Russian Roulette: Sports Has Lost The Covid-19 Game
“A rash of new coronavirus cases, in a country roiling in pandemic tension and racial strife, is forcing the industry to face what it has resisted: inevitable future outbreaks that demand an immediate shutdown of America’s biggest leagues.”
It will be OK. Really. Maybe you’ll read some books, buy a mask, pick a fight with Siri, meet a National Guardsman, learn how to rig an election or realize as I have in southern California that skies are blue without snarled freeways, though the ocean remains the color of cannabis. Simply, one’s life needn’t be commandeered by sports.
Having been reminded again that COVID-19 is the real power broker and badass at large — slamming a pandemic-defiant, $200 billion industry with new blasts of infections — sports has reached the point of no return. It’s time to enforce what I’ve written and said since the week Rudy Gobert openly mocked the coronavirus, then succumbed to it.
Sports must shut down. NOW. Because the rush to resume games is starting to resemble a dangerous, irresponsible form of slavery, reflecting what NBA player Justise Winslow wrote on social media and what other athletes surely are feeling: “This s— ain’t even ‘bout basketball or our safety anymore. All About The Benjamins baby. Not sure if they really care if we get corona.” This is no time to make athletes feel like guinea pigs amid a fragile racial climate, only roiled by despicable events in the bosom of Alabama: a noose was found in the Talladega garage of NASCAR’s only black driver, Bubba Wallace, who recently had forced the circuit to ban the Confederate flag. So much for the seemingly meaningful progress during the proud, productive and generally peaceful Black Lives Matter protests, as a hot, turbulent summer awaits a ravaged America.
Is Winslow wrong, given the riches at stake? Sports should prioritize health over wealth. It must take its ball and go home until the virus, or a far-off vaccine, indicate otherwise. Let the hostile Major League Baseball charlatans rumble in some faraway mud pit and put a bastardized season out of its misery. Let the NBA pop its problematic bubble, allowing players to be with their families and support the BLM mission without distraction. And let the NFL and college football, in a sport that should refer to its line of scrimmage as “the petri dish,’’ heed the wry observation of Rams coach Sean McVay, who points out, “We’re sitting here talking about handless doors. We’re talking about some of this stuff and we’re playing football. I mean, we’re going to social distance, but we play football? Hey, this is really hard for me to understand all this. …. I don’t get it. I really don’t.’’
I never have gotten it, beyond a decades-long realization that sports is filled with alpha egos and megalomaniacal billionaires who’ve never accepted no for an answer but suddenly have no choice. They’ve tried to confront The Beast with protocols, lockdowns, testing quarantines, MagicBands, Trumpian bluster and hollow assurances from health experts, but sports people aren’t much different than legions of COVID-iots who refuse to wear facial coverings because they’re too cool/independent/privileged/healthy/wealthy to get the virus. Guess what? Sports just got the virus in its most sweeping wave of transmissions to date, battered in so many directions that even the most optimistic souls have been jolted toward a grim conclusion.
The year 2020 is gone, the usual asterisk replaced by a saliva droplet.
For those accusing me of gloom-and-dooming, excuse me for thinking about lives lost and weakened instead of your Corona Party. When Jason Barrett graciously asked me to write for his media site, the plan wasn’t to hyper-cover the audacity of leagues trying to buck a killer medical crisis. But this is the biggest game we’ll ever chronicle, even as wishful-thinking sports sites persist with mindless content that pretends the pandemic isn’t happening. I’m a journalist who covered the Bay Area earthquake, 9/11 as it was happening and an international uprising or two along with decades of compelling sports fare — Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, 14 Olympics, 27 Super Bowls and numerous NBA Finals, World Series, Final Fours, golfing majors, everything but the Iditarod. And I’ve always realized sports is inessential compared to life’s landmark stories. So the directive here is simple.
Stop wishing and start thinking. If positive tests are so widespread now, how many COVID-19 massacres await when training sessions and regular seasons begin? Aren’t outbreaks inevitable no matter how many tests are administered? And if so, why is sports hellbent on jeopardizing the health of athletes, coaches, support staff and their families — and God knows who else? — by force-feeding seasons that shouldn’t be happening anyway? League and broadcast executives who’ve expressed confidence about postseasons being completed, trophies being awarded and even spectators paying for seats are either delusional, delirious or lying out of their asses for ulterior motives such as money, money or, perhaps, money.
