In a world of digital experiences fueled by augmented reality, artificial intelligence, remote meetings, video conferences, texts, online chat, social networks, email, collaboration platforms and the occasional phone call, sometimes you just have to catch your breath, pull the plugs and ask yourself a few serious questions.

Are all these digital experiences combined as meaningful as a single face-to-face conversation?

Am I sopping up knowledge at rates too fast to comprehend at the expense of experiences that could linger long after the information fades?

Do I know everything, but experience nothing (with all of my senses, in a real world sort of way)?

Today, the only touch involved in many interactions is the connection of our fingertips on a keyboard. And that's amazing in many respects, not to mention cost effective and efficient. 

It's nice to live with the illusion of friends and business acquaintances in every corner of the globe, and comforting to believe that every question has an answer (as long as you have access to Google).

But hold on.

Beyond DX, Connecting In the Real World

Wouldn't it be refreshing to connect with colleagues on a deeper level or have a one-on-one discussion with leading experts in your field? Wouldn't it be nice to share a laugh rather than a "haha"?

If you answered "yes," we both hear and congratulate you. You get it: You realize that theory is not the same as experience, and recognize the internet is not a substitute for life. 

So what should you do?

Here's an idea: Leave the safety of your always connected, virtual world and make plans to attend a relevant technology conference to spark your knowledge, engage your creativity and take advantage of networking opportunities. 

The desire for real connection is strong, and professional conferences have never been more popular.

Data from Demand Metric shows that B2B marketers in the US are pretty enthusiastic about conferences. When asked what kinds of events they have hosted or attended, the top two things cited were conferences (80 percent) and trade shows (69 percent).

B2B marketers also find that events like conferences are a good way to network, and, according to a study last year by Bizible, a great way for tech and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies to be “found” by their prospects. 

So which conferences should you put on your radar? With dozens to consider, the choice can be daunting. Here are seven great conferences to put on your agenda right now, including our own Digital Experience Summit. All of them offer exceptional opportunities for training, education and networking.

&Then

Los Angeles, Oct. 16 to 18 (conference site)

Sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), &THEN brings marketers together "to learn, share and co-create the future of our industry." Featuring hundreds of speakers from major brands, leading agencies and innovative services, &THEN markets itself as practical educational marketing conference for your day-to-day work.

Speakers include the Los Angeles Laker's Kobe Bryant, a five-time NBA Champion, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, NBA MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP and a 15-time All-NBA player, and Beth Comstock, Vice Chair of GE, where she leads GE’s efforts to accelerate new growth.

Oh … and it also offers some well-known musicians, Third Eye Blind and Sugar Ray.

Gartner Symposium/ITxpo

Orlando, Oct. 16 to 20 (conference site)

Designed for CIOs and senior IT executives, this conference is built on a framework of strategic and tactical priorities that overlap and interlock across leadership, technology and information, and business strategy.

As Gartner explains, "Your next asset or technology partner could be anywhere: Incubating just beyond your peripheral vision. Innovating outside everyone else’s comfort zone. The ability to expand your mindset and see the future in 360 becomes essential."

It attracts some big name speakers, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, as well as businessmen like Bert Jacobs, co-founder and CEO (Chief Executive Optimist) at The Life is Good Company and Frans Johansson, author of "The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts and Cultures."

Forrester's CXSF

San Francisco, Oct. 20 and 21 (conference site)

Sponsored by Forrester, CXSF is an event for customer experience leaders, innovators and practitioners to assess the future. It will address a wave of new technologies — including everything from virtual and augmented reality, AI-powered chat bots, the internet of things and voice recognition platforms. "Many CX professionals are still perfecting their game on the web and mobile, but these new tools threaten to render much of that effort stale or redundant in short order," Forrester noted.

Speakers include Ali Rayl, director of customer experience at Slack, the platform for team communication; Scott Jones, vice president, global user experience design for Expedia.com; and Helen Crossley, head of Audience Insights Research at Facebook.

MarTech Europe

London, Nov. 1 and 2 (conference site)

Scott Brinker — who you can also hear speak at the DX Summit — expects to have more than 400 attendees at his popular, vendor agnostic MarTech conference when he returns to London this fall. The conference is known for presentations that "dive deeper into the meaty topics surrounding marketing technology and help even advanced practitioners learn and grow."

Brinker is the co-founder and CTO of ion interactive, a software company that provides marketers with a platform for creating and testing marketing apps. He's also editor of chiefmartec.com and the author of "Hacking Marketing," a nontechnical guide to managing marketing with a new generation of “digitally native” practices and frameworks. The agenda is still in progress, but expect a strong lineup.

J. Boye Conference

Aarhus, Denmark Nov. 1 to 3 (conference site)

Janus Boye has earned a reputation for putting together an insightful conference that typically attracts several hundred delegates from more than a dozen countries. The aim of this event, he said, is "not to simply showcase the glitzy success stories from those with vast resources, but to provide tangible, realistic and cost effective ideas for how to get most out of the digital investments in an organization such as ours."

Speakers include CMSWire contributor Jed Cawthorne, director of business technology strategy and knowledge management at BMO Financial Group, one of the ten largest banks in North America. He'll be giving a presentation on the digital workplace and leading an afternoon workshop.

Marianne Kay, an analyst with Digital Clarity Group, will be discussing digital strategy and Hanna Karppi, group internal digital communication manager at Skanska, will speak about employee engagement.

JahiaX

Paris, Nov. 7 to 10 (conference site)

Jahia Solutions Group's international user conference will focus on the Art of the Possible "to make your exceptional customer experience a reality."

JahiaX is an opportunity for CMOs and CIOs to discover more about Jahia digital experience management solutions. For developers, JahiaX is also the opportunity to get trained and certified on our open source platform as well as gain insights and velocity for their future developments.

Speakers this year include Jahia CEO Elie Auvray as well as Mick MacComascaighresearch VP and lead analyst for web content management (WCM) at Gartner.

DX Summit

Chicago, Nov. 14 to 16 (conference site)

CMSWire’s Digital Customer Experience Summit 2016 conference brings together digital customer experience and MarTech leaders for 3 days of education, inspiration  and networking. The conference aims to help attendees and their organizations build the strategies and practices for the next generation of effective and engaging digital customer experiences.

The conference is organized around four tracks:

  1. Leadership, Vision and Culture — Today’s and tomorrow’s leaders learn the why and the how of transforming their organizations to be customer-centric, agile and aligned for digital customer experience success.
  2. Digital Experience Platforms: Acquisition & Maturity — Learn how to roadmap, acquire and mature your critical digital experience platform investments.
  3. MarTech Architectures and Strategies — Learn the essential marketing technology strategies, concepts, architectures and patterns for 2017 from both B2C and B2B perspectives.
  4. Data, Insights and Action — Digital leaders and practitioners advance their digital experience optimization skills and share case studies around analytics, big data, customer state models, targeting, personalization, persona modeling and overall digital optimization program success.

Speakers include Ardath Albee, CEO of Marketing Interactions, Mark Grannan, analyst at Forrester Research,  Phil Kemelor, senior manager of advanced analytics at London-based EY, Jeff Litvak, senior content publishing manager at Microsoft and Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group.

Join us (— and meet the CMSWire staff, too).