photos by Cliff Grost
Ask anyone who attended the Connections Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, April 18-20, to describe the three-day event in one word and you get a myriad of answers. Trust me.
And to the long list of adjectival excess I logged ("capricious" and "serendipitous" being among the many responses I received) I add my own: relaxing.
Now, before Larry, Dennis, Paul, Ruth, the Connections Committee, the 9th Circuit Court and the DAR come calling with pitchforks and torches and shouting in voices reflecting more than a touch of indignation, "Relaxing? Are you quite mad? Do you not understand the work that goes into such a gathering as this? Descend the ramparts with immediacy, sir, so as to be properly smote for your ignorance!" let me say this: it's because of the aforementioned group's (sans the last two, as far as I know) exceptional efforts that an event so young displays such maturity and confidence.
"This is our second year in Florida with the Connections Conference, and I think you'll be very pleased with the information you're going to receive," Conference co-chair Ruth Travis said in her opening remarks. "We actually have 13 industry trade associations involved with Connections Conference. We have two international associations and 11 regional associations involved from all over the country.
"Take the time to check your schedule and read what's going on; there's going to be some things you've never seen before," she said.
The conference progressed from there, smooth as butter. Information and education to ensnare the intellect was doled out in the various halls and meeting rooms.
A speakers list comprising the likes of Jeff Bishop, Aaron Groseclose, Dan Bernazzani, Carey Mitchell and more spoke on "The Challenge of Using the Right Carpet Products in the Right Place," "Methods, Myths and Made Up Stuff! Investigating the Carpet Cleaning Methods," "OK, So It Is Rocket Science" and a host of other subjects, including marketing techniques, designed to help cleaning and restoration professionals increase their bottom line.
"Marketing to women gives you a better return on your dollar," said Jon-Don's Bill Yeadon in his seminar "How to Use Effective Marketing to Keep Your Customers Out of the Hands of Your Competition," one of the show's three keynote addresses. "Women rarely buy early in the decision-making process. The more information you can give them, the better. She may be harder to sell, but once she has bought from you, she will be more loyal than men will, and she'll recommend two to three more people than a man will."
The educational offerings exceeded expectations; the exhibition did likewise.
Almost 100 companies set up shop inside and outside the junior ballroom of the Rosen Centre Hotel.
A cornucopia of delights was laid out for visual and economic consumption, with truckmounts, wands, portables, sprayers, chemicals, moisture meters, marketing programs, air movers, mops, broom, buckets, signage and more jockeying for space and attention.
Sponsor companies like Bridgepoint, Indoor Air Management, Dry Pro, Fiberlock Technologies, Pro's Choice, Water Out, Jon-Don, Air & Water Center, Bolden's Manufacturing and Prochem, as well as the Carpet and Rug Institute and the IICRC, brought their ‘A' games to the show, and they did not disappoint (ICS is also a proud sponsor of Connections).
The success of the Connections Conference stems not from its organizers' meticulous attention to detail, nor from its powerhouse lineup of speakers and instructors, not even from the deeper-than-you-have-any-right-to-expect-at-a-technical-conference showcase of exhibitors; it's the honest attempt by everyone involved to provide $2 of value for every $1 spent that makes the Connections Conference and Exhibition, and the Connections Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas, Sept. 23-25, the must-attend shows of the year.