Flashback Friday - Association of Luxury Suite Directors

Yesterday afternoon we were at Brooklyn's for Taco Thursday.  April and I were doing our 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). I was actually planning to do this one in a couple weeks, right before the conference. But since my brain was drawing a blank, it's coming today.

When I first started working at OSU, I knew almost nothing about the premium seating industry, other than the fact that stadiums had suites and club seats.  And it was for people with a lot more money than myself.  I certainly had no idea that there was an entire professional association dedicated to the industry.  

At OSU we only get to attend one national conference a year.  So my boss at the time recommended that I attend both the ALSD and NACDA conferences that first summer, and determine which one was more beneficial to me.  NACDA is the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, and is comprised of Athletic Directors and people who want to become AD's.  That year the conference was in Orlando.  It didn't take me long to realize that this conference was not for me.  Most of the networking was people trying to work their way into a new job.  And the sessions were on the administrative side: diversity, how to become an AD, student-athlete development, etc.  Nothing that applied to me.  I had a lot of fun because some of my friends were there, but honestly learned very little.

Then I went to ALSD.  This association includes suite sales and service professionals in the Big 4 leagus (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. The first full day is League Day, where each division meets as a group.  Then the next 2 days are general session days, with sessions about sales, service, and food/beverage. They've also added a Design & Build Innovation Lab, 45-minute "power sessions" that cover a variety of topics for those who are building and/or renovating their venues. During the day, we have the sessions. Then in the late afternoon is the exhibit hall, where we visit with vendors and network. And eat & drink. Then each evening we visit different venues. They show off everything; their gorgeous spaces, food, and drinks. 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

I have to be honest.  I was really disappointed the first year in how small the college division was.  There were maybe 10 schools represented.  A big part of the reason was that the ALSD was geared more towards the professional sports.  I really don't think they intended it that way, but the college and professional markets are extremely different, and most of the general sessions were more geared towards what the professional markets want.  I can't remember if it was after 2007 or 2008, but I talked to Amanda about it, and gave her some suggestions.  And the ALSD came through, with much more college-specific content.  We still haven't blown up the college division as much as we would like, but we're getting bigger. And continuing to grow.

Who is Amanda?  Well, Amanda is a rock star.  She is the Executive Director of the ALSD. She runs the conference.  I know she has a lot of help from the other staff members and her interns, but the conference wouldn't be what it was without her.  I honestly don't know how she does it. And then she can't partake in the evening funtivities until the last night, and even then just a little bit.

I have to say, the thing I love most about ALSD is the friends that I've made.  The first year I knew absolutely no one other than Allison, who had my job before me. She had moved to the San Diego Chargers.  So I was a little 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.  And every year I've made more friends.  The really awesome thing is that some 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.  Professional is about business opportunities.  The staff at the college level are helping to make memories.  The staff at the pro level are doing that too, but they're doing it for a purpose; to help sell that next suite.  Every time there's an event, they are prospecting guests in the suites to make the next sale. But even though the markets are so different, I always learn a lot from the pro market. We don't have the budgets to do what they do, but we can take parts of what works for them and make it our own.  

I always learn so much at ALSD. It's an expensive conference, and so we really have to justify the expense.  But that's easy for me because I always come back with at least one idea that I can--and do--make happen.  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.

Two 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. 

As I'm typing this, I've decided that for this trip I'm going to do an official recap of the whole trip.  I sort of did that with Minneapolis in 2012, the first year of my blog.  However, I need to take more pictures, do a more thorough recap of the venues, showcase the food and beverages more, and give all sorts of props to my ALSD family. Sort of become the unofficial ALSD reporter!

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!  

And he lives in Dallas, so I see him occasionally.  Not often enough, because most of the time I forget to text him until a day or so before I get there.  Yes, major fail on my part. Jared is the Editorial Director for ALSD, and produces the SEAT magazine.  I'd be lying if I said I read it all the time.  And he knows that.  But I do read the stories when he features my friends.  And I 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.