For those who didn’t manage to make it to our very first Connections Luxury event last week at the Four Seasons in Hampshire, I’ve got 6 takeaways from the two days that I’d like to share.

1. Forming relationships outside the basic work environment really works
We were really excited to see how our attendees would react to the experiences we’d arranged across the two days. Instead of sitting at a desk facing each other, we gave delegates the opportunity to hold their assigned meetings in different settings. For example, you could share a ride in a super car (thanks to Season Car Hire). Or fly a Bird of Prey across the grounds of the Four Seasons. Or take a manicure; go fishing or even clay pigeon shooting!

I’m so pleased to report that we had phenomenal feedback. I think the setting of the Four Seasons (500 acres in the middle of the Hampshire countryside) definitely helped. On top of this, the opportunity to do something new (or, frankly, different) really helped our attendees bond with each other.

2. Hungry for actionable, relevant insights
Our delegates were hungry for insights. That was to be expected, however we were a little surprised by how much our delegates loved the opportunity to exchange views between their respective industries. For instance, many of our buyers reported learning so much from their colleagues from other countries. We’re going to make sure we emphasise this at our next event.

3. Arranged seating
Related to the previous point, we insisted on arranged seating for all key meals. So all lunches and evening meals had pre-arranged seating. That made sure we ‘unclustered’ the ‘usual clusters’ (as one supplier put it). Of course, if you happen to know one or two people, it’s natural that you might sit next to them at any social opportunity. That sadly does limit the interactivity and feedback options. It’s also often a little bit intimidating for everyone to have to ‘work the room’ continually to network — so the arranged seating policy worked very well indeed. By the end of the event, we managed to ensure most people had the opportunity to connect with everyone.

4. A small number of delegates
Our working theory was that a smaller amount of delegates would yield better relationships and more focused business opportunities. I’m pleased to report that all the feedback we’ve had definitely supports this view. With roughly 34 buyers and 34 suppliers (i.e. about 68 people in total) it is actually fairly easy to get to know most faces by the end of the two-day event, especially with arranged seating. The small number of delegates also meant we were able to keep table sizes to around 5 individuals per table, meaning it was a lot easier to meet everyone. At previous events I can remember having to cope with tables of 10 or 12 people at a time!

5. The location
I touched on this in the first point. We purposefully sought a venue that was reasonably remote. If we’d selected a central London venue, then I’m sure the temptation to go shopping, take in a show or meet up with friends would have been too great. However the 500 acres of the Four Seasons meant that delegates minds were never far away from business, even if they were able to conduct their meetings in non-conventional surroundings. I was struck by how many delegates used the supplier’s assigned tables to meet (in the ballroom) and then immediately strode out into the surrounding countryside for a walk. Don’t underestimate the feeling and experience offered by gently rolling countryside as far as the eye can see!

6. One hour meetings
We did get a lot of eyebrow-raising from some attendees initially when we contacted them about participating in Connections Luxury. 60 minute meetings definitely aren’t industry standard. Indeed similar meetings focused events tend to allow 15-20 minutes (or similar) per meeting. We decided to push this out to a full hour. In practice, many attendees reported that about 45-50ish minutes was more than enough, but also recognised that the assigned time really, really helped. Many reported that the hour long meeting offered so much more opportunity to discuss the opportunities in a decent amount of detail — rather than having to resort to the superficial basics.

We’ll have a show video online shortly chronicling the event and we’ll soon be bringing you individual interviews with all the delegates. I can’t wait.

In the meantime if you’d like to know more about our upcoming events in 2015 (Get in early!) please drop me a note.