The 2008 Connections Conference and Exhibition drew to a close Saturday after four days of education, exhibition and entertainment.

When the Conference was conceived a few years ago, it was never intended to rival its big brother, The Connections Convention and Trade Show that takes place this fall in Las Vegas, Sept. 24-26. Rather, it was positioned as a technical conference, concentrating more on the education element than on new products and equipment.

The last day was just as strong as the first. Howard Partridge started the day off with and examination of the “12 Critical Components of Every Highly Successful Business.” Jon-Don’s Bill Yeadon later took center stage with a marketing seminar on “Creating a Big Brand With a Little Budget.”

As is often the case, however, when a plan is executed it tends to take on a life of its own. The Conference has maintained a high bar for its education program, no doubt, but it has also seen dramatic growth in the Exhibition segment.

Exhibitors spilled into a second hall this year, and attendance was surprisingly strong considering the reports from other trade shows held earlier this year. One Connections Events staffer said attendance was on par with last year.

After this year’s departure to Orlando, Connections Events says the 2009 Conference and Exhibition will return to Clearwater, Fla. Details will soon be available