The Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual business expo and job fair is changing from an event that included hours for the public to meet with company representatives into a private gathering for the business community.

Citing input from its members, the chamber recently decided to forego the public expo this year to instead create “Business in the Gardens” — a VIP evening slated for Oct. 8 at The Florian Gardens on Eau Claire’s south side.

“This event has a been a strong event for us through the years, but the last few years we’ve been getting feedback from our members on what they’d like to see,” said David Minor, chamber president and CEO.

The expo had included a members-only VIP reception in prior years, which had been popular among business leaders as networking time and to discuss potential deals. In recent years, the public hours were mainly attended by people looking for work from one of the exhibitors — essentially a job fair.

Chamber members had said they already have a large number of job fairs they attend, Minor noted, and were looking for a consolidation of those workforce-building events.

The chamber also has been looking at the volume of events it has usually been doing — Minor counted 80 different gatherings sponsored by the chamber and its Young Professionals group — and evaluating that workload in an attempt to get “back to the basics” and focus on what members desire.

That led to the creation of “Business in the Gardens” — combining aspects of the expo that were popular with members with October’s Business After Hours, the chamber’s monthly networking mixer.

The revamped October members-only event will have vendor booths from companies that sell to their products and services to other businesses, Minor said.

The new event was influenced by positive feedback the chamber got earlier this year from its redesigned annual meeting. Instead of the usual gathering capped at 670 people seated around tables in a banquet hall, the chamber moved its meeting to the Pablo Center at the Confluence, attracting 877 attendees that could more freely circulate in the larger venue, Minor said.

The local business expo did have a long run, he said, going for more than 25 years where many other chambers have similar events discontinued after a dozen years or so.

As for the public exposure that participating businesses got from the expo, Minor said that can happen through other local job fairs, those companies’ websites and through the chamber’s online presence as well.

“We have other avenues for the public to be able to find businesses,” he said.