Friday, November 12, 2010

Why Do We Go To #Sportsbiz Conferences?

I'm thankful to be headed to the Sports Business Journal's Sports Media & Technology Conference in NYC next week.  It's my first time there, and I'm looking forward to hearing several speakers, including my friend Jim Bankoff from SB Nation, on panels throughout the two-day event.  I'm also attending the #SMTTweetup, so if you're attending the conference, please consider attending.  (Details here.)

As I'm looking at the upcoming agenda, I'm thinking to myself, "Why do we go to conferences?"  The #sportsbiz industry is full of great ones, including the National Sports Forum and the World Congress of Sports, but what drives us to attend these events?  What makes being at these events critical to our success as an industry?

I've been to a few of these, and for me, it's all about a few factors.  In the day and age where every dollar has to be scrutinized, we need to ask some tough questions and think hard about why we go to these events, and what do we get from them.  So I'm going to provide a little feedback from the old "focus group of one" as to what drives my attendance. (Conference marketers, are you out there?)

Subject Relevancy -- If I know that the subjects discussed at the conference will most likely be directly applicable to what I'm working on on a daily basis, and I can add something to the conversation that lingers afterwards, then I'm interested.

Attendee Population -- Like many other people, I'm also looking to engage with new #sportsbiz colleagues to find out what's on their minds and keeping them up at night.  I want to make sure that the people who are attending are able (and interested, more importantly) in continuing the ongoing #sportsbiz conversation.

Engagement Opportunities -- Are there chances to engage with new #sportsbiz colleagues in an intimate environment?  Are there "think tank" sessions or small group breakouts that could help me unlock an equation I'm trying to solve for?  What can I bring to the table that might help someone who needs to find an answer.

What doesn't necessarily appeal to me is probably what's first on other people's lists.  Location.  Hotel.  Watering holes nearby.  Big-name speakers.  Impressive sponsors.  Whether or not people from 4 million different organizations are attending.

What drives me nuts is that there is one particular location that is very popular for conferences that people always turn their noses up to.  Out of respect for the city and the host hotel, it will remain nameless.  But you want to know where I found the best opportunities for partnership?  That place.  In other words, don't judge a book by its cover.

For me, it really comes down to: how can this conference help me drive solutions for my clients and my business?  How can the people that I will interact with help me solve for marketing equations down the road.  Are you asking yourself the same question when you send in your registration forms this year?

Let me be clear: I'm not advocating for fewer sports marketing and sponsorship conferences.  I'm standing up for smarter approaches to attending and more opportunities to engage.  If you've read my blog and tweets long enough, for me, it's all about the #sportsbiz conversation.  Let's keep it going strong.

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