This is the 4-5th time that I have attended the NACDA and Affiliates Convention, this year it was held in Orlando, FL. My first year at NACDA was back in 2007 when I first started out at Daktronics as a sales intern. That year consisted mainly of loading up the various display equipment and booth structure, then driving it down to Orlando and helping to set up and tear down everything after the show was finished.

The last couple of years I have helped without with various marketing efforts that surround the tradeshow, working a lot with Vickie Johnson in our group. During these years I typically haven’t been “assigned” to a specific affiliate, and would help out with any marketing efforts to drive traffic to our various booths there and promote our involvement. Going into this year I felt I had a lot more focus as to what my I was going to get out of the show. I was asked to attend and be a part of the NACMA affiliate. I used the NACDA app (which was a HUGE help to keep me organized with all the various events going on during the show) and sorted by the NACMA affiliate, then went through each day and added sessions to my personal schedule. I started going through it the week before the show and finished/cleaned it up on my flight down from South Dakota.

NACMA Young Professionals Workshop

NACMA YP

One area that I found out about the week before the show, was the NACMA Young Professionals (YP) Workshop that was held during the morning of the Monday before everything got underway at NACMA.

I found out about this through various Tweets from NACMA (@NACMANews) leading up to the event, and I reached out to see if this is something that I could be a part of (being a sponsor of the show, I wasn’t sure if this was reserved to colleges/universities only). I was told by the NACDA staff that sponsors are welcome to join and to make sure and register when I arrive on site so that my name is on the list. So when I arrived early Sunday afternoon, I checked in and got my main NACDA credentials, then found the person responsible for the NACMA YP workshop and got signed up.

The workshop started nice and early with a networking breakfast the following morning at 7:30 am. Coffee was provided at this breakfast which was terrific since we didn’t have to wait in the mile-long line at the Starbucks in the hotel that seemed to grow with each passing day. Networking breakfasts are always a great opportunity grab some food and meet new people.

I wanted to highlight a couple parts of this workshop that I felt were really interesting: “Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone” and “Speed Networking”:

  • Getting out of your comfort zone” – Though this session was mainly aimed towards assistant/associate Athletic Directors and how they can get noticed and move up in their profession, I took some good pieces of advice from it as well. Never being afraid to travel is always something of value (especially in the college sports market), there is a balance between traveling too much, and never getting out and seeing other people and what they are doing. They mentioned that if you are behind your desk every day, only on your campus and never go out to see what others are doing, you may become stale in your work. Not getting stuck on what your title is was also a good point that was touched on. As long as you’re comfortable in your own skin, learn to be patient and are really good at your job – others will notice and success will follow.
  • Speed Networking” –  Apparently in the past, this session was also nicknamed “Speed Dating” and for some obvious reasons, they chose to get rid of that. Basically everyone splits up into 2 large groups, then within each group they split up in half and form 2 lines – each row facing each other. Then you are given 2-3 minutes to introduce yourself to the person across from you, find out where they are from, get their contact information and go to the next person when the time expires. For me, this definitely helped having it at the beginning of NACMA because I had more familiar faces that I saw throughout the week, and it got you comfortable and in the zone to go out and network with anyone throughout the convention (not just NACMA).

Daktronics Equipment at NACDA

We brought a lot of equipment this year to NACDA, much of it was used out in the hallways between the different conference rooms where sessions and featured speakers were being held. This included a scorers’ table, Street Furniture Display, our 4mm video display, and something new that got a lot of attention – our logo display. We decided to showcase one of our more unique products with this, our free form elements – these can be in the shape of small “pucks” and used to put in many different applications. The one that we used, was channel lettering for our main Daktronics “D” logo. Many people stopped and took their picture of this logo display and we heard several comments about it throughout the show.

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This year during the main NACDA tradeshow, which was held on Monday and Tuesday evening, we took our Daktronics booth and went with a different look than we’ve had in years past. We brought a 1.9mm NPP display, which is the highest resolution display we’ve ever brought to NACDA, and a mod wall to showcase the different pixel pitch offerings we have for LED displays, our Show Control System and we had an LCD screen to show a live feed of current sporting events that were taking place (a lot of the College Baseball World Series). We had a lot of people come by and hang out with us in the booth letting us know what their schools have been up to lately.

We were also showcasing our VR headsets, where our creative services group had created some VR environments of our latest/upcoming projects. These were a huge hit and people kept wanting to check them out, then brought their friends over to try them out.

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All in all, I feel it was a very successful year for both Daktronics and myself at the NACDA and Affiliates Convention. This show does an amazing job of getting people together that are in the college sports industry, and giving them the opportunity to network and build relationships among each other. I’m looking forward to next year where the show is being moved to Washington D.C.!

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This article is by Matt Anderson
in College Sports Marketing.
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