ICBI Brings Thought Leadership to Life

For more than 30 years, InBIA’s International Conference on Business Incubation (ICBI) has been the premiere event for incubation and other entrepreneurial support professionals, and has become globally recognized as a forum for collaborative sharing of innovative strategies for building high-impact entrepreneurship centers, exploring lessons learned, and tracking trends in entrepreneurial ecosystem development.

With over 600 attendees from more than 45 countries, representing at least 30,000 startups, ICBI recognizes that building a thriving ecosystem involves more than just a few individuals – It involves an entire community of entrepreneurial influencers willing to connect with other game-changers on a local and international level.

InBIA’s 32nd ICBI will be held in Dallas, Texas, April 22-25, 2018. Home to the largest cluster of Fortune 1,000 companies in the United States as well as a colossal international conglomerate ecosystem, Dallas is an ideal location for ICBI32 to showcase innovative program models and best practices in incubation, while merging the gap between startup ecosystems and BIG business.

ICBI is recognized as the forum for industry practitioners who have expertise, lessons learned, and best practices to share with their peers. As speakers and panelists in the more than 30 concurrent sessions that make up the bulk of the ICBI content, these practitioners cover topics that fall into five tracks below. The nature of the sessions facilitates idea creation and resource sharing as participants become the presenters and speak from a place of common experience.

If you would like to share your expertise in any of the topics below,

submit your RFP here.

The five featured tracks include:    

  • Operating Sustainable Entrepreneurship Programs
  • Serving Entrepreneurs
  • Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
  • Industry Trends and Innovations
  • Specialty Programs.

Presenting at ICBI is not just about creating content, though – the experience offers so much beyond the simple act of speaking on the stage. But don’t just take our word for it – find out what five our frequent speakers had to say on the topic.

Do you remember the first time you submitted a proposal to speak at an InBIA conference? What prompted you?

SANDRA COCHRANE, Western Michigan University School of Medicine:  “Yes, it was for a session on financial sustainability way back in 2006. Infact, I still have my notes for that session! A colleague/friend from another state who knew I wanted to be more active in NBIA (now InBIA) offered me the opportunity to co-present with him. I thought I was horrible, but he told me I did just fine and encouraged me to keep presenting.”


JIM GREENWOOD, Greenwood Consulting Group Inc:  “I believe it was for the Pittsburg conference in the mid-1980s. I was motivated by the change in  NBIA leadership that allowed those of outside of the “good ole boy network” to submit proposals. I’d been in the newly forming incubator industry for a few years at that point, and felt I had learned some things that would benefit others in or entering the industry. I continue to learn things about incubators that I feel are important to share with others. I want our industry to be as strong and successful as possible, and one way to do that is to share what I have learned and also attend the annual conference to learn from others.” 


KATHERINE COTA, John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center:  “Yes, it was for the Kansas City conference in 2009. The sessions really sparked my interest. Since I had used NBIA (now InBIA) materials when writing the proposal to establish our first incubator in 2000, I knew of the organization and was interested in attending.”


CAROL LAUFFER, Business Cluster Development: “I think my first conference was 15 or 16 years ago and I just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to share what we were doing. It was and still is a good way to helps start a conversation to drive more economic development.”


TED BAKER, Innovation Connector: “My first international conference was New Orleans, in 2014. InBIA helped me in the quest for doing this type of work. It really changed my career life because I didn’t have much knowledge on the industry when I first started out. I wanted to make sure that the next person coming along would have the opportunity to receive vital information to continue down their career path.”

What are some benefits you’ve seen from speaking at ICBI?

SANDRA: “Presenting at InBIA establishes me as an industry expert which helps me in my community. Being a regular InBIA presenter/industry expert gives me credibility with my stakeholders and my clients.”


JIM: “It challenges you to organize your thoughts about a subject so that you can present them in a logical and understandable way. You really find out if you understand an issue or problem when you try to organize a conference presentation!”


KATHERINE: “Connections! Connections! Connections!  It is helpful to know I can contact others with expertise in various knowledge areas we might be lacking. It has been helpful to give a resource to our students who are moving to another part of the country.”


CAROL: “I’ve had a positive experience every time over the past 16 years. Whether there are 25 or 100 people in the room, the people who attend are always engaged. Listening, asking questions, coming around at the end of sessions to discuss.”


TED: “There’s an element of being recognized by the association. You can just be a member, but you get recognized and noticed by other people in the industry. It’s like in academia when you write a book. Being validated by peers in the association – who wouldn’t want to be part of that?”

Why do you continue to submit proposals to speak at the conference?

SANDRA: “I continue to submit for two reasons: 1) it is a good way to give back to the entity that supported me so much when I was new and needed help. By sharing what I know with others, I am giving back. 2) I’m a big old ham and I love speaking to groups of people. Presenting at InBIA is FUN!”


JIM: “I continue to learn things about incubators that I feel are important to share with others. I want our industry to be as strong and successful as possible, and one way to do that is to share what I have learned, and also attend the annual conference to learn from others.”


KATHERINE: “We do some incredible things here at the University of Northern Iowa and people would not naturally know about them since we are not a ‘big-name school’.  I’m proud of what we have done and think we have valuable lessons to share.”


CAROL: “It’s all about bringing people together and having new voices join the discussions. Creating panels is a great way to do this because it brings a diverse group of leaders together who have good perspectives on the topic. It really makes the panel more interesting.”


TED: “It challenges me. I love to be challenged with these ideas, and it’s the best way to present these industry insights to my peers. We’re talking peer-to-peer training, not expert to audience. The fun part is I don’t have all the answers and that’s okay with me.”

What advice would you share with someone who is thinking about submitting a proposal for the first time?

SANDRA: “Find a seasoned presenter to co-present with you the first time, especially someone who has presented at InBIA before. That person will help you craft a presentation that will likely be well-received. Having a seasoned co-presenter takes a lot of the pressure off you.”  


JIM: “Just do it! Be willing to share, but again, be careful to say that you’re speaking from your experience, and my have one answer and not necessarily the only answer. I hear too many speakers who share their opinion as the only possible answer when it’s far from it.” 




CAROL: “It’s important to think about the topic & how it’s relevant to attendees. It’s great that you want to present the amazing work you’re doing, but think about how that applies to everyone else. Think about sharing lessons you’ve learned. Think about relevance to the larger group, and make sure you help people understand how the program is relevant to others. There is always such a broad range of people in audience.”


TED: “Have the end in mind when you’re speaking – what is it that you really want people to take away. If I can communicate that in some form, then, it’s been a win. Be flexible. We’re here to serve others, not dominate. Most of the time, panel discussions work well.  Teams and panels can eliminate one person dominating everything.”

We are currently accepting proposals from anyone who is interested in joining these veteran speakers and presenters. If you have expertise in the business incubation field and/or lessons learned, we invite you to share them with an audience of peers.

Don’t think you have what it takes? We doubt that’s the case, but if you feel more comfortable stepping into your leadership role as a panelist, let us know your experience and knowledge, and if we can match you with a panel, we will. Or you can propose your own topics, panel or presentations – we’ll take all suggestions into deep consideration to create the most rewarding experience for our attendees.

Fulfill your chance to become recognized as an industry thought leader and submit your proposal by October 20th to speak at #ICBI32.