Connect Finds Success with Five-in-one Hosted Buyer Event

August 29, 2018

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.

Robin Roberts
Robin Roberts

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:


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.