by Mickey Charles, President & CEO of The Sports Network

The views expressed in this article represent those of the author and not necessarily those of GBGC.
Conferences are everywhere; their marketing material contending that your attendance will be a monumental learning experience, or words close to that effect. But, in truth, for the most part they are mere words.
Each sojourn is simply an opportunity, well disguised, to network and meet with old acquaintances and possibly seek out a new lead for business.
If you are really lucky, and the speakers do more than take their over-used ego trips and displays of worn-out PowerPoint presentations (that are as easily handed out or mailed than read by the purveyors of same) and you do seize upon a point, however small, that you were not aware of before your arrival at the designated city, then you have benefited.
Are all those open laptops really taking voracious, in-depth, incisive, and n’er to be forgotten notes? Or are they playing poker, solitaire, checking e-mails or watching a movie that was interrupted when the pilot on the flight in announced that they were in their final descent?
How much money can the average affiliate earn to warrant attendance? How many of them are brought in by those for whom they are affiliates? Do the others, the ones that are sent huge, weekly checks by off-shore bookmakers have to attend? Not likely. But, an affiliate conference, so it seems, goes on like the tides… timely and dependable, a literal money machines for their producers. You pay, attend and party at some; you pay, party and perhaps attend at others.
You get to increase your frequent flyer mileage and see some new venues while revisiting old ones with which you are now quite familiar.
The point being made – there are too many conferences and, when done, do those books containing copies of speeches, statistics and research that are founded on presumptions and speaking to a sparse few whose numbers are then multiplied exponentially to develop percentages without substance, go on your shelf never to be read or utilized? I am wagering on that as the result.
Men earning anywhere from outrageous fortunes down to good livings are stopping at exhibitor stands to see if there are any t-shirts, umbrellas, chocolates, luggage tags, paper weights or small replicas of footballs, soccer balls, baseballs, basketballs left to take home. Make it free drinks or food and the line forms. To do business? Not really. To take these items home? Yes. To what end? I do not have a clue.
Many conferences have taken a hiatus for now, others are still surviving and profiting and there is proliferation in certain areas with selection carefully crafted.
Mobile technology is a draw and, as I have said myself for at least five years, is the weapon of the future. Also, affiliates as a way to make some money by doing nothing. Technology always attracts. Fantasy is the new star on the stage, in the States and internationally. But, how many “secrets” are shared? How much information is really offered by speakers or is it the exhibitors with whom you wish to engage? Soccer will always draw, even if it means travelling to South Africa … although not inexpensive.
Is there, for example, room for, and interest in, a new approach to a gaming conference – not one for the casinos of the world and their suppliers, but one for bookmakers and those involved with them world-wide? Probably so, but the approach has to be skilled and focused on a candid interchange and divulging current successes and failures to benefit from the former and avoid the latter. Presentations by speakers that share and actually educate, enlighten, illustrate and clarify not pompously promote.
If that can be accomplished then the partying can begin and all can toast the conference just attended, not just themselves.