4-14-2014-11-42-25-AM-300x183Every so often it happens, and I become completely enraptured by someone on stage.

You may be thinking it’s an actor or a musician, but I am talking about people with Power Point presentations and bottled water. These are conference keynote speakers and presenters, and some of them have inspired the way I think as much as lyrics from John Lennon, Neil Young or Rush.

I go to a lot of conferences both as a speaker and attendee, sometimes as many as two or three times a month. Sure, it can be a grind – you get sore feet and more LinkedIn contacts than you can handle – but when that awe-inspiring presenter leaves the stage, those details are forgotten and you instead spend time thinking about how to help change the world.

As I prepare my carry-on for another event, I thought I would take stock of those I have attended over the years. I realize not everyone can attend every event, but if time and money were no barrier, I’d list these five as the must-sees given their focus and the quality of the content:

1. The COLLOQUY Loyalty Summit – Not everyone can attend the COLLOQUY Summit and that’s part of its appeal. With vendor attendance strictly limited, the COLLOQUY Summit brings together 250 loyalty marketing executives for two days of educational sessions, inspirational speakers and networking. The 2014 event will feature keynotes from futurist Mike Walsh and retail performance expert Kevin Graff. I’ve been the emcee of this event for the past 12 years and there are few better places for marketers to network with their peers and learn about the latest advancements in omnichannel marketing and other data-driven industry advancements.

2. CRMC – The Customer Relationship Management Conference – Retailers are the focus of this two-day conference held in Chicago each spring. Attendees can expect to see executives from New York & Company, Luxottica, Office Depot and Toys ‘R’ Us present alongside their agency partners. Register early as it always sells out since this conference focuses on ensuring that retailers present their own work on-stage.

3. The Art Of Marketing – These annual conferences, held in Canada and the U.S., bring together prominent leaders, bestselling authors and compelling speakers to discuss the hottest marketing topics including social media, social entrepreneurship and branding. I was honored to be one of the speakers when my book, “The Loyalty Leap,” was published in 2012.

4. Money2020 – Mobile payments are redefining the retail experience and in just two years the Money2020 event has established itself as the premiere conference in this burgeoning space. Where else can you find 6,500 attendees including 500 CEO’s representing 2,000 companies from 50 countries all talking about the evolution of commerce at the intersection of payments and financial services? And it’s in Vegas.

5. World Business Forum – For the past five years, I’ve taken a group of executives from my company to this conference in New York. I don’t know of any other event where luminaries like Ben Bernanke, Malcolm Gladwell, Robert Redford and Simon Sinek share the stage with leading academics, economists and CEO’s. While the content is not specific to marketing, this conference is great for providing a broader perspective on the key economic and cultural issues that affect business.

While I try to keep these five conferences on my schedule each year, there is no shortage of events that provide new material for marketers interested in all things “loyalty.” I would recognize the following conferences or forums because they provide great platforms for our industry on how to effectively build better loyalty marketing approaches.

DMA Loyalty Marketing Fundamentals – These two-day workshops, held in various U.S. cities throughout the year, provide ideal training for those new to the loyalty marketing field. In two information-packed days, participants learn the fundamentals of designing and building a strategy that cultivates loyal customers, reduces attrition and improves profitability. COLLOQUY has partnered with the DMA on these workshops since 1999 and hundreds of marketers have benefitted from this training.

GSummit – Gamification has become a huge component of digital marketing, loyalty marketing and even human resources. The GSummit is less about gamification and more about conquering the user engagement crisis. Over four days, attendees will have the chance to hear more than 50 speakers (including a keynote from Neil deGrasse Tyson), attend hands-on workshops and earn a certification.

Card Forum – One of the few conferences in the financial services sector that includes a focus on loyalty marketing. All of the major banks and credit card issuers attend and they’re starting to attract more retailers.

The CMA Loyalty Conference – This half-day event held each February does a great job of showcasing the leading loyalty programs and initiatives in Canada. Disclaimer: I’m on the CMA Board of Directors.

Loyalty World – The event coordinator Terrapinn hosts more than a dozen Loyalty World conferences in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia and South America. Its format is “pay to speak” so the content is often self-promotional, but over the years I’ve heard some excellent presentations.

Loyalty Expo – This annual event, hosted by Loyalty360, just completed its seventh conference, and it’s one of the largest loyalty conferences in terms of number of attendees. In addition to speakers, it features a trade show and expo where loyalty providers can show their wares.

NRF Big Show – The National Retail Federation’s annual conference does not focus on marketing – store operations, merchandising and technology all play a large role. With a huge trade show, there’s no better event to get insight on the trends and topics.