Tag Archives: golf

What I’ve Learned Planning Events, Taken From the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational

This past Monday was the 2012 Silicon Alley Golf Invitational, which has been abbreviated over the years to SAGI.  The day was fantastic (here is a review) but getting to the day, especially in the last 48 hours before was one of unbelievable logistical nightmares.  I thought I’d write a post of what I’ve learned over the years of hosting hundreds of executives at a golf event.  Hopefully some of this can be used for your startups or companies for the events that you host, regardless of golf or not.

I am not a professional event planner, but having hosted 8 golf events for the past 8 years helps justify why I’m writing this.

Invites Early On, Reminders Consistently
Give people time to reserve the event date in their calendar.  The more senior the person, generally, the more lead time they need.  Since the invitation probably went out months before the event date, keep them reminded with a quick note each month so that the date does not fall off people’s calendar.

You Can Get Event Schwag Cheap, But Service & Quality Is More Important
I spend a fair amount of money on event schwag.  I remember walking around the early days of Ad Tech, MacWorld, and other conferences and coming home with some really cool tchotzkes.  While you can find dozens and dozens of vendors who can deliver you a personalized product (such as a golf shirt), and all might be Nike Dri-Fit, the difference is in the service and quality.  You cannot afford both in money and time to get your schwag wrong while planning an event.  You need to find a trusted partner who can service your schwag needs and get them right the first time and have only the highest quality schwag.  I’ve made it a rule of thumb to only give away a few things, but make them really useful and interesting in that they are used beyond the end of the event (I see people wearing our SAGI shirts on the streets sometimes).  I’ve also learned that people enjoy brand names – so having Nike or Footjoy golf shirts make a real difference.

Ask The Venue, They Are Full of Wisdom
I’ve hosted the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational at a different golf club each year.  This means that I’ve worked with different event planning teams from each club and all were full of wisdom.  Sometimes I ignored it and I paid for it in the end, and always thought, “man, I wish I had listened to them.”  What I sometimes forget, or any event planner for that matter, is that these event spaces such as the golf clubs are always hosting events.  They know best what works and does not work for their space.  I do not use an independent event planner, I do everything myself, and the event space almost acts as an event planner for me around very specific items.  Use the team as much as you can at the event space to make recommendations to service providers, tell you how other events have laid out the space, and other ins/outs of what went well and what failed miserably at their event spaces.  They will tell you, all you have to do is ask.

Hands-On Planning
The Silicon Alley Golf Invitational is my event.  I curate the guest list, I hand pick the quality of shirts, I pick the foursomes, and I taste test the food.  Everything.  I call this hands-on planning.  If you are going to throw and event, I believe this is the only way to do it.  Many people have asked whether I outsource this to an event planner and I’ve never done so.  I want to make sure that I have control over every aspect of the event but use help around logistics.  Over the years, I’ve had fantastic assistants who have helped but I was involved with every aspect behind the scenes.

Get Feedback Fast
At the end of each event, I let the crowd know that they should expect to receive a form asking how the event was.  I use Google Form (docs) to receive the responses.  I ask anywhere between 5-10 questions about all the details about the event (food, golf, overall, networking, etc) and I use this feedback to help make the next event better.  I send this request out no more than 48 hours after the event has ended so that the event is still fresh in people’s mind.  I cannot stress how important this feedback is.  It’s genuine.  It’s not all positive.  It’s real.  It will make you better.

My two biggest mistakes this year:

I was not ready with a Plan B in case of rain.  Sounds somewhat obvious but we’ve never had a rain issue in 8 years.  This year, we did.  What I specifically did not have was the cellphone or mobile device number of each attendee, so it made getting in touch with everyone hard at the last minute with an agenda change.  I learned for next year.

I used an event management software solution from Eventbrite on the front end.  I overpaid for it.  I think I spent close to $700 on this software and it was not worth it, IMHO.  I found that managing thru Google Docs as I have done in the past better to manage the final attendees.  I do give it credit for being able to “sell” three different types of tickets and that was all nice and such, but on the backend, it was difficult to manage the final event.   This is probably a contrary thought to manage who hold events, but just something I’ve found.

Hope this helps.  Anything that you’d add to this list?


