Operating a small business can be isolating at times, with owners often feeling like they go through their own, particular set of struggles. In actuality, entrepreneurs all over the world usually experience many of the same issues and are in fact eager to share those experiences with others. Online networking groups can be valuable resources, but there's no replacing a face-to-face connection.

While networking locally is essential, business today is often done on a national or global scale. Professional networking events allow you to get out of the office and meet people you might not have otherwise ever encountered. Here are 14 of the top networking conferences every small-business owner should attend.

You may not have to travel far to attend the Small Business Expo, since 10 major cities host it each year. The conference bills itself as the largest business-to-business trade show, conference, and networking event in the world.

Held in Manhattan in late April, 99U is geared toward entrepreneurs who are more interested in doing than dreaming. With more than 16 main-stage talks and 75-minute master classes, from some of the top minds in business today, attendees can learn how to make an idea happen.

Business leaders aren't the only ones who can inspire you. Each March, South by Southwest, or SXSW, brings the best minds in film, music, and business together to discuss innovation and change. The Interactive division of the conference is especially helpful in learning marketing techniques.

In April, professionals from a variety of industries converge in Las Vegas to discuss electronic media. The conference brings together bloggers, podcasters, traditional radio and TV broadcasters, and social media marketers to discuss the latest tools and strategies for disseminating information.

Your small business will go nowhere without marketing. Pubcon is one of the country's most helpful conferences if you want to learn more or perfect your online and content marketing efforts. It's held in Las Vegas each year and brings some of the most knowledgeable experts in the fields of SEO, social media, and content marketing.

Portland, Oregon, is home to the World Domination Summit each July, with sessions that inspire attendees to take the next step toward their dreams. Workshops cover topics such as the power of positive thinking and the importance of writing down goals. When the day's workshops are over, participants gather for activities such as forming the world's largest yoga chain.

If you have a technology product to launch, DEMO is the place. This conference, held throughout the year in locations around the world, is known as the launching pad for such major companies as E-Trade, Salesforce, TiVo, WebEx, and much more.

Female business owners may be interested in the annual conference of the Women's Business Enterprise National Council. Held in late June in varying cities, the WBENC event brings female entrepreneurs together to network, learn, and gain inspiration from each other.

Hosted by popular cloud software solution Salesforce, Dreamforce attracts major names in business, politics, and entertainment. This year's roster includes Hillary Rodham Clinton, Tony Robbins, and Bruno Mars. Held in mid-October in San Francisco, Dreamforce has been called "half rock concert and half industry show."

Those in the New York City area have access to the biggest business networking event in the Northeast, with more than 40 free seminars geared toward small-business owners. More than 10,000 executives attend the event, making it ideal for networking with other business owners in the region.

The Launch Festival is specifically designed to help startups and small businesses introduce their ideas to gain support. Held in March in San Francisco, the Launch Festival allows entrepreneurs to present their ideas to an audience of investors and fellow professionals. Presenters compete for prizes such as Best Design, Best Technology, and Best Overall.

Hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, America's Small Business Summit brings entrepreneurs from around the country together to network and share ideas. Held in Washington, D.C., in June, the summit includes receptions, breakout sessions, and Blue Ribbon Awards.

Conferences and networking events are a great way to meet small-business owners who share your concerns and challenges. Not only that, these gatherings can show you improvements you need to make in areas that can make or break your business. By working together, entrepreneurs can help each other succeed, bolstering the small-business community as a whole.

Published on: Oct 6, 2014