Connect Finds Success with Five-in-one Hosted Buyer Event
The most recent edition of the 2018 Connect meetings series, which collocated Connect Association, Connect Corporate, Connect Sports, Connect Expo and Connect Specialty and was held Aug. 23-25 in Salt Lake City, Utah, added several new dimensions to the traditional hosted-buyer model of 1:to:1 meetings between industry suppliers and meeting planners.
“If you’ve got different buyer groups, you’ve got some scale and some opportunity for a lot of cross-fertilization and learning and a different experience that some people like,” said Doug Emslie, managing director at Tarsus Group, which owns a majority stake in Connect. Tarsus also is the parent company of TSNN.
While other meetings in the growing Connect portfolio focus on no more than two buyer or market demographics at a time, the Salt Lake City gathering combined buyers from all five of the different market segments.
With more than 3,500 participants, the Connect annual event held in The Beehive State is the largest meeting in the series, which now includes 32 events.
In addition to bringing together a diverse audience, Connect also changed the usual format of 1:to:1 meetings in which the seller is seated and the buyers rotate in and out of meetings.
At Connect in Salt Lake City, the planners (buyers) were stationary and the hotels, convention centers, destinations, technology companies and service providers (sellers) moved from table to table.
Chris Collinson, president of Connect Meetings, called it a “reverse trade show.”
While smaller, niche meetings are the norm for most hosted-buyer experiences, combining multiple buyer groups has a certain appeal for participants.
Although Connect was committed to programming that allowed planners to “make the best use of their time,” Collinson said, a heavy focus was also was placed on the seller. “We’re here to serve hotels, convention centers and other firms allied to the industry. Our mindset is, ‘how we can help them drive more business?’” he added.
As the only format Connect events employ, staffers work year round forging relationships with buyers and sellers to facilitate optimal 1:to:1 meetings for participants.
Guests at Connect were treated to a full complement of programming, including keynotes from television host and author Robin Roberts and football legend Peyton Manning, as well as a robust slate of educational sessions.
They were invited to an opening reception at Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah, the scene of the 2002 opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games.
Separate areas in the convention center hosted exhibits and education on event technology, wellness and LinkedIn profiles.
The technology offerings, which also included the ConnecTech lounge, sparked the interest of several participants.
“As a planner, I always want to see what’s out there in the industry like the touchscreens and eventbots. We are trying to be on the forefront of technology with our conferences so in terms of meeting with different people that can help us with technology needs, Connect has been a good resource,” commented Bret Losee, CMP, director of events at the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts.
The hosted-buyer format, while not new, is growing in popularity through standalone meetings and as a component of larger meetings and trade shows.
“It’s becoming understood that it’s no longer good enough to sell a booth, do some mass marketing, put buyers and sellers in the same room and then hope that something happens. The big move in the industry is to take responsibility for making sure there is a good quality interaction between buyer and seller and the one-to-one format provides that,” Emslie explained.
The next events in the Connect series, Connect Medical and Connect Tech, will take place Oct. 14-15, 2018, at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas.
Next year’s Connect annual event will be held in Louisville, Ky. For more info, please visit: www.ConnectMeetings.com