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Five changes ahead for Synapse Summit 2020

Margie Manning

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A big name speaker, more hands-on experiences and opportunities to talk to people who share common interests are among the highlights expected at the 2020 Synapse Summit.

The two-day summit, scheduled to take place Feb. 11-12, 2020 at Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa, will be the third for Synapse Florida, a Tampa-based nonprofit focused on enhancing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the state.

Brian Kornfeld

About 5,000 people attended the summit earlier this year. See coverage of Synapse Summit 2019 here.

Organizers have incorporated lessons learned from the two earlier events in planning for the upcoming summit, said Brian Kornfeld, Synapse Florida president and CEO.

Here are five changes they will make for 2020.

More networking. A survey showed 83 percent of attendees come for networking, and Synapse wants to make sure the right connections are being made. “We’re going to be setting up purpose-driven networking and opportunities for like-minded people, whether they are in the same industry or have similar interests, to spend time with each other and get to know each other,” Kornfeld said.

A networking lounge will be the focal point for the event, with programmed networking, such as setting aside an hour for everyone interested in blockchain.

Mainstage. The mainstage will still be on the ice in the Arena, but instead of facing the full length of the ice, it will face up into the stands. That will allow the mainstage to be used throughout the day for breakout sessions. It was standing room only at the most popular breakout sessions last year; putting them on the mainstage will alleviate that issue.

There will be keynote addresses on the mainstage as well, including at least one “big name, nationally recognized name,” Kornfeld said. Synapse has two formal offers out to potential speakers, he said.

Hands-on experiences. Attendees at the 2019 summit got to try out augmented reality headsets from Magic Leap, but the exhibit was on the 6th level of the arena and difficult for some people to access.

This year, the hands-on activities will be on the ice.

“We’ll make it very exciting, very hands-on,  and have larger companies come in and do immersive experiences on the ice,” Kornfeld said. Companies providing those hands-on-experiences will be invited to do so, and “they have to really bring it in terms of the experience, not just setting up a table or a booth. It has to be something people will walk away from and have a wow factor.”

Demo stages. Different from the hands-on experiences, demo stages give companies a chance to showcase their work. There were five demo stages the first year of the summit, but none last year.

“This year because of their popularity we want to have them  and we have that opportunity for companies to show off their innovation so we’re bringing back the demo stage this year,” Kornfeld said.

Less noise. There will be fewer stages for programs on the club level, and where there are stages, there won’t be exhibitors right across from them, to help with some of the noise issues.

The exhibits will open at 9 a.m. and run to 5 p.m., with programming staring at 9:30 a.m. The keynote addresses will take place over lunchtime, so people won’t have to rush to Tampa in the morning and can eat while they listen.

The cost is the same — general admission is $299 for both days, VIP admissions are $499, and there’s an early bird discount for general admission tickets that runs from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31. For students, the military and first responders, there’s a $49 discount ticket.

Separately, Synapse Florida is planning its Synapse Orlando, a one-day event on Oct. 18. Similar to the summit in Tampa, there will be keynote address and exhibits.

“We are going to use a lot of the same methodology and innovation that we do for the summit with Synapse Florida, to make sure the connections are there and the collisions take place,” Kornfeld said.

Orlando has a strong innovation economy that goes beyond tourism, Kornfeld said. Synapse hopes to create stronger ties between Orlando and Tampa Bay, which are expected to be linked by high-speed rail in the next few years.

“We see a future where Tampa Bay and Orlando are no longer in competition with each other. They work in collaboration, more like Dallas-Fort Worth,” he said.

With Synapse’s first event in Orlando, regional entrepreneurs also gain access to Synapse Connect, an online platform that allows innovators to easily and quickly connect with the resources they need to accelerate success. Additionally, the organization seeks to spur innovation through community action in the form of Synapse Challenges, a crowdsourcing solution for organizations to solve real-world problems and create new opportunities for forward-thinking businesses and people. Synapse recently launched a new round of innovation challenges.

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