Why Sports Business Professionals Should Attend SEAT

SEAT on the AT&T Park scoreboard in San Francisco during 2015 conference.

The Sports & Entertainment Alliance in Technology (SEAT) Conference was held in San Francisco and as the organization's name suggests, it tackles topics related to the intersection of sports, entertainment, and technology.

The 2015 San Francisco edition of SEAT was my first opportunity to attend - and I walked away impressed.

In "empty the notebook" style, here are some observations from the event that should inspire you to attend in future years:

  • If you work at the intersection of tech and sports (college, pro, international) there is no question that this is the place for you.  If you don't work directly at that intersection, you will likely find the conference a good way to "get up to speed" on industry issues in this area.  No matter your role or career path, technology is likely to become an increasingly important part of your role(s) into the future.
  • The six tracks were available to all attendees if you wanted to sample across the program.  As an alternative, you could create  a "conference within a conference" experience if you chose to stay within a single track for the duration of the proceedings.  The six tracks were:
  1. CIO Venue Technology Track
  2. Collegiate Industry Leaders Track
  3. CRM/ Database Marketing, Loyalty & Analytics Track
  4. CXO Strategy Track
  5. Digital Marketing, Social Media, Analytics & Mobile Track
  6. Game Day Presentation/Broadcast & Fan Engagement Track
    • The quality of sponsors in the common areas was amazingly high and added to the experience of the attendees, unlike many other conferences where the vendors are an annoyance or distraction.
    • The general sessions in the main ballroom were crisp and well executed with well-curated speakers and panelists delivering quality content.  I especially enjoyed the Tech Innovation Showcase that allowed six competing start-ups six minutes on stage to "pitch" their business.  Their presentations each presented a glimpse into the future of sports business.
    • The theme of collaboration was touted by conference organizers Christine Stoffel and Sean Callanan from the main stage and lived by the attendees, organizers, and sponsors across my four days of attendance.  In the halls, there was a genuine sense of inclusiveness that made fitting in easy, even for a first-time attendee who knew only a handful of people pre-conference.  And many of the track sessions were run as "roundtables" that encouraged interaction and collaboration.
    • There are amazing career opportunities in this space.  Many people I interacted with asked for candidate referrals.  And in several panels, the topics of identifying, recruiting and retaining talent were discussed.
    • In the competitive environment of conferences, there is an increased expectation for entertainment or experiential learning as a component of conference attendance and SEAT exceeded expectations on these dimensions.  On Sunday, luxury buses transported attendees from San Francisco to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.  An extensive bar and appetizer selection greeted us, along with the 49ers mascot and cheerleaders.  Additionally, stadium tours were customized based on three themes offered to visitors.  On Tuesday, SEAT took over AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. A ballpark style dinner and drinks were just the beginning of the experience.  Four softball teams created by subgroups from the conference staged a tournament in the infield, while other attendees could watch from anywhere on the field, snap pictures, sit in the dugout or hit in the batting cages. Needless to say, both excursions were well received by those in attendance.

      Finally, it was announced that the 2016 domestic SEAT will take place in Las Vegas. After experiencing the high-quality presentations and welcoming culture of SEAT 2015, I'm looking forward to next year's conference.

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