Do they actually think 118,000 funerals around the country were fake, that the coronavirus still is no more harmful than the common flu? Do they realize America has devolved into a hopeless, hapless COVID-19 mosh pit, divided in a civil war over a precaution as logical as wearing a mask? Do they know that cases are still surging in record numbers in the U.S. and abroad, thanks to a maskless president who insists the virus will “go away’’ even after six of his staff members tested positive? Do sports people not read the horror stories of survivors who thought they were dying and began pondering, for a few dark moments, if death was the best option? The Beast is laughing, amused that sports assumed it could win this ballgame. And rather than obey the gallant American impulse to never, ever quit, it’s time to pack up the hope chests and run for shelter before a too-desperate-to-be-trusted business adds to the death toll.
“I’m actually of the mind right now: I think this is more like a forest fire,’’ said Dr. Michael Osterholm, a prominent epidemiologist, on NBC’s “Meet The Press’’ program. “I don’t think this is going to slow down. I think that wherever there’s wood to burn, this fire is going to burn out.’’
Sports should dispose of its woodpile. There is no sensible pathway toward completing a season, much less launching one, when a ghostly pathogen lurks around every corner. We cringe upon hearing of even one confirmed case, but consider it a powerful awakening when MLB labor crossfire is halted by a spate of positive tests at team facilities — such as five players and three others with the Philadelphia Phillies — that required a shutdown of all 30 camps in Florida and Arizona. No battalion of Hazmat suits can save baseball when, alarming health issues aside, the owners and players have wasted weeks in negotiation futility. The outbreaks prompted players, the ones taking the health risks, to twice delay votes on MLB’s most recent proposal — a 60-game season — until more COVID-19 data was gathered. Here’s your data: The resumption of any sports season will cause people to get sick, the only question being how many. Seems the virus was tiring of the labor impasse, as well, and when the Phillies released a grim statement, it smacked of looming finality that will damage baseball irreparably if the season isn’t played and 17 months pass without an official major-league game.
“In terms of the implications of this outbreak on the Phillies’ 2020 season,” concluded owner John Middleton, “the club declines comment, believing that it’s too early to know.”
It’s not too early to know that sports cannot go on this way, believing the virus will dutifully surrender when it intends to keep wreaking havoc. Attempting to resume games only will poke The Beast, and such chaos will bring every league, including the NFL behemoth, to its knees. What, every time there’s an outbreak during a season, we’re supposed to treat it like an All-Star break and wait for games to resume? That’s just more of the same fairy-tale nonsense they’ve wanted you to embrace all along. Pandemic fatigue — an easing of social distancing accompanied by the start of summer and reopening of businesses — prompted leagues to sell hope via their obedient blowtorch, ESPN. But over the weekend, the network’s MLB and NBA insiders were somber: The baseball season was in trouble, while a perilous spike in Florida’s positive cases was placing NBA players further in harm’s way as a Wednesday deadline nears on whether they’ll participate in the Disney World pipedream.
Of course, it hardly was coincidence when MLB, the NFL and the NHL were hit hard after a reckless lapse: allowing players to work out without protocols in place. In a week when NFL star Ezekiel Elliott tested positive, your heart sunk when two Tampa Bay Buccaneers players tested positive; hasn’t Tom Brady been working out with teammates? But pro athletes can use unions to reject seasons. College football players, who aren’t paid or represented by unions, are raw meat to universities, conferences and TV networks trying to protect $4 billion in jeopardized riches.
We have no idea how campus life will look starting in August, yet that isn’t stopping the purportedly high-minded leaders of American academia from selling out to football riches. It’s a gimme-mine mentality reflected by a rube coach, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, who since has been exposed for racist leanings and was called out by his best player, Chuba Hubbard, for wearing a shirt with the logo of right-wing news network One America News. Said Gundy, not long ago, in what sounds abusive, exploitative and quite telling in the current racial climate: “In my opinion, we need to bring our players back. They are 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22-years old and they are healthy and they have the ability to fight this virus off. If that is true, then we sequester them, and continue because we need to run money through the state of Oklahoma.”
Not sure how Gundy still has his job. But they also want to run that money through football factory Clemson, where 23 football players and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19. And Texas, where 13 players tested positive. And LSU, where more than 30 players were placed in quarantine to slow the spread. At least Kansas State, after 14 athletes tested positive, suspended all football workouts for two weeks, joining Houston in hitting pause. Ohio State, Indiana, Baylor, Missouri and SMU, among others, want athletes to sign waiver forms acknowledging risk, freeing universities of liability as they pocket TV windfalls.
