Networking at a Large Sports Event - Work in Sports Podcast e139

Each year there are hundreds of sports conferences around the globe which make for great learning and networking opportunities. How do you make the most out of these large scale sports events? We explain on this podcast!

Hi everybody I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for and this is the Work in Sports podcast.

Last week we had our first Facebook live broadcast and it was pretty incredible, lots of engagement, great questions, and some fun interaction with all of you. If you were in there… thank you, I had a ton of fun, if you weren’t… well guess what, we are doing it again this Thursday!

To start I’m going to go once a week on Thursday nights at 7:30 EST. In the future we may go every other Thursday, but I’m kind of into the idea of going full bore at the start, work the kinks out and improve on the delivery.

We can always scale back if it’s too much… but knowing myself, I’m chomping at the bit to improve…right after I finished the first one, I wanted to go live again the next day and improve on some things I thought I could have done better.

So long story short – we will be live this Thursday 7:30 PM eastern, from our main facebook page. Not the Work in Sports podcast group, the main Work in Sports facebook page!

Here’s why, I found out our tools that help me interact with all of you during the live only work on facebook pages, not groups. So please, if you are a member of our work in sports podcast private group…make sure to come over to our facebook page for the live. Cool?

One of the topics that came up during the live event was networking at a major event like the Baseballl Winter Meetings. For those of you that don’t know, the baseball winter meetings are a huge event and hundreds of baseball teams in Minors and Majors hire staff for the upcoming season. But with any huge event, you can’t afford to sit in the background and wait for thing to come to you… you need to go after it.

Now, I’m a transparent dude, I’m not the type to fake things or provide fake advice. I’m not great at this. I know what you are supposed to do, I know what works…but I am not a natural networker. I have to work at it.

It’s like my kids – one is like a math savant, can do anything math related, but he has to work harder at his writing skills. My daughter on the other hand can write like no tomorrow…but has to work harder at math.

We all have weaknesses, and it’s important to acknowledge them and work towards improving them. Other things come naturally so I don’t have to work as hard at them, networking is less comfortable. But we can’t avoid what is hard, you can’t ignore it, you have to work at it.

What I have learned personally is the more uncomfortable I am in a situation, the more I need a well laid out plan and strategy. I need an executable structure.

So here goes – here’s my approach to networking at larger events.

1: Research – I do as much research as I can into the people, teams and organizations that will be at the event. From this I create my target list. Rather than trying to approach 1,000 sports businesses and go the speed dating route, I try to narrow down the field. Who is in an area I might want to be? Who has a product I am genuinely interested in? Who has made it pretty clear they are hiring?

Narrow the funnel. You can’t possibly see and talk with everyone well, so make your target list and do some research. Find out about their structure –

  • who is in charge
  • who runs the business
  • what were their attendance numbers
  • what were some of their big marketing campaigns
  • If it’s a product, who are their investors

Once you have some of these pieces in line, you can gain confidence in your upcoming conversations. I don’t know about you, but when I feel smart, I exude confidence. When I an unprepared, I know I am winging it and it’s obvious. So do your research and make a target list.

2: Now you are at the event. I like to get myself comfortable first… some people will tell you to rush to people you want to speak with first so you’ll be memorable…I don’t know if I buy that. I personally like to walk around a bit and get comfortable in my surroundings. I want to know where the breakout sessions will be, where the trade show is, where interviews may take place… I want to feel comfortable.  I like to know what the people are like – if I smile at people are they smiling back. Are the team reps feeling slammed, or are they ready to talk? I don’t like to rush things. Methodical works if you ask me.

3: Now it’s time to talk – eye contact, hand shake, smile, introduce yourself.

Now the introduction is key – people talk about your elevator pitch your 30 second personal sales pitch. To me that is very, very unnatural – it sounds rehearsed and inauthentic and I hate those moments.

I believe you make your introductory moment include the eye contact the hand shake the smile and a simple “Hi I’m Brian Clapp, I’m a student at Florida State studying sports management – I was just reading up on your organization last night and I was blown away by your new brand, logo and relaunch – how crazy was that time?”

“oh man it was crazy…”

“I’m really drawn to the marketing side of the sports world, would love to get in with a team in that realm, do you have any recommendations?”

Make it a conversation – show your intellect and your research… make a connection!

4: Now, once you are done – exchange business cards and again make eye contact and hand shake, say it was a pleasure speaking with them. Go somewhere out of sight, and write down notes.

Events are an intense experience, if you try to recall everything later you will forget key details…so go take notes right afterwards. This is essential for your follow up plans. What is their name, what did you talk about, what nuggets did they share? What’s next?

5: Now it’s time for follow up – write a note. They are going to get hundreds of emails. Write a note. Cite something you spoke about.  “Hey John it was great speaking with you at the Winter Meetings about marketing opportunities with your team, thank you for your insight and I look forward to staying in touch.”

Connect on LinkedIn – same thing, include a note in your request to connect. Like their posts, follow their groups, see where they hang out.

Follow them and their team or brand on Twitter – retweet their content, make comments. Share content on their brand.  Be present.

Keep a real connection going where you provide value, not just ask for things. If you are going to apply for a job wit their team, give them a heads up. Say – just wanted to let you know I’m applying for the open marketing coordinator position with your team and am very excited about the opportunity – wish me luck!

Don’t ask them to help you out, if you play it cool and just act like it’s a professional courtesy to let them know… they’re more likely to want to help you, than feel obligated to.

Follow a plan like this and you’ll be far more likely to make your attendance at a networking event or conference or major event… likely to forge lasting relationships.

Friendly reminder – Wednesday expert podcast, Thursday Facebook live on our Work in Sports page.

By Brian Clapp | December 10, 2018
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