Connect, BizBash Get Back to Hugs, Normalcy at Las Vegas Conference
Hugs replaced fistbumps as the days of yesteryear reappeared during the Connect and BizBash collocated event at Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa in Las Vegas.
The B2B conference geared toward matching event planners with venue personnel to spur future business, and evrent inpiration from BizBash, drew about 750 attendees in-person May 22-24, with another 1,500 event professionals participating online.
Connect and BizBash were in the unusual position of hosting a second event during the pandemic, having executed a scaled-down and delayed version of its largest annual conference last fall in Orlando. The difference between the 2020 event and May’s gathering was palpable, said Connect Vice President Patrick Higgins.
“It was back to normal,” he reported.
Safety precautions, including implementing Fern HealthCheck powered by ShareMy.Health as a digital passport, were in place.
“Safety, speed and efficiency are of the essence as Vegas and other event-hosting cities start admitting attendees back to these large gatherings,” explained Galen Murdock, founder and CEO of ShareMy.Health. “We’ve had more than 700 attendees, with 500 vaccine credentials managed, verified and shared with the event organizer. Plus more than 150 COVID-19 antigen tests were flawlessly executed through a telehealth video consultation — all from the privacy of the attendee’s hotel room.”
Higgins said it was clear that attendees’ focus was on business and not COVID-19. “Safety was there, but it was not on the forefront,” he said.
The show, which occurred a week before Nevada lifted its pandemic restrictions, served as a reunion, not only for industry peers but also for co-workers at companies split across the country. Mike Ferreira, owner and founder of Meetings Made Easy, celebrated the moment on social media with team members Sarah Buchbinder and Yvette Dumas Campbell.
“We know that this is a picture of three industry professionals but it’s so much more than that!,” he wrote on a Facebook post during the event. “This is a picture of three people that waited a year plus to see each other. The pandemic was the hardest time of our lives and for many others as well. Last nights [sic] reception was magical, we were able to network and be around our industry friends.”
BizBash President Matt Johnson was thrilled to be at the forefront of the industry's rapid recovery. "Our co-location with Connect provided the perfect opportunity for event professionals to achieve site-selection needs with event inspiration. As event professionals look to rebuild portfolios, BizBash has become even greater resource in showcasing the latest ideas, inspiration and vendors that will help the industry reimagine future experiences.”
Many of the standard Connect hallmarks were in-place, including general sessions, one-on-one appointments and networking functions. Attendees able to provide proof of vaccination were allowed to go maskless. The confidence walking into meeting rooms with bracelets marking vaccine status was noticeable.
Higgins is a strong believer that the events industry’s recovery, already in full swing, will only grow as more business travelers return to the airlines.
“Once they go on that first trip and see it’s safe, they will come back,” he said.
Connect and BizBash are counting on that for their next collaboration, Aug. 30-Sept. 1, at Tampa Convention Center. Early estimates predict that at least 3,000 corporate, association, sports and SMERF event professionals will be in attendance in Florida. The trade show, which figures to be larger than its 2019 counterpart in Louisville, is already three-quarters sold out, Higgins added.