Connect Is Getting Back to Business with Virtual Appointments, Strict Safety Protocols

June 8, 2020

Connect, the Atlanta-based producer of live events for meeting planners and the travel and tourism industry, has stepped out as a leader in creating contingency plans to meet the industry’s needs as it recovers from the COVID-19 crisis. The company’s latest announcements include robust health and safety protocols as the launch of a new digital platform — Connect Express — for suppliers unable to attend Connect Marketplace 2020, which is set for Aug. 17-19 at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Due to travel restrictions, budget concerns and other challenges facing many event participants, Connect has launched the Connect Express virtual appointment lounge that leverages Connect’s original matchmaking platform. 

According to Chris Collinson, president of Connect, registered meeting planners from the corporate market segments will be able to take pre-scheduled one-on-one appointments with suppliers who couldn’t attend the event in-person from a hosted buyer, virtual appointment lounge on the marketplace floor. 

“The entire industry is hurting, and we are looking for a win-win solution that will help grow our events while helping our partners when they need it most,” Collinson said. 

Connect Express attendees will have a dedicated block of time in the overall Connect Marketplace schedule to make connections and develop business leads, he added. 

By combining the human-to-human experience of Connect Marketplace with virtual programming, Connect hopes to help the meetings industry reconnect, rebuild and recover, according to Patrick Higgins, vice president of Connect. 

“We’re providing our attendees — who are either with us in New Orleans, or in their homes or offices around the world — a platform to get business done and establish some quick wins for their hotels and communities,” Higgins said. 

The new digital platform follows the launch of Connect’s Safe + Clean Connect plan, which includes safety measures to help prevent the transmission of coronavirus as well as promote healthy best practices that planners can adopt at their events. 

Here are the measures that will be implemented at the 2020 conference, that can be adapted to any event: 

1. Temperature checks will be conducted before entering the event. Anyone with an elevated temperature or fever will not be allowed into the show.

2. Cotton masks will be required for attendees and staff at a minimum. Up to three KN95 masks will be provided for any attendee or staff who wants one. KN95 masks are almost identical in performance to the N95 mask used by hospital employees.

3. No on-site registration lines. Attendees will be shipped a welcome kit that includes a badge, a KN95 mask, gloves, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, agenda, magazine and other conference materials. 

4. Glove and hand sanitizer stations will be available throughout the event. There will be enough nitrile disposable gloves for each attendee to wear 3x a day, and touchless hand sanitizer stations will be plentiful throughout the trade show floor and in common areas.

5. Disinfectant foggers will be placed in the indoor convention space. Professional disinfectant electrostatic sprayers will continuously disinfect the air and neutralize germs.

6. New appointment design that allows for social distancing measures. This includes plexiglass shields and sanitizer on appointment tables, which will be wiped down between appointments.

7. Greater and more creative use of indoor/outdoor spaces for receptions, education sessions and other breakouts. 

8. Larger aisle ways with dedicated travel lanes in trade show and appointment areas. This will help manage traffic and prevent attendees from bumping into each other or crowding in certain areas on the trade showfloor.

9. Six-foot space between chairs in education sessions. The trade showfloor and other spaces will also have 6’ space markers for attendees to follow to help them maintain an acceptable amount of space between each other.

10. No-contact F&B via pre-packaged food, pre-packaged silverware and no self-serve buffets. Extra funds will be spent on service staff serving coffee and refreshments for each attendee while wearing gloves, masks and protective gear. Grab-and-go pre-made alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and other items will be ready and sanitized at receptions.

11. No large general sessions. Instead, money will be spent on showcasing and implementing the most cutting-edge safety precautions into the programming that attendees can use as inspiration for their own events.

Since the announcement of these protocols, more than 250 meeting and event planners have registered to attend the conference. “Planners have embraced the Safe + Clean Connect plan, and now we know our commitment to producing this show for the meetings industry is needed more than ever,” said Collinson. “With over 5.9 million U.S. jobs supported by the meetings and events industry, it shows that we have to get back to business.” 

Connect’s other upcoming face-to-face events include Connect Sports, taking place Sept 8-10 at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, and Connect Luxury, set for Oct. 19-21 at Wynn Las Vegas.

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