Industry Research

Connecting Operators— Game Show Style

Jim Luff
Posted on July 7, 2012
The Pitch-fest sessions AT 2012 ILCT proved an innovative approach to enlivening the art of networking for affiliate connections, as operators lined up to score new business.

The Pitch-fest sessions AT 2012 ILCT proved an innovative approach to enlivening the art of networking for affiliate connections, as operators lined up to score new business.

The Pitch-fest sessions AT 2012 ILCT proved an innovative approach to enlivening the art of networking for affiliate connections, as operators lined up to score new business.
The Pitch-fest sessions AT 2012 ILCT proved an innovative approach to enlivening the art of networking for affiliate connections, as operators lined up to score new business.

Speed-Meet, as it was formerly called, emerged in recent years as a highly sought after networking venue among operators attending LCT trade show events. As an original concept first introduced to the industry at the LCT Eastern Conference in Uncasville, Conn., in October 2009, the event quickly became popular as it expanded at the 2010 and 2011 ILCT Shows in Las Vegas.

The concept resembles “speed dating” events in which potential dates move from one table to another attempting to convince those sitting at the table that they are the best candidates for dates. In the industry’s version, affiliate managers from large, worldwide networks seek to find new affiliates in an effort to have providers in every city in the world. Smaller companies attempt to convince the networks that they are the best company in their region to provide that affiliate service. This is an opportunity to be in front of companies such as Music Express, EmpireCLS, and Commonwealth Worldwide in a single day without the expense of having to fly to the affiliate headquarters at your own expense to pitch yourself.

Enter Pitch-Fest
Now LCT has taken its networking concept and refined it into a networking game show of sorts. At the 2012 ILCT Show, the Pitch-Fest room was set up with a stage and large projection screen. The emcee, Christian Kolberg, delivered a high-energy introduction of 100 participating operators, as would a game show host. The network affiliate managers were seated directly in front of the stage.

Further back in the room was an audience attending simply to watch the fun or perhaps do a little recruiting of their own. As each featured operators delivered a 45-second commercial about their company, a graphic display was shown containing various facts about the company such as the year founded, number and types of vehicles in the fleet, number of employees, and insurance limits and carrier. There was also a place where the operator could say anything that he or she felt is unique and sets the company apart from other operators in the same region. The display also includes contact information including email addresses, websites and phone numbers for anyone in the audience to take note of as well. Kolberg read everything on the display as each operator emerged from behind a curtain, freeing “contestants” up to offer more information about their companies beyond the vital statistics. Kolberg kept the pace flowing and playfully cut off anyone who exceed the time limit. The information of all presenting affiliates can be found at http://uploads.bobitexpos.com/Transportation/files/LCTShow/Pitch_Fest_Presentation.pdf

The host
LCT found the perfect man to host this session. Kolbert is one of the most prominent professional auctioneers in the country. He helps charity organizations raise millions for their causes with his bold voice, warmth and ad-lib quips, much as you would expect from a game show host such as Pat Sajak from “Wheel of Fortune.” Kolbert has been in the charity auction business for the past 20 years and has worked with the Grammy’s Foundation and President Bill Clinton at fundraising events. His ability to manage a stage and keep things lively has contributed to raising $10 million in a single night. This two-hour event seemed to pass by in minutes as a result of his vibrant presentation style.
After the pitch
Affiliate managers such as Lisa Ortega from BostonCoach Connection and Brandan Stein from Exclusive Sedan Service in Los Angeles were seen taking notes during the presentations to schedule “call-backs” for the following day. Much like an actor performing an audition and hoping for the big break, operators hope to find their names posted on a call-back bulletin board at 5 p.m. the same day. A call-back appointment time is posted on the bulletin board indicating that the network is interested in either affiliating with a company or perhaps to conduct a more thorough interview. This gives operators a second chance to sell their companies to affiliate managers, and the affiliates can provide additional information or collateral materials such as brochures, operating policies, photos or anything else they believe could close the deal. Successful call-back connections can lead to long-time business relationships and generate new revenue.

From the affiliate manager point of view
Stein said he was searching for specific vendors in specific cities the company had identified as being weak in coverage. “I got to meet with people I wanted to meet with,” Stein says. He also wanted to meet new people in the industry that he had never met. “All in all, as a network looking to expand, it was great! It was phenomenal,” he says. Stein was delighted to have made a connection with Signature Livery in New Orleans to become a second source for farm-out work in the popular convention destination city. He also made a connection with a possible affiliate in another major metro area, although the deal was not sealed at the Show. Stein declined to name the city but credits the Show with allowing the introduction to take place and hopes to develop the connection further. Stein, whose father Ron Stein is an NLA board member, has been diligently working to expand the global services of the company started by his father. He thinks this event has made it easier for Exclusive to grow the network even faster. Stein’s only complaint was that someone he had selected for a call-back also got a call-back from Gateway Limousines of San Francisco at the same time, which had to miss its call-back with Stein. But he will be back again next year.

From the affiliate point of view
Walter Haig, a manager from Avanti International Transportation in Houston, delivered the 45-second commercial on behalf of his company. Avanti  has built a substantial network of affiliates itself and was attending to expand its network and join others.

“To be effective at what you do, you must have multiple network involvement,” Haig says. He pointed out that Houston is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., and Avanti wants to make sure to get the word out that it is the best company in that market. Houston is home to major petroleum-related companies such as Chevron and Schlumberger. Avanti has carved a substantial niche of farm-out work of its giant companies to other companies worldwide visited by high-level executives and potential employees being flown in for interviews. To develop ongoing new business takes “repeated recognition,” Haig says, so Avanti plans to participate again next year to keep its name visible and connect with new operators.

Related Topics: affiliate networks, ILCT 2012, networking

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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