Brush up on business networking at these fall conferences

5 min read
Doug Bonderud

It’s been a strange year for Canadian startups and solopreneurs. There’s never been more opportunity — or more challenge — in making a new business venture work. Business networking, long a staple of building better relationships, took a significant hit during COVID-19.

Many familiar conferences either went digital or skipped a year in hopes of better economic and social conditions.

But thanks to increasing vaccine supply and uptake, Canada is on the cusp of a return to semi-normalcy. Consider recent data from Statistics Canada:

  • While the economy contracted 18.2% between March and April 2020, it’s been steadily growing since. As of June 2021, it’s just 1% below pre-pandemic levels.
  • Although nearly 40% of startups (1-19 employees) anticipate challenges in stabilizing their profitability, the number of new business openings now outpaces closures.
  • In May 2021, more than 50,000 businesses opened while only 41,000 closed.

Additionally, there’s been an uptick in expanding conference options across the nation. And while it will take some effort for everyone to get back into the swing of social interaction, the connections established offer a substantive business boost.

Not sure where to get started? Here’s a look at some of the best fall conferences — both in-person and online — to reintroduce you to business networking.

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1. SocialAtHome Digital Marketing Summit

Where: Online

When: September 23-24, 2021

Price: $CA$327.12 conference, CA$218.43 live summit only

SocialAtHome Digital Marketing Conference

Would you like to learn how to start a successful social media and digital marketing strategy?

Now in its fourth year, this two-day business networking conference will feature more than 30 pro speakers, including Guy Kawasaki, author and host of Remarkable People.

Over the two-day conference, you’ll have three different speaker experiences to choose from every 45 minutes.

Related: 5 business tourism ideas for a world weary of home

2.  International Conference on Education, Business, Humanities and Social Sciences

Where: Ottawa, Ontario w/virtual option

When: September 28-29, 2021

Price: CA$634.52 for authors, CA$399.75 for listeners

Presented by the Global Society for Research and Development, the 539th International Conference on Education, Business, Humanities and Social Sciences is set to take place in late September in Ottawa.

This conference offers an opportunity for Canadian entrepreneurs to network with experts in their field and make valuable international connections that could fuel business growth.

This conference also offers a virtual attendance option for those who can’t attend in person or prefer digital sessions.

3. International Conference on Education, Business and Management

Where: Calgary, Alberta

When: October 4-8, 2021

Price: CA$761.42 for authors, CA$507.61 for listeners

Held in Calgary in early October, the International Conference on Education, Business and Management focuses on the reality and impact of digital disruption for both entrepreneurship and business management at scale.

The pandemic has created operations headaches for many businesses, particularly related to supply chains.

Organized this year by the Beyond Banking Group, the event looks to connect traders, business leaders, professionals, policy makers, and practitioners across disparate fields. The goal? To empower them to exchange key knowledge and best practices around operational success in the evolving digital world.

4. BDC Small Business Week

Where:  Throughout Canada, in-person and virtual

When: October 17-23

Price: Varies, check local listings

Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) has been hosting BDC Small Business Week every fall for more than 42 years. This is your chance to join 10,000 Canadian entrepreneurs for a full week of learning and business networking.

Small Business Week events will focus on innovation, inclusion and sustainability needed for small businesses to grow during this time of unprecedented change.

There will be both virtual and in-person events, including seminars, information sessions and luncheons around Canada. You can check on events happening near you here.

5. Conference for Non-profits, Charities & Volunteers

Where: Online

When: October 28-29

Price: CA$100 for members, CA$200 for non-members

Hosted by the BC Association for Charitable Gaming (BCACG) and Volunteer BC, this two-day virtual event will explore the challenges facing volunteers, non-profits, and charities. Soak up the workshops, speaker panels and business networking sessions from the comfort of your home or office.

6. WBE Canada 2021 Virtual Annual Conference

Where: Online

When: November 9-10

Price: CA$110 - CA$250

This year’s WBE Canada Virtual Annual Conference will focus on the impact and insight of women-owned startups and businesses in Canada.

This year’s theme is “Moving Forward Together — Driving Change Through Supplier Diversity.”

Black businesswoman holding a folder

The conference will tackle some of the biggest challenges presented by the pandemic for women-owned businesses in Canada.

Along with learning more about innovative business strategies to boost ROI (return on investment), business owners will also get the chance to connect with procurement and supplier diversity professionals who offer real-life, best practice examples.

Ease back into business networking this fall

Canadian startups and entrepreneurs now face a post-pandemic paradox as market growth begins in earnest but business connections are lacking thanks to months of social and operational isolation. The answer? It’s time to brush up on your business networking skills with in-person or virtual fall conferences.