Comment: Another conference? YouÆre kidding, right?

Sport Business News

Mickey Charles, president and CEO of real–time sports wire service The Sports Network (TSN), based in Philadelphia, US, provides his advice for best practice at conferences and exhibitions for delegates, speakers and exhibitors.

"Over–exposure does not apply to the sun alone, basking in the rays while relaxing on the sands of a beach in Antigua, Grand Bahamas, Dominican Republic or Costa Rica. Just because a new conference has been announced or the locale presents yet another opportunity to travel at corporate expense to an exotic or interesting locale, there is no need to get your travel agent on the phone. It is a disservice to yourself and, frankly, the company that pays you for doing more than one excursion after the other to conferences. On the other hand, if you are the leader and it is your choice to do so, knock yourself out!Let's break this down to attendees, speakers, exhibitors and the rest of you, the party–goers who fancy another evening with others of similar interest. Attendees are told that they have the potential to network but they usually seek out buddies, people with whom they are already engaged in one relationship or the other and anyone new is, more than likely, an accidental introduction. Voracious notes are taken during presentations, only to be put on a shelf in your office when you return home, together with the show manual. That one good idea which would have made the trip worthwhile was lost in a morass of scribbles, idle jottings and doodles that are not going to replace any of the works of Andy Warhol or Peter Max. Most of the rest of you have your laptops open and going full blast since you were the first one to arrive, locate and capture one of the few electrical outlets beneath the window and plug in. Well done!But, what is not well done is the fact that you are accessing and sending e–mails which have nothing to do with the conference while attending to other work that you never finished before arriving or which must be done prior to leaving. However, perception is everything and the open laptop is a badge of an industrious and attentive participant. If only they knew. Have you pinpointed the sessions you wish to attend and the exhibits that just might have something that can add to your progress and future or are you just wandering and wondering? Speaking of the exhibitors, most no longer need to bring along a full construction crew to put their displays together. This, of course, does not apply to Microsoft, Dell, Apple and others of similar ilk that construct small cities and have the staff to man them. That is COMDEX of years past in Las Vegas. For the most part, it is not the reality of today. The exhibits that come in much smaller boxes need only be mixed with some magic elixir, stirred gently and then they pop up to form a more than presentable display. That is the order of the day. It has to be graphically pleasing with a touch of presentation that says, at a glance, who you are and what you do. Attendees do not read all that copy you believe to be important. If they did, you could go elsewhere and let the exhibit do your job. It cannot. It can only attract, like a light for a moth, flower for a butterfly or a lion stalking its prey. You have to do the rest and, if you haven't thought of it already, that 62" plasma screen will work. Display your product, do one or two minutes on your company, show some technology if that is important to your efforts, run a contest of sorts but, remember, everyone will enter, not just prospects. That bowl where cards can be placed to win the set of golf clubs does not mean it will fill with executives that want you to call. The same is true of the umbrellas, t–shirts, candies, pens, drinks, trinkets, caricaturist and fellow with the card tricks. And, forget the suits and ties. Wear casual clothes, but be certain that everyone on the team dons the same togs. We're [The Sports Network] are in the business of sports so we initiated warm–ups at our last conference. Try sweaters, golf shirts, open collar shirts and sports jackets and, in all cases, do not forget the pants...same colour for all–basic black. Success is not, by the way, determined by garnering one new client. The conference has a cost paid now and the return from a new client will likely take a year or longer. Bad? No, just reality. As for the speakers, presenters, moderators, panellists among you, do not insult the intelligence of those coming to hear you by offering a sales presentation. Nothing is original today for more than a few seconds. There are no secrets on the internet. You are being asked to speak, to share, to educate, inform and answer questions posed to you. Moderators should challenge speakers who spew forth statistics that make no sense, whose statements are out of synch with pragmatic, no–nonsense actuality. Stop telling