Having just returned from my first CONFEC Red, which took place in Abu Dhabi, I’m sitting staring at a screen trying to transfer my experience into words. As I struggle to write anything more than a title and the date it dawns on me how exhausted I am. A combination of jet lag, 28 appointments and 16-hour days crammed full with networking has just about finished me off. The blog will have to wait one more day.

So here I am one day later, feeling a little fresher but suffering from a serious case of post-trip blues, reflecting on what has been one of my most valuable networking experiences to date.

It all started with excitement. Excitement for my first CONFEC Red. Excitement for building on existing relationships with our preferred partners and excitement to make new contacts and expand my venue knowledge. But overall, excited for what personal development the experience will bring.

Excitement, exhilaration and exhaustion at CONFEC Red

In October last year, I was accepted onto Ashfield Meetings & Events’ Future Focus development programme. As a successful candidate, this two year programme aims to provide me with an opportunity to widen my range of access to knowledge, resources and skill sets that I would not necessarily come across in my day-to-day role. Since starting the programme, I have been offered numerous new and exciting opportunities to develop myself personally and broaden my experience in order to equip me for future opportunities within the agency. Attending CONFEC Red was going to be a great way to do just this by getting more exposure in the industry and building my expertise. The Future Focus programme has already taught me how to better understand myself from a psychological profile perspective and is teaching me how to harness this to become a more effective communicator. CONFEC Red was a great opportunity to put my new found understanding and skills into practice.

One word to describe my CONFEC Red experience; exhilaration. Since stepping off the plane in Abu Dhabi the lifestyle was just so exhilarating for me. I was motivated to jump straight in and to take as much as I possibly could from the experience. Everything is bigger and bolder there, which really enhanced the whole experience.

Excitement, exhilaration and exhaustion at CONFEC Red

The forum was hosted at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Canal and at the welcome dinner on Thursday evening there was an eagerness and a general buzz in the air as the 75 UK buyers and 150 suppliers from 25 different countries met for the first time. You could tell this is an annual event that is eagerly anticipated and everyone was ready and raring to go.

This buzz carried us through the following two days which consisted of 28 appointments, a networking dinner at the Yas Viceroy and visits to Ferrari World, Yas Events Centre and the Grand Mosque. The forum culminated in an an exquisite gala dinner back at the Ritz-Carlton for the last night.

Excitement, exhilaration and exhaustion at CONFEC Red

I guess you could compare the whole experience to travelling 240kph in less than five seconds on the world’s fastest rollercoaster, which of course we managed to squeeze into the agenda whilst visiting Ferrari World – now that was the epitome of exhilaration!

So now the ride has come screeching to a holt and I’m back to reality facing severe exhaustion, but I have come back to reality with not just some amazing contacts but some long-lasting friendships which I know will lead to some great business opportunities for the future.

This was certainly a forum to remember and I look forward to returning to the show again next year.

Georgina Williams is a Venue Finding Executive at Ashfield Meetings & Events’ European hub in the UK.

Excitement, exhilaration and exhaustion at CONFEC Red