By: Mark Gress Jr., Prodigy Sports
People often ask me and others at Prodigy Sports what our goals and objectives are at sports and entertainment industry conferences. The initial inclination is that what we are trying to get out of and achieve at a conference is different than most attendees. However, given our unique role in the industry (i.e.: not a team or league; nor a traditional vendor selling a product), it is a valid question. Perhaps there would be value in our attendance at a SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) event or recruiting conference but our industry is so different and specialized that those conferences wouldn’t come close to matching the value we get and return on our investment. Given we dive deep into the sports and entertainment industries every day in our projects, it only makes sense to attend these conferences as well, even if we are not the traditional target audience that it may be marketed to.
In no particular order, as recruiters in attendance, we have several tangible and intangible boxes to check off:
- Meeting our past, present, and future candidates. Putting a face with a name is critical. Building rapport with people we ask to trust us with confidentiality and private details about their career, personal life, and salary is paramount. Networking is key at these conferences so what better opportunity than to meet face-to-face (regardless of whether it is a coffee break, luncheon, or cocktail reception/happy hour).
- Meeting our past and present clients. While we have easy access to New York City, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington D.C., our clients are spread out from Florida to California and everywhere in between and possibly out of the country. Conferences are a great central meeting place and time to check in on our placements, ask for feedback and suggestions on our work and processes, and dialogue about current projects. Most importantly – we must use this time to say THANK YOU.
- Seek out and pursue new business. Clearly, we’re not the only ones at a conference looking at bringing back a lead to the office and converting new business but given we don’t view ourselves as a “vendor”, it isn’t done at a trade show or sponsored lunch. Our role and what we do is based on people, the human element, so therefore our value is best proven and shown through our relationships, transparency, credibility, and strength in evaluating executive-level talent.
- Listen, observe, and ask questions. Getting the pulse of industry happenings, following the “movers and shakers”, understanding trends, and actively/passively participating in the conversation are critical. We must be informed, even as generalists, about who is doing what in our industry, why they are doing it, and what the results/reaction are or have been. This is also helpful for us to see which areas we can focus our outreach in throughout certain teams, leagues, and venues.
- Connect with industry friends to build and cement relationships. Celebrate the victories, show appreciation for their friendship and support, and offer to help with anything personally and professionally.
Everyone’s reasoning for attending conferences is different but the value remains the same for all…even executive recruiters.
As Vice President, Recruiting, Mark Gress Jr. brings more than 10 years of experience in the sports industry. He initially joined Prodigy Sports in early 2015 as Director, Recruiting before being promoted in 2016. Gress’ experience in the industry has brought him success in filling positions for Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, World Rowing Championships, USA Curling, USA Table Tennis, USA Taekwondo, and many more.