The hustle-and-bustle in the main lobby of the Bellagio in Las Vegas is a sight to behold. At all hours of the day and night there’s always throngs of people passing in and out of the hotel.

A little further back in the hotel, Uponor held its bi-annual 2014 Connections conference (April 23-24) that brought together the company’s contractor,  wholesaler, manufacturers rep, engineer customers and other invited guests and employees for a day-and-a-half of wall-to-wall networking and education — not to mention plenty of fun along the way. This year’s gathering drew more than 900 people. This was Uponor’s eighth convention.

The event kicked off with convention’s general session where numerous Uponor executives, including Uponor North America President Bill Gray addressed the massive crowd. Two particular highlights were Uponor’s Dale Stroud giving his usual data-filled economic analysis complete with a sun costume that brought the house down.

Building Knowledge Canada’s Gord Cooke was the opening session featured speaker and talked about the path of continuous improvement in the building industry.

The convention’s second day allowed attendees to go to as many as six different breakout sessions on topics ranging from residential plumbing to brand marketing.

I attended five sessions, including one held by Milwaukee Tool, which is a key Uponor partner. Milwaukee’s presentation further demonstrated the company’s continued new product rollout in a variety of categories, with these new offerings aimed at boosting contractors’ productivity and ease-of-use on jobsites.

A well-attended seminar put on by Uponor’s Sonny Edwards and R.T. Moore’s Scott Holcomb broke down the Top 10 pitfalls to avoid in residential plumbing jobs. Edwards and Holcomb provided great tips to attendees, mixed in with plenty of humor. A highlight here was a slide that showed a homeowners bathroom with a toilet and an actual washing machine above it. Talk about interesting multitasking!

Another highlight was a session on the importance of attracting skilled tradespeople in the plumbing and HVAC marketplace. This event, which featured a four-person panel that included RPA’s Mark Eatherton, spawned some interesting audience participation on the subject. This is a hot-button topic that will continue to be news in this industry for the foreseeable future.

I also attended a seminar on installing and profiting from residential fire-sprinkler systems (the guest speaker was Lake Zurich, Ill.-based fire prevention specialist Robert Kleinheinz), as well as another talk by Service Roundtable’sMatt Michel on building a brand. Michel presented a ton of great anecdotal material, including the branding of items such as drinking water and bricks.

“If water can be branded, everything else can be branded,” he said. “The trick is how will you stand out and how will you be different?”

Uponor also held a mid-morning media briefing with various company executives who spoke on a number of topics including BIM, fire sprinklers, historical renovations, value engineering, leak liability, partial home radiant, hydronic distribution piping, green building and household formations. The company continues to make a significant push forward in the commercial market.

The event wrapped up with an outdoor gala on one of the roof decks at the nearby Cosmopolitan Hotel.

The name of the convention perfectly sums up what occurred at the Bellagio. Connections were made on numerous fronts between Uponor executives and staff members and their many customers and industry partners. The education and networking elements were excellent and Las Vegas was the perfect setting for this impressive and fast-moving event.