Then there’s golf, a social-distance-friendly sport that still can’t get out of its way. Nick Watney, a five-time PGA Tour winner, tested positive Friday and withdrew from the RBC Heritage event at Hilton Head — after testing negative when he arrived at the tournament, meaning he likely contracted the virus at the site. If that isn’t spooky, mind explaining why Watney was allowed to wait for his test result at the driving range, as Brooks Koepka and others stood nearby? Said Rory McIlroy: “If you contract it, that’s fine, but then it’s who have you come into contact with and who you might have exposed. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic.’’
If only everyone in sports understood that. By now, after 2.3 million confirmed cases and almost 120,000 deaths in the U.S., the enormity and persistence of The Beast should mortify everyone. Yet there was insider Brian Windhorst on ESPN, saying the NBA was undaunted by Florida’s virus outbreaks because the bubble plan is “too big to fail.’’
Yeah, too big to fail.
Please rescue these madmen from themselves. Before someone dies.
Jay Mariotti, called “the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes a weekly media column for Barrett Sports Media and regular sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts in production today. He’s an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and radio talk host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects. Compensation for this column is donated to the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust.
Amanda Brown Has Embraced The Bright Lights of Hollywood
“My whole goal was that I didn’t need people to like me; I needed people to respect me.”
The tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and eight others aboard a helicopter, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, sent shockwaves around the world of sports, entertainment, and culture. People traveled to Los Angeles following the devastating news and left flowers outside the then-named STAPLES Center, the arena which Bryant called home for much of his career, demonstrating the magnitude of the loss. Just across the street from the arena, Amanda Brown and the staff at ESPN Los Angeles 710 had embarked in ongoing breaking news coverage, lamentation, and reflection.
It included coverage of a sellout celebration of life for Kobe and his daughter and teams around the NBA opting to take 8-second and 24-second violations to honor Bryant, who wore both numbers throughout his 20-year NBA career. They currently hang in the rafters at Crypto.com Arena, making Bryant the only player in franchise history to have two numbers retired.
During this tumultuous time, Bryant’s philosophy served as a viable guiding force, something that Brown quickly ascertained in her first month as the station’s new program director.
“I had people that were in Northern California hopping on planes to get here,” Brown said. “You didn’t even have to ask people [to] go to the station; people were like, ‘I’m on my way.’ It was the way that everybody really came together to do really great radio, and we did it that day and we did it the next day and we did it for several days.”
The 2023 BSM Summit is quickly approaching, and Brown will be attending the event for the first time since 2020. During her first experience at the BSM Summit in New York, Brown had just become a program director and was trying to assimilate into her role. Because of this, she prioritized networking, building contacts, and expressing her ideas to others in the space. This year, she looks forward to connecting with other program directors and media professionals around the country while also seeking to learn more about the nuances of the industry.
“The Summit is kind of like a meeting of the minds,” Brown said. “It’s people throughout the country and the business…. More than anything, [the first time] wasn’t so much about the panels as it was about the people.”
Growing up in Orange County, Brown had an interest in the Los Angeles Lakers from a young age, being drawn to play-by-play broadcaster Chick Hearn. Brown refers to Hearn as inspiration to explore a career in broadcasting. After studying communications at California State University in Fullerton, she was afforded an opportunity to work as a producer at ESPN Radio Dallas 103.3 FM by program director Scott Masteller, who she still speaks to on a regular basis. It was through Masteller’s confidence in her, in addition to support from operations manager Dave Schorr, that helped make Brown feel more comfortable working in sports media.
“I never felt like I was a woman in a male-dominated industry,” Brown said. “I always just felt like I was a part of the industry. For me, I’ve kind of always made it my goal to be like, ‘I deserve to be here; I deserve a seat at the table.’”
Brown quickly rose up the ranks when she began working on ESPN Radio in Bristol, Conn., working as a producer for a national radio show hosted by Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt, along with The Sports Bash with Erik Kuselias. Following five-and-a-half years in Bristol, Brown requested a move back to California and has worked at ESPN Los Angeles 710 ever since. She began her tenure at the station serving as a producer for shows such as Max and Marcellus and Mason and Ireland.
Through her persistence, work ethic and congeniality, Brown was promoted to assistant program director in July 2016. In this role, she helped oversee the station’s content while helping the entity maintain live game broadcast rights and explore new opportunities to augment its foothold, including becoming the flagship radio home of the Los Angeles Rams.
