It's Live! My First Venture Back to an In-Person Conference

After more than a year of online meet-ups, I wasn’t sure what to expect on-site at ConnectWise IT Nation Secure.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

June 24, 2021

3 Min Read
It's Live!
20th Century Fox

Upon entering the Hilton Bonnet Creek on Monday evening, I wasn’t sure what to expect at my first in-person conference since Avaya Engage in early 2020.

I covered PlanetOne’s golf event last month, but that was mostly outdoors.

ConnectWise’s IT Nation Secure drew about 500 attendees on-site. The majority chose to watch it virtually. Some may still have been unsure about the safety of live events. Or maybe their bosses aren’t yet allowing travel.

After being required to adhere to strict mask protocols both at the airport and while flying, I was expecting something similar at the hotel and conference. That was not the case.

The In-Person Experience

First up was the Welcome Reception in the Solutions Pavilion. From the get-go, it was clear this wasn’t going to resemble a gathering of surgeons. Far from it. I was the only one wearing a mask and I stuck out like a sore thumb.

Attendees were offered a choice of two wristbands. One indicated to others that the wearer was fine with shaking hands and getting close. The second one basically meant “Keep your distance.”


“Good to see you” took on a whole new meaning after more than a year of being surrounded by masked strangers.

Although less crowded than normal, the Solutions Pavilion was filled with cybersecurity vendors and MSPs eating, drinking, socializing and talking shop. In all, 22 exhibitors were present, such as SentinelOne, Cybereason, Green Cloud Defense, Datto and more. And the Genius Bar offered conversations with ConnectWise security experts.

The next morning, being fully vaccinated, I decided to ditch the mask and join the others in normal conference activities.

Attendees were required to fill out a daily health check questionnaire. And after a quick temperature check, we went about normal conference activities with little noticeable changes. The main keynote drew an enthusiastic crowd of hundreds. And most education sessions and demonstrations were well attended. Still, attendees were a little more spread out than usual.

At night, the partying started. The lobby bar was crowded with attendees celebrating the chance to get back together. There was little to no social distancing. The liquor flowed and everybody was having a good time. For most, it seemed that the pandemic was now just a distant memory.

With Disney World just down the street, the hotel was hosting a number of vacationers in addition to the conference attendees. From what I could see, few if any of the hotel guests were wearing masks.

Happy to Be There

I spoke with a number of MSPs on-site and they all said they were glad they made the trip. And there was a lot more to talk about than emerging from the pandemic.


ConnectWise’s Craig Fulton

Craig Fulton, ConnectWise‘s chief customer officer, told me the live event was an “overwhelming success.”

“We had some 1,800 people attend online and another 500 attend live in Orlando,” he said. “Everyone who attended in person agreed that it was so nice to be able to meet face to face again. The energy was incredible. The feedback from partners — both virtual and live — has been extremely positive, and I think we’re on our way to making IT Nation Secure the must-attend event of the year for MSPs and TSPs who want to build a successful cybersecurity practice. The opportunities are out there, and this is the place to be to learn how to capture them.”

With lots more in-person events scheduled through the rest of the year, including Black Hat USA 2021 and our Channel Partners Conference and Expo, in-person conferences and channel events are back, hopefully here to stay. Just remember to wear pants.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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