Wednesday, September 19th, 2007...12:09 am

nextSports: From Start To Finish

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I’ve been a member of nextNY for about a year now. It’s a NYC networking group with a focus on tech and digital media and tends to attract the entrepreneurial types. On the website the description is that nextNY “is basically a fun way to connect both socially and professionally with young people who have a stake in the future of tech and new media in New York City.” I’ve attended a bunch of the events (always free and organized by members of the group) and have met some great people. I even hooked up with Vin and [212] Media through nextNY.

A few months ago I decided I wanted to organize an event around sports and digital media. I enjoyed speaking to members of nextNY but I rarely had the opportunity to discuss the sports industry. I’ve also attended sports conference but never seem to get my fill of digital media. So the premise would be to hold an event that was dedicated to the convergence of technology, media and sports. More specifically, I wanted to focus on how digital media is changing the business and fan experience of sports through innovation, new distribution channels, enhanced broadband, and digital communities.

I got the ball rolling by floating out an email on the nextNY google group (a great resource to stay abreast of the NYC digital scene). The response was favorable and there seemed to be enough interest to hold an event. I received some great advice and tips from nextNY founder and event expert Charlie. Basically, I needed to secure a date, a venue, speakers and attendees. Charlie also recommended I follow the community conversation format that is used at most nextNY events. About six conversation leaders are dispersed throughout the crowd but there are no tiers. Everyone is part of the audience and everyone can participate. The event relies on audience participation, questions, etc. to move things along.

The most difficult aspect was securing a location. It’s tough to find a spot in NYC to hold 60 people. Luckily, my friend Marc is a lawyer at Weil Gotshal and was eager to participate in the event. He navigated through law firm bureaucracy to secure a pretty nifty conference room on the 24th floor of their offices in the GM Building. After a bit of haggling Marc even made sure refreshments and beverages were served.

Inviting people to speak was actually one of the easier tasks. With the help of a bunch of Nexters I sent out invites to 10-12 speakers. Although many people declined it seemed that everybody was flattered when asked to participate. This is also a great excuse to contact executives in your industry that you are interested in meeting. Up until the very last day I was rotating speakers in and out, but there always seemed an ample supply of qualified conversation leaders.

Getting people to attend the event was not a problem. Between nextNY, networking through my sports contacts and some nice coverage from Silicon Alley Insider we easily reached the maximum of 50 guests. Most of the crowd had not previously attended a nextNY event so it was great to recruit some new members and hopefully add a sports influence to the group.

The actual nextSports event was great. The conversation was interesting and the balance between the conversation leaders and the participants was perfect. I managed not to butcher the introductions and must have done an adequate job playing moderator because everybody seemed to get right into the swing of things. At some point during the event, as I scanned the room and saw over 50 engaged and interested faces, I realize that this was going super well! Afterwards a few people mentioned how passionate everybody in the room is about the issues and the industry. That’s nice to hear.

After the conversation ended people stuck around for over one half hour to network and chat. I was a bit overwhelmed as a group of people rushed up to speak with me. I’m usually the pushy guy who jumps out of nowhere to attack an important executive. Everybody I spoke with had kind words and seemed to have enjoyed and appreciated the event. My lunch hour is booked up for the next few weeks and I was invited to a few more networking events.

Big thanks to Marc Rosen and Weil Gotschal for providing a great venue. Thanks to Ken, Dan, Mike, Ed and Charlie for helping organize the event and securing speakers. Also want to again thank all of our conversation leaders. They were very compelling and set great examples for many of the young professionals in the room.

So, as Charlie often points out, it’s not all that hard to plan a nextNY event and the reward is well worth it. I’ve been asked a few times if I’m going to plan another event. It’s a loaded question. I’m not trying to get into the conference business. But you can bet that I plan to continue to help stimulate interesting conversation within my industry, connect people and listen and learn from executives. Please get in touch if you would like to do something similar.