By: Adam White, @FOSAdam
Being someone who was born in Arizona and who goes to school in Miami, a trip to Toronto during my spring break may seem abnormal to someone from the outside looking in. This trip wasn’t just to find out what it is like to live in the cold for a few days, it was to find out about one of Canada’s hidden gems. This hidden gem is the University of Toronto Sports Business Club’s Sports Industry Conference.
What began as a conference in a basement five years ago, U of T SIC has blossomed into the premier sports business conference in Canada and one that everyone should include on their list of must-attends during the conference cycle.
Now you may ask yourself, why go here when the United States has so many conferences, or is it even worth it to spend the money to go outside the US?
I'll answer those questions for you. Yes and yes.
Still not convinced? Below are five reasons why U of T SIC 2016 should be one #sportsbiz conference you have to attend.
1. It is International
Have you ever heard someone say it is all about who you know? If you work in sports or have any interest in this industry and haven’t heard that saying by now, you need to start putting in work. Regardless of whether or not you have heard it, relationships in sports are crucial and while all your peers are feverishly trying to attempt to make relationships in the US, why not take the time to make some outside of the US. With an attendance of over 300 students and professionals most of which are based in Canada, you are able to open yourself up to new experiences, people and even industries that the US might not have to offer or might not be as strong in as the US.
2. The Size
Unlike many other conferences, U of T’s conference is small but mighty. Packing a punch of great panelists and a keynote address from Bill Daly, the more intimate nature of the conference allowed for more personal connections, the ability to speak one on one with the panelists and professionals and the ability to be more than just a business card to those who you had encountered.
3. It Pushes You Outside Your Comfort Zone
Traveling internationally is always an interesting experience, but for someone like me who was doing it for the first time, it was even that much more stressful, but as RGIII says, “No Pressure, No Diamonds.” By leaving the US, paying for your own travel and having the gumption to stay in a city for an extended period of time without knowing anyone or anything you are forced to lean on yourself as a person and go out of your way to meet people at the conference. By doing this, you are able to meet some amazingly talented individuals as well as connect with people whom share many of the same interests, passions and drive as yourself while developing an international network that will pay off in large dividends in the future.
4. Canadian Hospitality is No Joke
To say you won’t be treated like family, is an understatement. From a warm welcome at the conference, to touring the city the next day to sharing lunch with the people I had met there I was able to feel at home and comfortable even in a place over 1,000 miles from home.
Everyone’s kind nature, willingness to meet with me and desire to get to know more about me while going out of their way to make sure I had a good time made a lasting impression on me that I will never forget. It is something that everyone should experience.
Plus, their maple syrup is all that it is cracked up to be!
5. You Will Stand Out
Being a “foreigner” at a conference has multiple benefits. You will stand out among your peers to those who may be looking to hire or connect while you are there. There isn’t much better of a conversation starter than saying you decided to spend your spring break in a place that was cold and snowy while going out of your way to get there. There are only so many skills that you can sell people on, but for those people to see the drive and determination behind someone trying to further their career instead of binge drinking on a beach will make an impression. It is just something you can’t fake.
Although many US conferences allow you to do similar things, taking your talents internationally makes you the outsider and, for some reason, people always want to talk to the outsider.
Over the course of my four days in Toronto, I not only found myself at a conference, I was able to tour the Hockey Hall of Fame, the CN Tower, Niagara Falls, attend a Raptors game and pitch FOS in front of an executive board. Coming from the states, I was welcomed with open arms by the conference committee who not only made the conference such an exciting experience, but also took me to all the local must-see spots while making me feel like a member of the family. By the time I was done, I realized that the trip taught me more about myself than anything else and, in the end, that was worth more than any amount I could have spent.
If you ever have the chance to experience the views from the six, take it, because even if you don’t see Drake, you will have the time of your life.