It's impossible for companies to thrive without technology and innovation. Identifying and evolving with industry trends and finding new ways to keep audiences engaged with your brand is what separates successful businesses from the rest. There's no better time than the present to sharpen your innovation practices, and attending live events with industry leaders and experts in person is one of the best ways to expand your innovation knowledge.

After my recent article on leadership conferences, I received a few requests for my recommendations for good technology and innovation events, too. I've been a keynote speaker at some of these and attended a few myself, and some have been highly recommended to me by other speakers I know. Based on that information, here's a list of must-attend innovation and technology conferences in 2017:

Connect with some of the industry's most prominent innovators at South by Southwest, the world's largest creative business conference and festival. Participants this year include Sony, which will introduce its latest prototypes incorporating cutting-edge technologies, and Grammy Award-winning duo the Chainsmokers, whose virtual reality music video for its latest single "Paris" will debut at the event.

MobileBeat brings together the most forward-thinking tech professionals in the business and explores major trends in the mobile world. With the growing popularity of artificial intelligence, this year's MobileBeat will discuss machine learning, mobile commerce, predictive analytics, and other AI-centric topics. It's a great opportunity for brands and marketers to learn more about leveraging the disruptive impact of AI for more engaged marketing experiences.

Recognized by Forbes as "the best technology conference on the planet," Collision is a fast-growing event that gathered more than 20,000 attendees in just two years. In 2017, CEOs, investors, and media professionals from more than 4,500 companies in 110 countries will come together in New Orleans to explore the best, most innovative ideas and products from the tech world. The conference will take place over a weekend between two Jazz Fest events, so if you're a jazz fan, I recommend planning an extended trip to enjoy the music and culture before or after the conference.

If you consider yourself a hybrid professional who's savvy in both marketing and technology, then MarTech is the perfect conference to add to your schedule. This international conference offers deep dives into operational issues and discusses strategy-focused topics to help attendees better understand the depth and breadth of marketing technologies. This year, MarTech attendees will have lots of flexibility with personalized agendas during the event to best serve their interests.

Creative people, prepare to be inspired at Adobe's 99U Conference. Starting with a kickoff event and ending with a closing party at the Museum of Modern Art, the ninth annual 99U provides intensive opportunities to network with the world's top creative leaders. The conference also includes live interactive sessions, a tour across New York City's most innovative companies, and other surprises to keep you on your toes.

The 2017 Business Innovation Factory summit consists of 32 15-minute stories of transformation told by innovative leaders across different industries and sectors. This unique experience gives you the chance to sit in a historic theater along with executives from Intel, Salesforce, Huffington Post, and other companies to find inspiration, build connections, and learn new ways to transform yourself and your businesses.

As a leading technology media outlet dedicated to profiling startups, TechCrunch presents this three-day conference that will unite thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, and hackers to discuss key tech innovations. Early-stage startups that sign up (for free) will have the chance to compete for a $50,000 prize and massive media attention.

Get ready to immerse yourself in fun at the Future of Storytelling Festival. This first-of-its-kind event gathers storytellers from around the world to explore immersive storytelling through 70 interactive exhibitions, including multiperson VR theaters, conversation panels, and more. The event is open to the public. Sign up to have fun and learn how technology is pushing storytelling to evolve in the digital age.

The Wall Street Journal is reconvening this premier event in both California and Hong Kong this year. The conference unites leading technology experts worldwide to discuss cutting-edge topics through interviews, roundtables, and other interactive events. The event is invite-only, and presale tickets are now available for attendees of the 2016 conference.

Known as "the world's largest payments and financial services innovation event," Money20/20 gathers more than 11,000 attendees from 85 countries to explore how businesses and consumers manage money in disruptive ways. This year's Money20/20 will continue to run its exciting hackathon, an intense 24-hour competition in which developers around the world showcase their skills using the most cutting-edge tools.

Summit is known for its amazing cruises and trips to Powder Mountain, and this year, it's changing it up and hosting its big event in downtown Los Angeles. The event unites some of the most prominent leaders across industries to share experiences and leadership lessons. Summit 2017 features speakers including Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post; Kobe Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and founder of Kobe Inc.; Malcolm Gladwell, a The New York Times bestselling author; and many more luminaries from various backgrounds.

Held in eight cities across North America, this weeklong festival celebrates technology and entrepreneurship and recognizes numerous companies and individuals for their support of the local tech ecosystem. Participants will have the opportunity to hear behind-the-scenes stories of famous tech executives. While the names of 2017 speakers haven't been revealed, speakers from previous years have included BuzzFeed co-founder Jonah Peretti; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; and Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick.

Rated by 97 percent of participants as "the best innovation conference ever," Trend Hunter's Future Festival is where you sharpen your innovation skills and experience the future. Here, you'll enjoy an experience that consists of immersive performances, personalized innovation assessments, and one-on-one consultations. And if you sign up for the Toronto session, you'll even get the chance to nurture ideas in the same workshop that helped NASA prototype its journey to Mars.

A good innovation conference brings learning, networking, and fun into one single experience and pushes you ahead of your competition -- and that's exactly what these conferences will do. If I missed an event that you're looking forward to, let me know in the comments, and I'll be sure to check it out.

Published on: Feb 26, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.