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How to Network at a Sports Symposium

darren 02We are about to enter Sports Symposium season.  This Friday is the granddaddy of them all: The Princeton Sports Symposium.  Amongst the panelists are former Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox general manager Roland Hemond, Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci, President of Ponturo Management and chairman of the Leverage Agency sports marketing firm Tony Ponturo, IMG agency’s executive vice president of sports programming Barry Frank, etc.

Other fantastic symposiums that are right around the corner include the UF Sports Law Symposium on January 29, 2010 and the University of Miami’s 13th Annual Entertainment and Sports Law Symposium on February 5, 2010.  Travel costs in this economy are not always easy to justify, but these events are some of the best places to learn about the business of sports.  They are also the premier spots to network with the sports industry’s leaders.

If you are fortunate enough to attend at least one of the major sports symposia, you should go to the functions fully prepared to network effectively.  Below, I provide some Dos and Don’ts so that you are able to venture to these locations with a full arsenal.


  • Bring at least 100 business cards.  Don’t have a company?  No problem.  Get creative.  Symposiums are great places to meet a bunch of new people.  For the people you already know or have communicated with, don’t waste their time exchanging the paper.  Pretend that you care about the environment and keep the cards in your pocket.  For the people you would like to know, start with a handshake and ease your way into a conversation before you exchange your contact details.  Grab other peoples’ cards and after the symposium, use that information to link up with them on sites like LinkedIn.
  • Put your nametag on the side of your body that you shake hands with.  Simple thing that many people miss.  I am terrible with names; do everything you can to make me remember yours.  If you shake with your right hand, put your nametag on your right lapel.
  • Talk to as many people as you can during breaks. Breaks are not for coffee and cake.  They are the primetime to network.  Find someone who is not on a phone and not already with a group of people.  Introduce yourself.
  • Get to the symposium early and stay late.  Use every moment available to try to meet new people.  Make yourself seen and stand out as much as possible.  Leave the lime green button down at home (unless you can pull it off…and kudos to you if you can), but make people wonder why you seem to be so important.
  • Smile.  No one got great sleep the night before and everyone is going to be groggy by the end of the day.  Cheer other people up with your brilliance.
  • Butter up the organizer.  No matter how much prep you put into this day, the organizer of the symposium has put 10,000 times as much effort into making sure that the event runs smoothly.  The organizer is someone you want on your side, as he/she had to secure all the speakers to attend.  You better believe that the organizer has quite a few connections.


  • Skip panels to network.  While the networking is great, the main purpose you are there is to learn from those who have a lot to share.  Skipping the panels to network is frowned upon.  Bathroom breaks are permissible, and small talk from the room to the bathroom is fine.  There will be plenty of time to schmooze.
  • Talk about how you can’t wait to get out of there.  Then why are you there in the first place?  You have to have something better to talk about.
  • Lack enthusiasm.  This is your one chance to be in front of the “decision makers” in this industry.  You don’t have to call a central office and be redirected to a voicemail, only to never hear back from the person you are trying to contact.  Drink 10 cups of coffee and be ready for showtime.
  • Forget your notepad.  Jot notes about the topics discussed on the panels, but also keep notes on the people you meet outside of the rooms.  Don’t do it in front of those you just talked with, but when you have a chance, make some notes so that you have something to follow up on with the subjects you met.

princeton-sports-symposiumIf you are at this Friday’s Princeton Sports Symposium, make sure to come say hi to me.  I will be a panelist on the Partnership Activation Rising Stars Panel along with some other awesome young entrepreneurs.  It’s at the same time as Lewis Howes’ panel, so you better be going back and forth between the excellent panels instead of trying to network with those taking a bathroom break!

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4 Responses to How to Network at a Sports Symposium

  1. Russell Scibetti December 1, 2009 at 10:22 am #

    Darren – Looking forward to finally meeting you on Friday!

  2. Darren Heitner December 1, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    No business card needed 🙂

  3. Peter Robert Casey December 3, 2009 at 11:09 pm #

    See you gentlemen in the morning.

  4. Darren Heitner December 4, 2009 at 10:34 pm #

    Great seeing everyone today. Hope you all had safe trips home. Can’t wait until the next time that we are all able to meet again.

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