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Florida Means Business.







Connect Florida is the business marketplace where RFPs are placed, dates are secured and relationships are developed for future business.



2019 Agenda

Subject to Change

Wednesday, Nov. 13
3-5 p.m.Registration
4-5 p.m.Opening Session
5:30-6:30 p.m.Marketplace Appointments
7-9 p.m.Opening Reception | The Esplanade at The Vinoy
Thursday, Nov. 14
MorningBreakfast on Your Own
8-9 a.m.Optional Morning Workout or Walk/Run
10-11 a.m.General Session
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.Marketplace Appointments
12:30-1:30 p.m.Lunch
1:30-2:30 p.m.General Session
3-4 p.m.Marketplace Appointments
EveningFree Night
Friday, Nov. 15
MorningBreakfast on Your Own
9-10 a.m.General Session
10:30-11:30 a.m.Marketplace Appointments




2019 Keynotes

Robyn Davis

As a Trade Show Strategy Specialist, Robyn Davis is known for her fresh perspective and process-driven approach to exhibitor success. She works with groups of exhibitors (through event organizers, like RSNA and AEM) along with individual exhibitors across industries and around the world. Robyn has recently been selected for the “BizBash 500” list of most influential event professionals and appeared on Connect Association’s “40 Under 40” list in 2017. Her degree is in Aerospace Engineering.

David Nico

David Nico, PhD, is recognized as one of "America's Ultimate Experts" according to Woman's World Magazine. As a peak performance strategist, his passion is to help leaders live well so they can model vitality, inspire vision, and create a healthy legacy. He is the author of the #1 Amazon bestseller "Diet Diagnosis" and has shared health tips on national TV reaching millions. He is featured in Forbes, US News & World Report, Insider, Prevention, Reader's Digest, and many top media outlets.

Bob Russo

Bob Russo has over 30 years' experience in event and theatre design. His work as an award-winning event designer, stage combat choreographer, and Emmy nominated costume designer, affords him the unique ability to interpret a client's vision. His work in the museum and corporate world has been seen all across the continental US and as far away as South Korea, Tokyo, Alaska, and Hawaii.

As Executive Director of Strategy & Creative at VDA, Bob works with start-ups and fortune 500 and 100 companies while mentoring the younger design generation and still finding some time to ride his motorcycle. Bob Russo is an expert in the design and logistical planning/ reality of corporate events, themed events, retail and museum environments, and corporate facilities. Bob's subject matter expertise includes fabrication and materials selection, site selection, industry trends, lighting, technological integration, and experiential. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobRussoVDA and #listentoBob.

Tom Pasha

Tom Pasha has been recognized as one of the top event planners in the planning industry. Starting in hotel operational positions of caddy, bellman, bartender and cook, Tom began his management career as a Hyatt Management Trainee in Chicago. He went to Sales Management positions throughout the Hyatt organization, working in 12 Hyatt Hotels over 20 years. Tom was Director of Sales at Hyatt Hotels in Greenville, San Antonio and Chicago O’Hare, and as Director of Sales, started the National Sales Office for Hyatt Hotels in Omaha. He won Sales Manager of the Year, Sales Director of the Year, Sales Team of the Year and the Donald M. Pritzker Award for Excellence.

Tom went into meeting planning and founded CONTACT Planning, a national meeting planning company with headquarters in Orlando, Florida. Tom’s company books over 100,000 roomnights annually, working with corporate and association clients.

In addition to his planning responsibilities, Tom teaches the Meeting Planning Mastermind, a series of classes ranging from one hour to two full days, training planners about the inner workings of hotels to make them more effective negotiators. The sessions are full accredited for Continuing Education Hours for both CMP and CAE.

2019 Education

Subject to Change

Wednesday, Nov. 13
4-5 p.m. | Opening Session

Presented by Robyn Davis

Productive networking, both in person and online, is a necessary skill set for any ambitious event professional. It can help you get a job or solve a problem—not to mention make new friends and trusted allies who will be there for you when you need them most (and vice versa). However, just like any skill, if you don’t work at it consistently, you may find that it gets harder and harder to do correctly… if you even feel comfortable doing it at all! In this session, we will give your productive networking skills the tune-up they need so that you can continue starting and strengthening professional relationships with confidence.

Specifically, participants will:
- Outline step-by-step processes to simplify the trickiest parts of networking: starting and ending conversations with strangers.
- List strategic action steps (and examples!) to support each stage of your productive networking and relationship building/strengthening processes.
- Practice the above techniques and brainstorm easy ways to increase your networking productivity."

Thursday, Nov. 14
10-11 a.m. | General Session

Presented by Bob Russo

Experience is King! We have moved from a service economy to an experience economy. Successful events have always been an experience, even if that wasn’t the intention. Maya Anjelou said, “People will forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”

Join Bob Russo, Executive Director of Strategy & Creative at VDA, for an informative and always lively discussion about working the angles of design innovation, integrated technology and other trend-setting elements to create an experiential and memorable event. Bob’s experience and insight serves to inspire as he recounts observations on the state of the meetings industry over the last 30 years.

1:30-2:30 p.m. | General Session

Presented by David Nico, PhD

How do you fuel your meetings and make them more dynamic? Incorporating healthier F&B options will energize sessions, yield productive results, and create positive feedback. Discover cutting-edge food science that will help you select the right foods to impact attendee stamina, concentration, and learning. What your participants consume will make or break the effectiveness of your events.

In this session, you will learn:
- Vital tips to navigate the best vs worst ingredients on menus
- How to discern truths vs myths on the foods you typically order
- How quality nutrition enhances an organizations effectiveness, impacting the bottom line

Friday, Nov. 15
9-10 a.m. | General Session

Presented by Tom Pasha

Hotel Negotiations and Contracts are critical parts of the planner’s job, but many planners leave terms, money and concessions on the table. By seeing how hotels make money, assign space and evaluate their business, planners can leverage their business to have the hotels compete for their booking. When you learn how a hotel works, “from the Hotel Side,” by being more firm, fair and flexible, planners can reduce their costs, maximize their efforts and minimize their exposure in contracts.

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