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2015 Engagement University and R&R Expo Wrap Up in Denver

Like Denver’s weather in April (sunny and 75° one day, 4 inches of snow the next), this year’s Engagement University ran the gamut. Hosted by the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, CO, the event saw engagement professionals and practitioners gather for 2 ½ days of education, exhibits and networking events that advanced the cause of engagement in Corporate America. 

Things kicked off with Tuesday morning’s Plenary Session by Gary Rhoads, Professor of Marketing at Brigham Young University, where attendees received an outline of the Enterprise Engagement framework, with Rhoads discussing specific implementation goals and processes with the standing-room-only crowd. The day-long education component gave attendees plenty of engagement-related information to digest. 

“Our buyers liked the combination and the content – the education sessions were so jammed that some of our people were complaining that they never had a break to check their emails or call the office,” said Hinda Marketing Director Alisa Shafer, whose company brought nearly 100 hosted buyers to Engagement U., “I guess that’s a good problem to have,” she added with a smile.
Later that afternoon at the day’s closing Plenary Session, Brian Dunne, Managing Director of SVM Europe and Founder of the Incentive Marketing Association Europe, discussed the U.K. government’s Engage for Success initiative. One striking statistic that Dunne shared: In 1975, 82% of the value of S&P 500 companies was composed of tangible, rather than intangible, assets. By 2009 those numbers had flipped – now over 80% of corporate value is made up of intangible assets, meaning people have moved to the forefront. Those companies still operating with a 1970s mindset, said Dunne, are dinosaurs.
Wednesday and Thursday were also packed with education in and around two days of exhibits, with more than 40 Conversation Centers for attendees to visit manned by representatives of motivation service providers ranging from Bulova, Canon and Fossil to Royal Caribbean, Target and TUMI. 
“This is my first year here,” said Kristina Paczkowski, Gift Card Sales Manager at exhibitor Buffalo Wild Wings. “We’re a pretty new gift card program, so there are still a lot of partners out there that we’re not working with, and we thought this would be a really good opportunity to talk with those people one on one. I’ve definitely had good traffic and good conversations…it seems like everybody is really interested in what we have to offer. I like the format of having the private table where people can stop by and chat…it’s been really good.” 
Drop Tank, supplier of instant gas discount cards and another first-time exhibitor, found the Expo a great way to make inroads, both with prospective customers and with other exhibitors. “For us it’s not just about the buyers; it’s about the other vendors as far as information, education and prospective partnerships,” explained Marketing & Sales Manager Jason Ketelsen. Drop Tank CEO David VanWiggeren found the conversation center format “very personalized; you can have productive meetings…it was well thought out. For a show of this size it’s remarkably well done.”
Hosted buyers at this year Expo were meticulously making the rounds with their Passports, recording their meetings with exhibitors and learning as much as possible in their 48-hour window. “The exhibitors were really helpful, really informative and helped me differentiate one [product and service] from another,” said attendee Jill Sanborn of Kudos Performance. “They were terrific, very generous with their time and knowledge.” 
“The people I’ve spoken too were very high caliber,” noted Karen Suttle, Central Region Sales Manager at Maui Jim, echoing the sentiments of a number of other exhibitors. “I’ve been impressed this year, said Ed Handel, Manager, Corporate Sales & Business Development at Crutchfield. “It’s definitely quality over quantity. The quality of the leads and the quality of the people has been very good.” 
“This group of buyers is by far the best – new people that we hadn’t met before,” noted Tom Sferratore, Canon Special Account Sales Rep. “For the last couple of years, across a lot of trade shows, it doesn’t seem like there have been a lot of new people…I think [the R&R Expo] did an excellent job in bringing in more qualified people than we’ve seen in a really long time.”
Nearly a dozen informal Roundtable sessions were held in the Exhibit Hall on Wednesday and Thursday, covering topics as diverse as Linking Assessment to Results, Using Social Media to Build Communities, Innovation and Engagement, and The Customer/Employee Connection.
“This has been a really, really great show for us,” summed up Sferratore. “We were far more productive here, in a day and a half, than at a week of some other major industry shows.”
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