everyone how good their presentation was and thanking them for their time. They were a disaster and made some outrageous statements. Death by PowerPoint is one of the great failings of any conference. We can all read and do not need PowerPoints read to us. Further, the person doing this seems incapable of moving forward when his laptop fails, nothing is on the screen and valuable time is being spent fumbling with wires, keyboards and a conference IT person that thought he prepared but did not. If he, the speaker, cannot perform without it, it is time to leave and seek another session or the closest bar. Speakers are asked to develop and portray the secret of life, solve the riddles of the Gordian Knot and Sphinx in about 20 minutes. An impossible and improbable task, followed by a question and answer session. One hundred pounds of manure stuffed into a 50–pound bag. It is compounded by the fact the attendees, and you are likely one of them at one time or the other, are reluctant to ask a question for fear that it will be deemed silly or, worse yet, they will obtain a response that they do not wish to share with the others in the room. You have to be kidding!!!Stay home and embrace the paranoia you possess there. In conclusion, attendees should be discerning and sponge–like to meet, greet, absorb, interact, learn and be inquisitive. Exhibitors have limited time to attract, embrace, convince, develop and conclude. Speakers are obliged to be accurate, honest, informative, available (not leave after their presentation like a bank robber fleeing the scene), and not afraid to share. Party animals are on their own. Now, have you got the guts to grade yourselves? "About Mickey CharlesWhilst an attorney by training, Mickey Charles' background includes a wide range of interests among which are newspaper syndication, hosting a national sports talk show, being a feature editor on a myriad of topics running the gamut from telecommunications to travel, responding to requests as panelist, moderator and chair–person at seminars, conventions, trade shows and conferences. . . and still being president and CEO of Computer Information Network, Inc. , known within the industry and worldwide as The Sports Network. He has guested on, and worked with, such shows and networks as "The Sally Jessy Raphael Show" (radio), " The Today Show, " " News Center Four, " " PRISM, " " Morning, " " EveryDay, " " Gary Collins Show, " " Maury Povich Show, " " Newsweek, " " NewsInc, " "Live Pizza" (ESPN) and others. . . as well as co–hosting a sports talk show on ESPN and delivering commentary on the NFL for both Mutual Broadcasting and Westinghouse in recent years. In 1996 he was asked to broadcast weekly sports reports to Tokyo for FM FUJI (network) and " Inter Act QZ. " Also, he is the author of numerous articles and features that extend to the communications industry, gaming, travel, radio and television, cartoons and humour. Some of the publications to which he contributes editorially are iGaming Business Magazine, Gaming Industry News, Gaming Law Review (member of Editorial Board), New York Nightlife, New York Sportscene, Gambling Times and Gambling Online. Others for whom he has written over the years include Boardwalker Magazine, Communicator, Sporting Times, Update, Atlantic City Magazine, and Talkers. Charles is a frequent speaker for a variety of organisations (panellist and/or moderator) and is a consultant to major corporations domestically and internationally and was also asked to speak and present before the Presidential appointed National Gambling Impact Study Commission due to his expertise in this area. Charles is a pioneer in the audiotex industry since pre–divestiture, when he formed Communications Team, Inc. , a sports telecommunications group focused on telephonic delivered information that eventually evolved into The Sports Network, an international realtime sports wire service with customers throughout North America, Asia and Europe. It is a qualitative and quantitative source for sports news, data, scores, features, statistics and other sports information in the world. Subscribers include, but are not limited to, online services, newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, networks, pager/ beeper companies, hotels, race and sports book establishments, sports bars, interactive television, telephone companies, audiotex services, cable organisations, lotteries . . . and more. Turning to one of his recreational favourites, Charles has been president of the Middle Atlantic Blind Golfers Association and assisted annually for many years with golf tournaments for the benefit of United Way and St. Jude's. He is a graduate of Kalamazoo College (BA) and Brooklyn Law School (LLB). For further information, contact: The Sports Network +1 215/441–8444 Fax: +1 215/441–5767; e–mail: Maureen@sportsnetwork. com

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