspirational presentations from industry leaders, you’ll come away with an understanding of how to measure and communicate IT’s bottom-line impact. Learn more here
5. Interop ITX
When: April 30 - May 4, 2018
Where: Las Vegas, NV @ The Mirage
Tickets: $249 - $2,899
The Lowdown: This conference is designed specifically for the IT community, and provides an opportunity to learn about new technologies and IT solutions through hands-on classes, panels, and speaker-led sessions. Attendees can choose from more than 130 various sessions covering everything from IoT and cloud migration to network security, data protection, and more. Plus, enjoy morning yoga sessions, and happy hours galore. Learn more here
6. Google I/O
When: May 8 - 10, 2018
Where: Mountain View, CA @ Shoreline Amphitheatre
Tickets: Prices not announced — must apply to purchase
The Lowdown: This annual developer conference holds sessions focused on web, mobile, and enterprise applications through open sources such as Chrome, Chrome OS, Android, Google Web ToolKit, and more. While the conference focuses on development, it’s an immersive experience for anyone involved in building and managing tech. Learn more here
7. OpenStack Summit
When: May 21 - 24, 2018
Where: Vancouver, BC @ Vancouver Convention Centre
Tickets: $699 - $1,199
The Lowdown: The OpenStack Summit offers learning opportunities across the technology professional landscape — from app developers to IT leaders. Breakout sessions cover private and multi-cloud strategy, machine learning, edge computing and other hot topics that affect OpenStack users. You can attend daily boot camps, prepare for OpenStack exams, and hear from industry leaders across the world. Learn more here
8. Cisco Live
When: June 10 - 14, 2018
Where: Orlando, FL @ Orange County Convention Center
Tickets: $695 - $3,195
The Lowdown: Promoted as “5 days of education, networking, and fun,” the annual Cisco customer conference offers attendees ample educational and networking opportunities. Through 1:1 meetings with Cisco experts and networking events with other IT pros and tech-focused professionals, you’ll have a chance to test cutting-edge new tech and leave inspired to improve your organization’s environment. Learn more here
When: August 6 - 10
Where: Redmond, WA @ Microsoft Conference Center
Tickets: $1,995 - $2,395
The Lowdown: Not that you need reminding, but the IT industry is changing at breakneck speeds. This year, the TechMentor conference is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a five-day event full of in-depth workshops and IT education you can begin applying immediately. You’ll be trained on new tools you need today while also being prepared for the IT environment of the future. Learn more here
When: August 9 - 12, 2018
Where: Las Vegas, NV @ Cesar’s Palace
The Lowdown: The “leading conference for hackers” will be celebrating its 26th anniversary this year, making it one of the oldest on the list. Attended by more than 20,000 people, including security professionals, government employees, journalists, lawyers, students, and hobbyist hackers, it’s also one of the biggest. This event is equal parts learning and partying — but probably not somewhere you’d want to join public Wi-Fi. (Kidding... sort of.) Learn more here
When: September 25 - 28, 2018
Where: San Francisco, CA @ Dreamforce National Park (multiple venues)
The Lowdown: Held in Silicon Valley, this inspiring four-day conference focuses on technology innovation and creative problem-solving with more than 2,700 breakout sessions, hands-on training, and a chance to connect with the best and brightest minds in IT. Plus, enjoy nightly concerts, volunteer opportunities, and more. Learn more here
When: October 8 - 10, 2018
Where: Austin, TX @ Austin Convention Center
Tickets: $299 - $499
The Lowdown: SpiceWorld is a high-energy conference that brings together “everyone and everything IT.” It’s also one of the few conferences where IT pros and tech vendors are able to interact organically and authentically. From all-you-can-eat breakfast tacos and sessions with well-known IT thought leaders to hands-on training, happy hours, and plenty of laughs, you’ll learn a lot — and have a blast doing it. Learn more here
13. Oracle OpenWorld
When: October 22 - 25, 2018
Where: San Francisco, CA @ Venue TBA
Tickets: $75 - $2,650
The Lowdown: Called “the industry’s most important business and technology conference”, this 20-year-old event hosts thousands of attendees in person and millions more online. You’ll learn how to best leverage cloud technology, gain insight into upcoming industry trends, and have access to more than 2,500 sessions from more than 2,000 of Oracle’s partners and customers. Learn more here
14. AWS re:Invent
When: November 26 - 30, 2018
Where: Las Vegas, NV @ Multiple venues
Tickets: Prices not yet announced
The Lowdown: Like the OpenStack Summit, this learning conference hosted by Amazon Web Services offers education, training and certification opportunities for everyone from developers and engineers to IT decision-makers. Choose from more than 1,000 sessions, a massive expo, after-hours events, and plenty of networking. Learn more here
15. NexGen Conference & Technology Expo
When: November 27 - 29, 2018
Where: Anaheim, CA @ Hilton Anaheim
Tickets: Prices not yet announced
The Lowdown: Whether you’re hoping to grow your skillset, or you’re seeking new tech solutions to make your job easier, NextGen has a little something for everyone. You’ll get actionable advice and in-depth education on a broad range of topics including business intelligence and analytics, cyber security, IoT, mobility, and plenty more. Learn more here
And there you have it — fifteen of the best IT conferences happening in North America this year. While it may be a little difficult (and expensive) to attend every event, setting aside time for one or two industry events in 2018 will help you keep your skills sharp and stay in-the-know about the newest tech and biggest trends in IT & helpdesk tech.