Every year I compile a list of technology, business and self-improvement conferences that have the potential to positively impact your business, career and life. Personally, the conferences I attended in 2018 helped me make new connections with leaders in key industries I'm focusing on, discover the latest trends and information needed to make good decisions or take action, and learn how I can continue to evolve into the best version of myself.

For these reasons, and many more, I plan to attend even more conferences this year. While I do focus on conferences in my industry, I make an effort to explore experiences that will also add to my life on a fulfillment level. And in all cases, attending a conference provides me with the opportunity to see old friends and make new ones, build community and enjoy real-life relationship building that is increasingly more rare due to the human disconnection that social media creates.

There are hundreds of great conferences every year, and they're all worth exploring. In an effort to save time, I've compiled a list of the conferences and experiences that I've attended, will attend or that are well-regarded in my community. Take a look, and consider how any one of these conferences can add to your life in 2019.

1. Collision

Dates: May 20-23 
Location: Toronto, Canada

Collision continues to be one of the very best conferences you'll attend in technology and entrepreneurship. Expect game-changing speakers, dynamic content and great opportunities to network and connect with others. Collision will move to Toronto, Canada this year, after many years in New Orleans, Louisiana.

2. TechCrunch Disrupt (San Francisco)

Dates: October 2-4
Location: San Francisco, California

Home to the famous Startup Battlefield competition, TechCrunch Disrupt is an exciting conference for anyone involved in the startup community. The next generation of startups display their projects while top-notch speakers (previous speakers have included Aileen Lee, Marc Benioff, Marc Andreessen, etc) share their perspectives on the latest technologies, trends and innovations.

3. EVRYMAN Open Source Retreats

Dates: Multiple (check the website)
Location: Multiple locations across the country (check the website)

There are conferences, and there are experiences that change your life. For me, an EVRYMAN Open Source Retreat fell into the second category, as it helped me experience significant personal breakthroughs. These mens-only retreats give participants a safe environment to learn how to use their emotions to access the personal shadows they hide away behind the mask of masculinity. 

The weekend-long retreats include group work, solo work, small group circles and time outdoors - providing the setting and tools to help men let go of the blockages that create toxic behavior or keep them from being the best they can be. Attendees leave with a deeper connection to their true selves and to the people they love most.

4. South by Southwest

Dates: March 8-17
Location: Austin, Texas

A conference that needs no introduction, South by Southwest is an eclectic community that is brought together around technology, music, film and the topics most important to humanity. In addition to the high quality of content, South by Southwest is fun and provides ample opportunity to connect and build community.

5. Startup Grind Global Conference

Dates: February 12-13
Location: Redwood City, California (Silicon Valley)

Easily the most underrated conference you'll find in entrepreneurship, Startup Grind Global Conference is a can't miss event. Over two days, you'll hear from a who's who of leaders in tech, investing, leadership and startups. In addition to outstanding interviews and content, you'll have ample opportunities to network with people in Startup Grind's global community.

6. Summit LA19

Dates: November 8-11 
Location: Downtown Los Angeles, California

Billed as an "ideas festival," a Summit LA conference tends to feel more like a community, or an experience, than a traditional conference. Summit LA brings together leaders, change-makers and creators from a wide variety of industries and disciplines to connect, share ideas and create a better future. In addition to content and networking, the three day festival will also include wellness classes, art installations, food and other experiences intended to create real human connection and inspire attendees.

7. Consensus

Dates: May 13-15
Location: New York City, New York

Coindesk's Consensus is one of the best blockchain and cryptocurrency conferences of the year. The event features over 250 world-class speakers, the hottest startups, media and lots of opportunities to network with more than 8,500 attendees - all in exciting New York City. 

8. Ernst Young Strategic Growth Forum

Dates: TBD
Location: TBD

Regarded by many people in my community as the best conference of the year, Ernst Young Strategic Growth Forum brings together the elite performers in business, sports and entertainment.

