Connected North 2024. Was It Any Good?

Connected North. What a day! When it comes to broadband-related events, we have limited choices in the UK. Plus, this is the first broadband event as the UK comes out of hibernation after the old awards sessions at the back end of the year in 2023. So when the dates roll around to attend Connected North, the industry gets excited (although slightly less excited, with it being in the North) (not a dig at Northerners) (It was just very cold in the North)…

So, here’s my honest review of the two days.

First, I’ll explain. Connected North, was on Monday. I had events to attend on Wednesday & Thursday that week (reviews incoming). So, I was extra giddy. My day started at 5:00 AM, travelling up from Devon to get to the hardcore northern quarters of the UK (anywhere past Watford Gap is North, no arguments, please). I felt somewhat ill-prepared as I passed Gloucester on the M5, as I had left my home in shorts and a cheeky “white-t” and then the heavens opened up.

Now, an absolute rookie mistake by me. I’ve been to the north on many occasions, and how foolish I was to forget the microclimate that surrounds the Manchester.


I arrived at Manchester Central, parked in the world’s most complicated car park (underneath Manchester Central), exited said vehicle, changed said “summer outfit,” and then embarked on a day of broadband, banter, and beers. Now, I’m not just trying to get down with the kids with that last statement; the beer and banter part actually played a key role in why this event was such a hit But let’s get to the basics first.

What I LOVE about Connected North & Connected Britain is the number of knowledgeable keynote speakers they manage to secure.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t sit through them all, but two talks stood out for me…

Women In Telecoms: Chaired by Tracey Wright (I absolutely would tag the other speakers, but I’m useless at taking notes, so if you know them, please let me know, they all smashed it!).

2. Full Fibre Wacky Races: Richard Tang, Zen Internet: Just a genius, chap. When I first got into comms & broadband, I worked for a company that resold Zen’s services (fourteen years ago) and the level of service was as high then, as it is now.

I won’t go into to much detail as to why I enjoyed these talks the most, we’ve got a lot to get through. The point is, the talks and guests CN secure are always top level! As a bonus, they nailed the AV too. Its often hard to get AV tech right at large events, but they managed it.

Moving on, we have the “Exbo floor”. For anyone holding an event, this must be the most stressful and nerve-racking part of them all. “Will my main exhibitors arrive on time? Will they arrive at all? Will they be able to fit their giant double-decker bus through the door?”… The answer to that last question, is YES.

But of course, CN being the champs they are, once again, got it right. Now, bear in mind Connected North is the “smaller version” of “Connected Britain,” which is the absolute monster held in London, so the guys have still managed to fill a very large area to the brim, considering this is the smaller cousin to their main event.

As you come through the doors, you’re greeted with a giant bus from the headline sponsor ITS. They’re definitely getting their money’s worth from that marketing investment. And fair play to them. It looked pucker!

The venue felt busy. Which is of course, the MOST important part of any exbo floor. The footfall was flowing nicely through the day. They had a solid number of exhibitors (58 going by the exhibitor’s map).

The range of vendors had a good balance. We had impressively large stands selling their infrastructure kit to the actual fibre layers. The SaaS providers servicing both ISPs & builders. The value adds, helping ISPs gain additional revenue through “multi-play services,” and of course, the open-access networks, looking to support ISPs with a larger footprint. The array of vendors was impressive. I’m particularly fond of the wee “start-up” valley, an area bustling with a ton of startups, each eager to pitch their ideas to passersby. That’s where I always get the most value. The startups looking to break into connectivity have such drive and are always much more open with conversation (which I absolutely thrive on).

NOW – the venue location. This, they got absolutely spot on.

For many who attend these events, they will do so to network and seek opportunity, and having a location that is in a city, close to endless hangouts is absolutely key. Connected North knows this too. That’s why they held an after-party which brought the whole day to a perfect close. Although it may seem traditional, a huge amount of business opportunity is opened or secured whilst relaxing outside the venue in a local watering hole.

The evening’s antics were held at the Peaky Blinders Bar. It. Was. brilliant. We had lovely finger food knocking about, and a huge portion of the day’s attendees all piled into one sweaty, giant boozer! It was perfect (for me). It gave the exhibitors a chance to breathe and let their hair down after a LONG, hard day of graft. It gave the attendees a chance to relax, and of course, that’s where the real relationship building can begin. Being four pints deep and filled up on miniature cheeseburgers provides the perfect time to strike on a prospect to build rapport. And it’s for this reason that I give Connected North extra points. At times, events can be placed in destinations that limit the “after-party” attendees, therefore limiting some crucial relationship-building time.

So, with all that being said, here’s the score on the door…

Venue: 9
Location: 9
Speakers: 9
Layout: 8
Variety of vendors: 8
After-party: 10

Total: 53

*disclaimer: I’m in no way incentivised to write such lovely words by Total Telecom. 1. I like bringing positivity into our industry. 2. It was actually a proper good event!

Jonny Rae

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