New and improved was an underlying theme at Connect Marketplace, held Aug. 22-24 in Milwaukee. The newly named Wisconsin Center hosted the fifth annual event, which ran alongside the inaugural Connect Sports Marketplace. Sports events rights holders and planners joined association and specialty group meetings professionals for education, networking and one-on-one, pre-scheduled appointments with destination representatives. More than 350 planners were first-time attendees at the event, which also added a speakers’ corner where education presenters answered attendee questions; group appointments for platinum sponsors to give short presentations; a competition-networking event for Connects Sports attendees; and new education presenters, including Convention Industry Council’s Lawrence Leonard, CMP, Npower CEO Karyn Nishimura Sneath, and Event Alley Show’s Liz King and Lindsey Rosenthal. The conference added more concentrated planner workshops led by industry veterans. Popular speaker and meetings technology expert Jim Spellos discussed the increasing “mobilesocial” atmosphere of meetings during a day-one workshop, and he also presented a shorter, fast-paced education session, “App-tastic: 60 Apps in 60 Minutes,” later during the event. In another session led by Spellos, attendees were asked to give their six-word stories. “When the story is all about what you are and what you’ve done, it gets boring very fast,” Spellos explained. “Make the story about why you are and people will be more interested.” Responses included: “Here the world is your stage,” from Southeastern Theatre Conferenece’s Quiana Clark-Roland, and “Brothers and sisters guiding you home,” from Abigail Glenn-Chase of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. High-profile keynote speakers included former professional basketball player Magic Johnson, journalist and E! Investigates host Laura Ling, motivational speaker Karen McCullough and Harlem Children’s Zone President/CEO Geoffrey Canada. “Invest time, attention and responsibility in our youth with optimism,” Canada said. “Don’t assume someone else will do it. You must.” In between keynotes, education sessions and networking, Connect Marketplace and Connect Sports Marketplace hosted more than 20,000 pre-scheduled, one-on-one appointments during a reverse trade show. Of the more than 550 association, specialty group and sports events planners at the show, 284 plan six or more meetings per year; 135 of those plan 21 or more meetings per year, with some bringing up to 10,000 peak room nights to a destination.