“Don’t sit back and wait for your managers or your bosses to come to you and ask what you want to do,” Brown advised. “Go after what you want, and that’s what I’ve always done. I always went to my managers and was like, ‘Hey, I want to do this. Give me a chance; let me do that.’ For the most part, my managers have been receptive and given me those opportunities.”
When executive producer Dan Zampillo left the station to join Spotify to work as a sports producer, Brown was subsequently promoted to program director where she has helped shape the future direction of the entity. From helping lead the brand amid its sale to Good Karma Brands in the first quarter of 2022; to revamping the daily lineup with compelling local programs, Brown has gained invaluable experience and remains keenly aware of the challenges the industry faces down the road. For sports media outlets in Los Angeles, some of the challenge is merely by virtue of its geography.
“We’re in sunny Southern California where there’s a lot of things happening,” Brown said. “We’re in the middle of Hollywood. People have a lot of opportunities – you can go to the mountains; you can go to the beach. I think [our market] is more about entertainment than it is about actual hard-core sports. Yes, obviously you have hard-core Lakers fans; you have hard-core Dodgers fans, but a majority of the fans are pretty average sports fans.”
Because of favorable weather conditions and an endless supply of distractions, Brown knows that the way to attract people to sports talk radio is through its entertainment value. With this principle in mind, she has advised her hosts not to worry so much about the specific topics they are discussing, but rather to ensure they are entertaining listeners throughout the process.
“People know the four letters E-S-P-N mean sports, but really our focus is more on entertainment more than anything,” Brown said. “I think the [talent] that stick out the most are the ones that are the most entertaining.”
Entertaining listeners, however, comes through determining what they are discussing and thinking about and providing relevant coverage about those topics. Even though it has not yet been legalized in the state of California, sports gambling content has been steadily on the rise since the Supreme Court made a decision that overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act established in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (2018). Nonetheless, Brown and ESPN Los Angeles 710 have remained proactive, launching a sports gambling show on Thursday nights to try to adjust to the growing niche of the industry.
Even though she has worked in producing and programming for most of her career, Brown is eager to learn about the effect sports gambling has on audio sales departments. At the same time, she hopes to be able to more clearly determine how the station can effectuate its coverage if and when it becomes legal in their locale.
“I know that a lot of other markets have that,” Brown said regarding the legalization of sports gambling. “For me, I’m interested to hear from people who have that in their markets and how they’ve monetized that and the opportunity.”
No matter the content, though, dedicated sports radio listeners are genuinely consuming shows largely to hear certain talent. Brown recalls receiving a compliment on Twitter earlier this quarter where a listener commented that he listens to ESPN Los Angeles 710 specifically for Sedano and Kap. Evidently, it acted as a tangible sign that her philosophy centered around keeping people engrossed in the content is working, and that providing the audience what it wants to hear is conducive to success.
At this year’s BSM Summit, Brown will be participating on The Wheel of Content panel, presented by Core Image Studio, featuring ESPN analyst Mina Kimes and FOX Sports host Joy Taylor. Through their discussion, she intends to showcase a different perspective of what goes into content creation and the interaction that takes place between involved parties.
“A lot of times in the past, all the talent were on one panel; all the programmers were on one panel,” Brown said. “To put talent and a programmer together, I think it’s an opportunity for people to hear both sides on certain issues.”
According to the most recent Nielsen Total Audience Report, AM/FM (terrestrial) radio among persons 18-34 has a greater average audience than television. The statistical anomaly, which was forecast several years earlier, came to fruition most likely due to emerging technologies and concomitant shifts in usage patterns.
Simultaneously, good content is required to captivate consumers, and radio, through quantifiable and qualifiable metrics, has been able to tailor its content to the listening audience and integrate it across multiple platforms of dissemination. The panel will give Brown a chance to speak in front of her peers and other industry professionals about changes in audio consumption, effectuated by emerging technologies and concomitant shifts in usage patterns.
Yet when it comes to radio as a whole, the patterns clearly point towards the proliferation of digital content – whether those be traditional radio programs or modernized podcasts. Moreover, utilizing various elements of presentation provides consumers a greater opportunity of finding and potentially engaging with the content.
“We do YouTube streaming; obviously, we stream on our app,” Brown said. “We’ve even created, at times, stream-only shows whether it’s stream-only video or stream-only on our app. We all know that people want content on-demand when they want it. I think it’s about giving them what they want.”
