One way to expand your reach in the sports industry, or any industry for that matter, would be to host your own networking event. It would be great to host a large industry trade show like the National Sports Forum, a Sports Business Journal Event, or the U.S. Sports Film Festival, but for most of us this would be a daunting task. However, it would not be that difficult to host an event for sports professionals in your own city.
Think about it; if you live in a decent sized sports town there is a good chance you have a professional sports team, a few universities and high school athletic departments, sports agencies, sports marketing/PR/advertising companies, and other freelancers who work in the sports industry. There is potential for a few hundred or even a few thousand sports professionals in your 50-mile radius.
There are many benefits for hosting a networking event, but first you want to complete the prep work upfront to ensure the event is a success. Here are my do’s and don’ts for throwing an event:
Do: Make sure it is well attended: Send out e-mails and press releases, make phone calls, create events on social networking sites, and tell as many people as you can; Do whatever you need in order to maximize the crowd and build your trust in others.
Don’t: Come unprepared: Make sure you have food, drinks, name tags and banner, a sign up page or place to drop your card, and proper space in a central location. If it is more of a trade show event, have tables ready for your sponsors. If it is a symposium, make sure all panelists have what they need and your sponsors are properly displayed.
Do: Have an assistant: I thought I would be able to run the registration booth alone in my last event, but soon found a cluster of 30 people jammed by the door waiting to get a name tag. Make sure you have a few registration tables and at least one assistant to help move the traffic along smoothly.
Don’t: Become isolated: If you throw an event, make sure you go around and shake everyone’s hand. Listen to what the careers, goals, passions, and interests of your attendees are. Don’t spend too much time with one individual or group of people, but be gracious and listen to as many people that you can.
I recently hosted an event for LinkedIn professionals who live in the St. Louis area (view the images above). Many of the attendees said it was a great event because it was well attended. There was free food (although I heard it was a bad selection; sorry guys!) and people made quality business contacts. Your attendees can’t ask for much more than that. Throwing an event is an accomplishment in itself, however, there are additional reasons why hosting a successful event will pay dividends in the long run:
1. New Relationships: Nearly 300 people were in attendance at the St. Louis networking event and 290 of them were new faces to me. This gave me the opportunity to expand my connections and build quality relationships.
2. Filling a Niche: What are you passionate about, or what is your field of interest? I am passionate about building relationships and using LinkedIn. This led me to throw a party to fulfill those passions in St. Louis, a city I lived in for seven years. Figure out what you are most interested in, and throw the event around that niche.
3. Building Your List: If you have a newsletter, websites, or magazine then this is a great way to grow your audience. Make sure everyone drops their card in a fish bowl or have them write down their contact info. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to add these individuals to your database.
4. Personal Brand Awareness: Dan Schawbel runs PersonalBrandingBlog.com, a resource that shows you how to build your personal brand to ensure your professional success. Read a few articles on his blog and you will see why hosting an event helps build your personal brand, and why building You, Inc. is important.
5. Credibility: I recently attended the U.S. Sports Film Festival in Philadelphia and was wildly impressed with the way the event was produced. Stephan Hartman was the founder and put together a great cast of directors as the chairman of the board. Before the event I had never heard of Stephan, but since the event he has gained a lot of credibility and is on my radar as a mover and shaker in the sports industry.
6. Extra Income: Unless your full time job is to host events, this is not a way you will get rich. However, depending on your event format (cover fee, sponsorships, or taking a cut from the bar) you may come away with a few extra dollars in your pocket.
7. Consulting and Jobs: Depending on what your objectives are, you may be looking to find new clients for your own business, or seeking out a new career. Putting together a well-attended event should help you in achieving these objectives.
8. Product Sales: Do you have a book, CD, or other products you are looking to sell? Why not put your products up on the front table and offer a discount to all of the attendees? If the product provides compelling value and is related to your niche market it is likely to sell.
9. Press Opportunities: Any event is worthy of at least a brief mention in a local newspaper or online publication. MySolutionSpot.com featured me after my event, and another newspaper said they would run a feature before my next one. Send out a press release to a few publications that might share some interest and be prepared to put on your game face for interviews.
10. Happy Venues: You can never become familiar with too many restaurants or venues. By giving them the business and brand awareness to an audience, they will always be grateful and willing to help with future events.
11. Connecting Others: It’s a pleasure for me to help others connect and mutually benefit from creating a relationship. By bringing a large number of influential people together, it is only a matter of time that the right people will be introduced to one another, businesses will grow, and lives will change.
Did I miss any other Do’s and Don’ts? Are there other positive outcomes from hosting your own networking event? Please let me know in the comments section and feel free to add anything to the list. Did you like what you read? Then subscribe to my monthly newsletter and receive the latest networking features in the sports industry scene.