Three Takeaways from ALSD 2017

Our Executive Director offers her bird's eye view of the 27th Annual ALSD Conference and Tradeshow at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel.


Editor’s Note: Every year after the holiday cheer mutes, the New Year’s champagne goes flat, and the winds of winter turn her fingernails purple, ALSD Executive Director Amanda Verhoff climbs into a cave for five months, not to hibernate, but to work her ass off to ensure the next ALSD Conference and Tradeshow is the best ALSD Conference and Tradeshow. No one knows our membership better. And no one is more familiar with the details of the conference, or is more responsible for its executional success than Amanda.

With grace under pressure, you won’t notice. But trust me, she’s sweating every operational detail, all the while engaged in personal conversation as if you’re the only ALSD attendee that matters in that moment. She catalogs every conversation. She takes inventory of every observation. There is no better person to provide a recap of the show. So without further ado, here are her top-three observations from this year’s event at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel.

1. You are Really, Really Good at Hanging Out

In 28 years, we have built a community, a pretty awesome one. Rumor has it, a marriage spawned from an ALSD Conference. I wasn’t there for that one, but in my ten years, I’ve witnessed the honing of this community. This year in Miami, I again took notice of business relationships and friendships alike. But this year was different.

You know how Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner, does that bro hug-handshake thing with all the draftees? I actually saw those this year, like multiple times. But they weren’t between just the attendees. The embraces were attendee to attendee, attendee to sponsor, exhibitor to intern. It was like watching a huge family reunion. So many hugs, handshakes, high-fives, and even a few crazy uncles.

Our community is rich with relationships and void of discrimination. There are no conference ranks at ALSD. It is one, big happy family, and one that set the all-time revenue record for a Monday night at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel bar. No joke. You guys are really, really good at hanging out.

Perhaps in past years, I’ve been too busy to notice the blurred lines, but this year, I made a point to look, listen, and learn. I heard conversations about kids and stories of vacations. I listened to the commiseration for long hours that sports and entertainment requires, but also the unwavering commitment to working in the coolest industry on the planet. What I didn’t see or hear was that divide between vendor and attendee.

Why does that matter? Well, because when you’re one month from Opening Day, and you need the perfect suite holder gift, you’ve got the business card of the perfect person to call. Because when you’re turning five suites into a party suite, you know which venue to heed advice from because they told you at ALSD about the pitfalls to avoid. Because when your boss asks if the all-inclusive approach will work in your clubs, you can support your answer with real data from an ALSD session. Because you’re going to have industry questions, you’ve got a thousand best friends to take your call.

ALSD 2017 attendees gathered for an all-star watch party with spirits and ocean breezes on the Americana Lawn at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel.

2. You Love Speed Dating…in a Business Setting of Course

Did you participate in Bullseye – our new speed-dating for deal-making program – this year? Well if not, you have to try it next year. We match attendees with vendors for ten-minute meetings. But before we do, attendees are briefed on the product listings, and they pick the meetings they want to take. It’s qualified, efficient, and in its inaugural year in Miami, it hit the bullseye. See what I did there?  

How about the Solutions Sessions? Did you catch those case histories, where a team and a company present their solution to a pain point, or explain how a product or service impacts client ROI or the team’s bottom line?

Tradeshows are evolving. Where once everyone needed a booth to show off their goods, some now need that and more. They need to explain. They need to show and tell. They need you to focus on one good at a time. As tradeshows evolve, so is the ALSD. This year, we had 240 ten-minute Bullseye meetings, 16 25-minute Solutions Sessions, and over 90 booths. If you walked away without a solution for your venue, shame on you.

Content at a conference – or in our lives in general for that matter – is consumed in different ways for different people. And most of the time, it’s consumed quickly. Some like digital. Some like paper. Some can’t do without face-to-face meetings. Content is still king at conferences, so we are presenting it in diverse, uniquely digestible, and efficient ways, especially when it comes to showcasing the products and services in the premium seating marketplace.

The 2017 ALSD Conference and Tradeshow closed with a tour of Marlins Park, where the retractable roof and outfield wall were open along with the bar.

Amanda Verhoff (left) with Dennette Thornton of the Atlanta Braves.

3. You Really Do Care About the Customer

Duh, right? We’re in the corporate hospitality business after all. But from my conference crow’s nest, I could see you aren’t taking the customer for granted.

How do I know? If you recall, Amanda’s boots were made for walking. I was everywhere at the show.

I checked every single session room for attendance. I heard conversations at the bar about renewals. I saw you putting on your glasses to read the big schedule board at registration. I noticed there was standing room only for Jonathan Tisch’s guide to superior service. I even ventured out to the beach at the end of the show, and ended up talking with board members about how to improve the conference registration process.

You people can’t get enough. You’re all about the customer experience!

You’re constantly picking each other’s brains, talking shop over beers, trading war stories about opening buildings, and working 15-inning games only to come in at 9:00am the next morning. You’re in this together, and you want to be because you care about delivering an amazing experience.

They say you only get out what you put in. And that’s true, not just in your jobs, but at our conference. In four days in Miami, you put in hours only those who work at the ballpark have the stamina to do. You “networked” ’til the sun came up (seriously, I know people that did that), but you answered the bell for morning sessions too. You remain eager to make this industry greater and your customers more satisfied.

To use a cliché I said I never would, this year it truly was “my pleasure” witnessing the learning and relationship-building this conference has provided you, and that you so beautifully embraced.

With my bird’s eye view, I thank you, for being lifelong learners and making this industry so great. #

The ALSD would like to thank all of our members, attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, friends, and family for a memorable show in Miami. We look forward to hosting all of you again at ALSD 2018 in Atlanta.

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