Connecting in Orlando

For now my sixth consecutive year, preceded by Las Vegas, Louisville, Chicago, New Orleans and Milwaukee, I was lucky enough to be in attendance at Collinson Media’s now industry leading Connect Marketplace, held in Orlando, FL.  It was my second trip to Orlando in two months, the previous trip being for AIBTM, and as most adults would be, I was most fearful about what disease I was going to contract on the germ infested airplanes.  I was doubly and triply nervous because, as is tradition for this particular event, I was bringing my wife and now fifteen month old son Eli join me.  I think more were awaiting his arrival in Orlando than mine, and I actually mean at the conference.

The format changed a bit this year but it didn’t affect my interactions as much as it did suppliers.  Indeed I heard some grumblings about the separations that were imposed this year, but for me, I got every bit as much out of the conference as I always have, and it’s this soaring return on my investment (which is also quite little) that will assure I don’t miss any Connect Marketplace’s in the future.

As always, what makes this event so incredible is the way in which they manage to do everything and do it better than everyone else.  Their appointments are still just six minutes long, long enough to know whether or not I have the ability to do business with the person in front of me, but not long enough for us to share baby pictures of one another.  I get a total of 44 appointments in 2 days – at no other show can I even imagine to do that much predetermined networking.  On top of that, there’s the bonus networking events which are always well attended, include solid entertainment and impeccable venues.  The closing reception at Universal’s Citywalk was an excellent example.  Though the event spanned a dozen venues, I feel I had the ability to find people, to network, and enjoy some great food.  But perhaps above all this year, I was dazzled by the education and the litany of a-list speakers they’re able to wrangle.  Before I left the conference, among others, I’d be privileged to listen to director Lee Daniels, commander Mark Kelly, congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and newsman Anderson Cooper.  All were able to vaguely apply their message to the meetings and events industry but what I appreciate most about the speakers Connect produces is that they don’t force the connection.  The speakers are there to inspire, to awe, and enrich our lives and our experience.  Leave it to us to apply their message to our work life.  I wish others would follow suit when sourcing keynote speakers for their conference.

Once again I leave Connect Marketplace inspired, awed and enriched and can’t wait to see what the lineup entails next August in Pittsburgh, PA.

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