Yesterday afternoon we were at Brooklyn’s for Taco Thursday. April and I were doing our usual blog shop-talk, and then it hit me…it was Thursday, and I didn’t have a post ready for Flashback Friday. What’s worse, I had absolutely no idea what to write about. I wracked my brain for a while, and finally came up with this week’s topic: The Association of Luxury Suite Directors (ALSD).
When I first began working at OSU, the only thing I knew about the premium seating industry is that stadiums have suites and club seats, and they are for people who have a lot more money than I do. I certainly had no idea an entire professional association dedicated to the industry existed.
My first summer I attended conferences for both ALSD and NACDA. NACDA is the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. It didn’t take me long to realize that this conference was not for me. The networking was people trying to work their way into a new job, and the sessions focused on the administrative side of athletics. I had a great time because some of my friends were there, but the conference did not fulfill my needs.
The ALSD includes suite sales and service professionals in the Big 4 leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB & NHL), as well as college, soccer, and other alternative venues. We discuss industry trends, learn from each other what works and what doesn’t, and visit the major sports venues in the cities. We have League Day, where each division meets as a group; general session days, with sessions about sales, service, and food/beverage; and a Design & Build Forum day, 45-minute “power sessions” that cover a variety of topics for those who are building and/or renovating their venues. The sessions are during the day; a couple of hours to visit with vendors in the trade show in the late afternoon; and each evening are tours and a reception in the major sports venues.
The last few years the ALSD has had official photographers, capturing everything about the conference. So since my photography skills at the conference aren’t the best, make sure you check out the ALSD website.
After my first ALSD in 2007, I was very disappointed at how small the college group was, as only 10 schools were represented. At that time, ALSD had a stronger focus on the professional leagues. I don’t believe it was intentional, but the college and pro markets and needs are just very different. Amanda and I talked about it after the following year, and I gave her a couple of suggestions. The ALSD came through, with much more college-specific content.
Who is Amanda? Well, Amanda is a rock star. She is the Executive Director of the ALSD, and she 100% runs the conference. Yes, she has a lot of help from the other staff members and interns, but the conference wouldn’t be what it is without her. I honestly don’t know how she does it.
The thing I love most about ALSD is the friends I have made. The first year the only person I knew was Allison; I replaced her at OSU, as she had moved to the San Diego Chargers. I was nervous, especially because we were going to be in different sessions most of the time. But once I got there and started meeting people, I was good. Every year I’ve made more friends, and several of us keep in touch all year long. We even made up our own group name for the college division, CD4L. We figured that since the NBA and NFL have their own cliques, we could do that too!
As I mentioned before, the college and professional markets are very different. College is about the love of your alma mater, and the staff is there to help make memories. The professional leagues are about business opportunities; the staff are helping to make memories as well, but it’s for a purpose–to help sell that next suite. At each event, they are prospecting guests in the suites to make the next sale. Even though the markets are so different, I always learn a lot from the pro market. Our budgets are typically much smaller than pro budgets, but we can take parts of what works for them and make it our own.
I always learn so much at ALSD. It is expensive to attend, but it’s easy to justify because I always return with at least three ideas that I can–and do–implement. Ideas come from both League Day and the general sessions. And to be honest, some of the best ideas come from networking in the exhibit hall.
Three years ago Amanda asked if I would serve on the Board of Directors. I’ve never served on a Board outside of work before, so it was a huge honor. I even got a fancy schmancy title on my name badge!
Every year the ALSD is in a different city. They hit a different region of the country each year, and also hit cities that have new and/or renovated venues. We’ve done Phoenix, Miami, Dallas, NYC, LA, Minneapolis, Orlando, and Kansas City. This year is San Francisco.
Speaking of ALSD reporters, Jared is one of my favorite people on the planet. I honestly can’t remember what year we met. But I think that just means we’ve had so much fun together it seems like we’ve known each other forever!
Jared is the Editorial Director for ALSD, and produces the SEAT magazine. I don’t read every single issue cover to cover, but I always read through the magazine, and love when he features friends of mine. I also love following Jared’s Journal.
I’m really excited that this year is San Francisco. I’ve only ever been once, for a job interview 15 years ago at Stanford. And it was one day. The conference starts Monday afternoon, but I’m flying in Sunday morning. That gives me all day Sunday and Monday morning to explore the city.