Building Relationships at S.P.O.R.T.S.


By Sherri Middleton, Managing Editor

This year’s S.P.O.R.T.S. conference was an amazing experience. As a first-timer to the annual event, I didn’t know what to expect. I suspected there would be long days, a whirlwind of activities and an abundance of information to learn and share. I was not disappointed.

DKPWEDS_042.JPGMostly, S.P.O.R.T.S. is all about building real relationships with the people we meet during our time at the conference. That’s why people told me they continue coming back to the conference year after year. Industry conferences should be about making long-term connections and becoming more than someone you occasionally email or talk with on the phone. At S.P.O.R.T.S., the people you meet become friends who welcome you with a smile and often with a hug when you offer to shake hands.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was the host city for this year’s conference and the city and Go Cedar Rapids rolled out the red carpet to the event and attendees.

From a welcome to the city event with pizza and beer pong, to an opening night progressive dinner complete with human foosball, a marching band, food stations, ice skating, hockey, curling and batting practice at the local stadium, the folks at Go Cedar Rapids presented their city with pride. At the same time, those fun events gave our group a chance to get to know each other in a relaxed environment prior to the opening of the conference.

With networking receptions, sports courts for play between meetings, meals and speakers and fun activities planned after hours, the days were long, but always fun.

But S.P.O.R.T.S. is about relationships and building business relationships in a way that is like no other conference in the industry. With appointments set in advance for attendees with the people they most wanted to meet, representatives from destination marketing organizations and the event planners and right holders came together to share information and do business.


It’s those one-on-one appointments that sets S.P.O.R.T.S. apart from the rest of the industry, according to our feedback. I heard comments such as: “I’ve been to a lot of conferences, but it always feels like speed dating. These appointments give me enough time to actually learn something about the other person and share information.” Or, “I am so happy about the appointments I had here. I’ve booked my calendar for the year.”

We also participated in some sessions where we shared information about issues facing the industry and brainstormed ways to address those concerns in a meaningful way.

With speakers scheduled throughout the program and plenty of activities and time to relax between sessions insured that conversations that started in an appointment session could continue long after the meeting was complete.

Before heading back to our respective homes across the country, we visited a working Iowa farm for a final night of festivities. With a corn maze, pumpkin cannons, zombies, zip lines, great food and an amazing band, attendees enjoyed a closing reception to remember.


The night ended with SportsEvents Publisher Talty O’Connor, the Winston-Salem staff and the Wake Forest Demon Deacon announcing that next year we’ll be in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I’m looking forward to another great S.P.O.R.T.S. conference and the new relationships we’ll build.

To learn more about S.P.O.R.T.S. The Relationship Conference, visit

See you next year in Winston-Salem, North Carolina!

Click here to view more pictures from S.P.O.R.T.S. 2017.