On Sept. 23, MnTech will host Tech Connect, a half-day virtual conference showcasing ways technology is enabling Minnesota’s businesses. Jeff Tollefson, MnTech’s president and CEO, explains the new format and how the event helps the Minnesota tech community stay connected.

This is a year of firsts for this conference – first one as MnTech, first one in the fall, first one fully online! What can attendees expect this year, and what are you most looking forward to with this format?
What I’m most looking forward to is the opportunity to share how leading Minnesota companies are developing and leveraging technology with a broader audience than what an in-person event would allow. With a virtual event, we can now more readily welcome attendees from places like Duluth, Alexandria, St. Cloud, Rochester, or Worthington, as the limitations associated with travel are removed. And with the event free to all employees of MnTech member companies (and just $50 for non-members) and being accessible from the comfort of one’s home or desktop, we expect a large and diverse audience to tune in. So if you work for a tech-enabled company or are fascinated by the world of technology in general, there’s no reason not to attend!

Past attendees have really appreciated networking and meeting with vendors at the expo. How are you reimagining these opportunities in the virtual setting?
As much as we will miss seeing our industry colleagues in-person, there will be plenty of opportunities to network through Pathable, our virtual conference platform. Whether it’s discussing emerging trends through the live community discussions, using the chat and messaging functions to reach out to fellow attendees, or visiting the virtual sponsor booths to learn more about the great organizations making Tech Connect possible, there is no shortage of ways to make meaningful connections.

What’s special about the Tech Showcase sessions?
Lots. Where else can you learn so much from a curated selection of 32 leading Minnesota companies in such a compressed timeframe? We will be offering four Tech Showcase sessions over the course of the morning with 8 companies in each session delivering quick-hitting 25 minute presentations. And if you’re concerned about having to choose between 8 compelling choices in each of the four sessions, relax. As registered attendees will have online access to all company presentations and content after the event. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

How have you seen Minnesota companies use technology to respond to the pandemic and economic challenges of 2020? How will their innovation be represented at the conference?
It’s been gratifying to see so many Minnesota companies leading the way as it relates to utilizing technology to address the community challenges caused by COVID-19. Whether it’s supply-chain innovation from C.H. Robinson, hearing aids that can be remotely programmed without an office visit from Starkey, applications of artificial intelligence in health care from Optum, or the use of data analytics to drive productivity and connectivity for remote and distributed teams from Structural, you will hear from a number of companies as to how they are applying technology to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus.

What’s your number-one tip to help you stay focused at an online conference like this one?
Shut down other applications on your computer for the morning and be present. There will be lots of content to consume and conversations to be had, so clear your morning schedule and make the most of it. You will be glad you did!

MnTech hopes to see you at Tech Connect Sept. 23. Registration is free for employees of MnTech member companies and $50 for all others.