As a woman in sports media, Brown is cognizant about having to combat misogyny from those inside and outside of the industry, and is grateful to have had the support of many colleagues. In holding a management position in the second-largest media market in the United States, she strives to set a positive example to aspiring broadcasters. Additionally, she aims to be a trusted and accessible voice to help empower and give other women chances to work in the industry – even if she is not universally lauded.
“I’ve kind of always made it my goal to be like, ‘I’m no different than anyone else – yes, I’m a female – but I’m no different than anyone else,’” Brown expressed. “My whole goal was that I didn’t need people to like me; I needed people to respect me.”
Through attending events such as the BSM Summit and remaining immersed in sports media and the conversation at large about the future of sports media, Brown can roughly delineate how she can perform her job at a high level.
Although the genuine future of this business is always subject to change, she and her team at ESPN Los Angeles 710 are trying to come up with new ideas to keep the content timely, accurate, informative, and entertaining. She is content in her role as program director with no aspirations to become a general manager; however, remaining in her current role requires consistent effort and a penchant for learning.
“Relationships are very important overall in this business whether you’re a programmer or not,” Brown said. “Relationships with your talent; relationships with your staff. If you invest in your people, then they’re going to be willing to work hard for you and do what you ask them to do.”
The 2023 BSM Summit is mere days away, and those from Los Angeles and numerous other marketplaces will make the trip to The Founder’s Club at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California (USC).
Aside from Brown, Kimes and Taylor, there will be other voices from across the industry sharing their thoughts on aspects of the industry and how to best shape it going forward, including Colin Cowherd, Rachel Nichols, Al Michaels and Eric Shanks. More details about the industry’s premiere media conference can be found at bsmsummit.com.
“I’m excited to be a female program director amongst male program directors for the first time and get a seat at the table and represent that there can be diversity in this position,” Brown said. “We don’t see a lot of it, but… there is an opportunity, and I hope I can be an example for other people out there [to show] that it’s possible.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he interns in video production with the New York Islanders and formerly worked as production manager for the team’s radio broadcasts. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Pat McAfee Has Thrown Our Business Into a Tailspin
Yet even with all the accomplishments he’s been able to achieve, McAfee is still anxious and unsatisfied with the state of his show and his career.
When you have one of the hottest talk shows in America, you’re always up to something. That’s the case for the most popular sports talk show host in America – Pat McAfee.
The former Pro Bowl punter was on top of the world on Wednesday. With over 496,000 concurrent viewers watching at one point, McAfee was able to garner an exclusive interview with frequent guest Aaron Rodgers who announced his intention to play for the Jets.
Yet even with all the accomplishments he’s been able to achieve — a new studio, consistent high viewership, a syndication deal with SportsGrid TV, a four-year, $120 million deal with FanDuel — McAfee is still anxious and unsatisfied with the state of his show and his career.
At the end of the day, he is human and he’s admitted that balancing his show, his ESPN gig with “College Gameday,” and his WWE obligations has taken a toll on him.
McAfee and his wife are expecting their first child soon and he recently told The New York Post he might step away from his deal with FanDuel. Operating his own company has come with the responsibility of making sure his studio is up and running, finding people to operate the technology that puts his show on the air, negotiating with huge behemoths like the NFL for game footage rights, booking guests, booking hotels, implementing marketing plans and other tasks that most on-air personalities rarely have to worry about.
McAfee says he’s looking for a network that would be able to take control of those duties while getting more rest and space to spend time with family while focusing strictly on hosting duties. FanDuel has its own network and has the money to fund such endeavors but is just getting started in the content game. McAfee needs a well-known entity to work with who can take his show to the next level while also honoring his wishes of keeping the show free on YouTube.
The question of how he’s going to be able to do it is something everyone in sports media will be watching. As The Post pointed out in their story, McAfee hasn’t frequently stayed with networks he’s been associated with in the past for too long. He’s worked with Westwood One, DAZN, and Barstool but hasn’t stayed for more than a year or two.
There’s an argument to be made that the latter two companies weren’t as experienced as a network when McAfee signed on with them compared to where they are today which could’ve pushed the host to leave. But at the end of the day, networks want to put money into long-term investments and it’s easy to see a network passing on working with McAfee for fear that he’ll leave them astray when he’s bored.
It’ll also be difficult for McAfee to find a network that doesn’t put him behind a paywall. Amazon and Google are rumored to be potential new homes. But both are trying to increase subscribers for their respective streaming services.