9. Next Gen Summit

Dates: June 7-9
Location: New York City, New York

Next Gen Summit is an invitation-only conference for the world's most talented entrepreneurs. Now in its fifth year, Next Gen Summit 2019 will welcome over one thousand participants. All participants pick personalized tracks and have access to mentors, investors and executive one-on-one sessions.

10. Dreamforce

Dates: November 19-22
Location: San Francisco, California

Dreamforce is a rewarding experience for any entrepreneur, professional, small business or large company. The event attracts tens of thousands of attendees and provides over a thousand workshops and sessions to learn how Salesforce can help take your business to the next level. There's also parties and plenty of networking opportunities.

11. SF Blockchain Week

Dates: TBD
Location: TBD

SF Blockchain Week provides multiple days of relevant content and education, helping empower people in the Blockchain community and educate new entrants. Expect to hear the latest insights from the industry's best speakers and rub elbows with many of the industry's leaders.

12. Inc. 5000

Dates: TBD
Location: TBD

This conference highlights the annual Inc. 5000 list, which features the hottest startups. The conference includes remarkable speakers and a community of ambitious and accomplished entrepreneurs.

13. Crypto Invest Summit

Dates: April 9-10
Location: Los Angeles, California

Crypto Invest Summit focuses heavily on the investment side of these new asset classes and technologies. Last year's event attracted over 2,000 investors and the speaker list includes the top names in blockchain and blockchain investing. 

14. Wisdom 2.0

Dates: March 1-3
Location: San Francisco, California

Wisdom 2.0 focuses on the part of humanity that is often neglected: decreasing human connection and its impact on our wellness. People from all walks of life unite to discuss how we can increase our sense of wellness, mindfulness, spirituality and fulfillment. It's a refreshing event in a sea of conferences that focus on business, profits and a limited definition of success.

15. Funnel Hacking Live

Dates: February 19-23
Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Online marketing shows no signs of slowing down and a great funnel is the heart of an effective e-commerce strategy. As the name suggests, Funnel Hacking Live focuses on how to create funnels and optimize online marketing efforts. You'll network with entrepreneurs, hear from experts and likely leave with the action items you need to be successful.

16. Web Summit

Dates: November 4-7
Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Web Summit is one of the world's biggest and best conferences. Many of my peers list this conference as the best of the year thanks to the content, speakers, networking and the energy of the community. Except to be among over 70,000 attendees from all over the world. The conference also does a great job organizing social events.

17. SaaStr

Dates: February 5-7
Location: San Jose, California (Silicon Valley)

As the name suggests, SaaStr focuses on the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) community. The conference attracts over 10,000 attendees and top speakers in SaaS, including founders and leaders from Stripe, Trello and Hubspot.

18. Social Media Marketing World

Dates: March 20-22
Location: San Diego, California

If you're looking to learn about the world of social media, or take your skills to the next level, Social Media Marketing World is one of the best places to be. The conference features over 100 speakers with proven success and breakout sessions provide detailed learning across several different tracks.

19. Mobile World Congress

Dates: February 25-28
Location: Barcelona, Spain

Mobile World Congress continues to deliver an industry leading conference that attracts attendees from around the world. This massive conference covers existing and emerging technologies and will attract entrepreneurs, investors, small businesses and international corporations.

20. Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

Dates: January 8-11
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Easily one of the largest conferences on this list, CES attracts over 100,000 attendees and is still the epicenter for showcasing the latest consumer technologies and making big announcements. The multi-day event attracts attendees and exhibitors from all over the world. Walk the many exhibition halls, attend parties and network till you drop.

Final Word

Your network is a major source of success. I've learned that "who" you know is as important, if not more so, than "what" you know.  When thinking about which conference to attend, don't underestimate the value of the people you will meet and the community you will build.

With so many to pick from, find the one that excites you, empowers you to grow a professional or as a person and provides opportunities for you to learn new things and expand your network. ​

Published on: Jan 23, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.