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Expand Your Horizons This Year at These 7 Conventions and Retreats

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When instant gratification and “what can you do for me” are the orders of the day, have leisurely retreat workshops lost their meaning?

When vast troves of information are just a few clicks or taps away, and our personal networks fit neatly into the four-inch square that we can’t even put down for a moment, are professional conventions worth the cost?

For millions of conventioneers and retreat-goers, the answer to these questions remains “yes.”

“[I]f you’ve never traveled anywhere for a retreat — one that speaks to your passions and interests — I can’t recommend them enough,” writes Courtney Leigh in the Huffington Post. “We all need time away, if only to appreciate the beauty and splendor of home upon returning.”

Leigh’s writers retreat required her to disconnect entirely from the modern world. Her top reason for attending, in fact, was the “rock-solid excuse to ignore the Internet” for the duration.

You don’t have to completely step away from your cares and responsibilities to let loose at a convention or retreat, though. These seven opportunities encourage networking and connection-building, in fact. Your four-inch square will be right at home in the throngs.

  1. International Consumer Electronics Show

The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) needs no introduction. It’s arguably the most popular consumer tech conference on the planet, attracting some 180,000 attendees and 4,000 exhibitors across 2.6 million square feet of exhibition space last year. The 2018 show, held just after the winter holidays abate, promises the same.

Oh, and CES is held in Las Vegas, everyone’s second-favorite city. If that’s not convenient enough for you, check out CES’s Asia programming.

  1. MAS – ICNA

ICNA-MAS is a rapidly growing, annual event designed by and for American Muslims. The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), formed in 1968, focuses on education, diversity and inclusivity.

The next ICNA-MAS March convention takes place March 30 – April 1, 2018, and will feature more than 125 sessions and 150 speakers.

  1. Writer’s Digest Annual Conference

The Writer’s Digest Annual Conference is arguably the best place in America for creative writers to mix and mingle. According to the organizers, it offers “everything you need to advance creatively and professionally as a writer — no matter what stage of your career.”

Lots of conferences make similar claims, but Writer’s Digest can back theirs up: The organization has a 90-year pedigree and a proven track record of advancing careers and skills in a brutally competitive industry that’s notorious for undervaluing talent and distributing rewards unevenly. This year’s conference took place in New York City; registration for 2018 will be open soon enough.


COLLISION bills itself as “America’s fastest growing tech conference.” With more than 20,000 attendees, at least 3,000 of whom are CEOs, it’s undoubtedly a great place for ambitious entrepreneurs, inventors, and tech evangelists to meet, mingle, and scheme.

Next year’s COLLISION takes place in New Orleans, just in time for the Big Easy’s famous Jazz Fest — the perfect extracurricular activity for your new techie friends.

  1. European Conference on Social Media

Looking for an excuse to head across the pond this year? The European Conference on Social Media is as good as any. This year’s event takes place in Ireland, so you won’t even need a translator. And it’s open to non-professionals: If you fancy yourself an above-average social media user and don’t mind paying your own way to get there, no one’s going to stop you.

  1. Internet of Things Summit

Excited (or apprehensive) about the looming IoT future? Attend the Internet of Things Summit, held annually in San Francisco (with a satellite event in Europe), and prepare to have your socks blown off.

  1. Art & Soul Retreats

Art & Soul Retreats (technically, “Art & Soul Inspirational Mixed Media Retreats”) empower visual artists to challenge their capabilities. Several week-long events happen around the United States each year — upcoming sites include Virginia Beach, Portland (OR), and Minneapolis. Each features workshops, lectures, and demos taught by leading artists from the U.S. and abroad.

Education is the primary objective of each Art & Soul Retreat, but networking is a close second. If you’re a mixed media artist looking to form friendships and professional partnerships in a creative, laid-back environment, there’s no better place to be.

Which conventions are you most looking forward to this year?