It will be difficult to sell Amazon on investing money to build a channel on YouTube – a rival platform. For Google, they may have the tech infrastructure to create television-like programming but they aren’t an experienced producer, they’ve never produced its own live, daily talk show, and investing in McAfee’s show doesn’t necessarily help increase the number of subscribers watching YouTube TV.
Networks like ESPN, CBS, NBC, and Fox might make sense to partner with. But McAfee faces the possibility of being censored due to corporate interests. Each of these networks also operates its networks or streaming channels that air talk programming of their own. Investing in McAfee could cannibalize the programming they already own.
And if McAfee works with a traditional network that isn’t ESPN, it could jeopardize his ability to host game casts for Omaha or analyze games on Gameday. It’s not impossible but would definitely be awkward on days that McAfee does his show remotely from locations of ESPN games with ESPN banners and signage that is visible in the background.
If SportsGrid has the money to invest in McAfee, they might be his best bet. They have all the attributes McAfee needs and they already have a relationship with him. It is probably unlikely that he’ll be censored and he would even be able to maintain a relationship with FanDuel – a company SportsGrid also works alongside.
Roku is another option — they already work with Rich Eisen — but they would move his show away from YouTube, something McAfee should resist since the majority of smart TV users use YT more than any other app.
If the NFL gave McAfee editorial independence, they would make the perfect partner but the likelihood of that happening is slim to none. NFL Media has independence but it was clear during the night of the Damar Hamlin incident that they will do whatever is necessary to stay away from serious topics that make the league look bad until it’s totally unavoidable.
It’s hard to think of a partner that matches up perfectly with McAfee’s aspirations. But once again, at the moment, he’s on top of the world so anything is possible. The talk show host’s next move will be even more interesting to watch than the other fascinating moves he’s already made that have put the sports media industry in a swivel.
Jessie Karangu is a columnist for BSM and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
5 Tips For Networking At the BSM Summit
“Have a plan and don’t leave home without it.”
Bring your game plan if you attend the BSM Summit in LA next Tuesday and Wednesday. No matter your purpose for attending: to learn, get a job, speak, or sell an idea, you must be able to read the room. To do that, it helps to know who will be there and how you can cure their pain.
Have a plan and don’t leave home without it. If you have time, buy How to Work a Room by Susan Roane. If you don’t, just follow these five tips:
- INTRODUCE YOURSELF: Before you arrive at The Summit, figure out what you want, who you want to meet, and what you will say. Once you get there, scout out the room and see if anyone of those people are available. Talk to speakers after they have spoken- don’t worry if you miss what the next speaker says. You are there to meet new people! Most speakers do not stick around for the entire schedule, and you don’t know if they will attend any after-parties, so don’t risk it. Refine your elevator pitch and break the ice with something you have in common. Make sure you introduce yourself to Stephanie, Demetri and Jason from BSM. They know everybody and will help you if they can.
- GET A NAME TAG: Don’t assume that name tags will be provided. Bring your own if you and make your name clear to read. If you are looking to move to LA or want to sell a system to book better guests, put it briefly under your name. Study this to get better at remembering names.
- LOSE THE NOTEBOOK: When you meet folks, ensure your hands are free. Have a business card handy and ask for one of theirs. Remember to look people in the eye and notice what they are doing. If they are scanning the room, pause until they realize they are blowing you off. Do whatever it takes to sound upbeat and open. Don’t let their clothes, hair, or piercings distract from your message. You don’t need to wear a suit and tie but do bring your best business casual wear. A blazer isn’t a bad idea either.
- SHUT UP FIRST! The art of knowing when to end the convo is something you will have to practice. You can tell when the other person’s eye starts darting or they are not using body language that tells you the convo will continue. You end it by telling them you appreciate meeting them and want to connect via email. Ask for a business card. Email is more challenging to ignore than a LinkedIn request, and you can be more detailed in what you want via email.
- WORK THE SCHEDULE: Know who speaks when. That is when you will find the speakers hanging around. Plan your lunch outing to include a few fellow attendees. Be open and conversational with those around you. I am a huge USC fan, so I would walk to McKays– a good spot with plenty of USC football memorabilia on the walls. Sometimes you can find the next day’s speakers at the Day 1 after party. Need a bar? Hit the 901 Club for cheap beer, drinks, and food.
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio, digital, hyper-local magazine, and sports sponsorship sales in DFW. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop SPORTS RADIO The Ticket in Boise, Idaho, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at email@example.com or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.
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