2012 Silicon Alley Golf Invitational Right Around the Corner

It’s that time of year again when we’re just weeks away from the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational.  Or SAGI as I commonly refer to it as.  This event started ~7 or so years ago but only in the past 3 years have I used the fancy name.  It all started with myself and 3 founders of tech companies in 2004.  We played golf and chatted.  It was that simple.  The next year, each of us brought an additional founder.  And each year after, it grew.  The common theme each year was to keep it to either founders of Silicon Alley based startups or venture capitalists funding the innovation.

Fast forward to 2012, we’ve got an absolutely full event of 72+ golfers (can only fit 72 on the course at any given time) and about 30 non-golfers coming for the luncheon and awards ceremony.  We have amazing sponsors who enable the day to happen.  We even have a guest keynote speaker who will be announced much closer to the date…

A lot of planning goes into this event, especially because it’s a labor of love and not a business and I have very limited staff to pull this off.  I personally handpick everything for the event – the invitational list, the swag, the event location, the foursomes, etc.  It’s a lot of work but in the end, it pays off because of all the great conversations and camaraderie that’s had at the event.

Unfortunately, the event does not scale well.  It cannot accompany 1,000 people.  Or even 250 people.  With just one day and 18 holes, you can only accompany so many people on the course.  It’s a fact of life for the event but a good one at the same time – we do not always need to be able to scale in order to have a great event.  In this case, it’s quality over quantity.  This year in aggregate, we have founders representing over $1.2BLN in exits in the past 1,000 days.  Quality is important.  We’ll leave “scale” for the companies we’re building.

I’m super excited for August 6 and look forward to participating with everyone.  Here’s a link to the official video from last year’s event.

If you have any questions about the event, feel free to reach out through my contact form.

2011 Silicon Alley Golf Invitational

It’s that time of year again… an excuse to leave the office for a day and play a round of 18 holes with some of the top founders, investors, and supporting cast of the digital media ecosystem.  It’s time for the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational.  While I’ve personally held this event for a bunch of years now for a smaller group, last year is the first year where I opened it up a bit and went from 12 to 40 players.  This year, I’m expecting about 60-70 players based on the amount of positive response so far.  We even had some coverage in the Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, and NY Convergence, last year.

This year, we’re doing much of the same though switching the course, adding additional players, and maybe a few new prizes.

If you would like to play and can hold your own on the golf course, or would like to come up for the outside BBQ luncheon & awards ceremony, and you are a solid member of the Silicon Alley ecosystem, please fill out this form.  Due to space restrictions, we cannot accomodate everyone but will add an additional 5-15 people over the next month or so once I get a better grasp on RSVPs.

The date is July 18 and location is a country club in Westchester County.

The hashtag for the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational is #SAGI11

Silicon Alley Tees Off

I’m all about getting really smart people together and talking about the goings-on in the industry (digital media).  I’ve been hosting a private golf outing for the past 3 years and changing things up a bit… read below:

Silicon Alley Tees Off
Premier Networking & Golf Invitational Tees Off on August 4

Contact:  Darren Herman
Email:  dherman at media kitchen dot tv
Twitter:  @dherman76

July 20, 2010 – (New York, NY) – The Silicon Alley Golf Invitational is set to tee off on August 4th, 2010 at Centennial Golf Club in Carmel, NY with over 30 NY based senior executives registered to play from leading venture capital, private equity, startups, digital media, and advertising & marketing services organizations.  Participants of the tournament will be playing for prizes for “Best Score,” “Worst Score,” “Closest to the Pin,” and “Longest Drive.”

“This event is a culmination of 3 years of holding private golf events for my tech/finance friends in the New York scene,” says organizer and The Media Kitchen’s (& kbs+p) Chief Digital Media Officer, Darren Herman.  “We are hoping to turn Carmel, NY into a miniature Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference for the day; as with years past, I expect lots of [business] conversation on the course and during the luncheon following the 18 holes.”

The Silicon Alley Golf Invitational is being supported by Silicon Alley companies’ AdCopy, TraffIQ, The Media Kitchen (a kbs+p company), and Varick Media Management.

The Silicon Alley Golf Invitational is not being run as a for-profit entity and all monies from sponsors and players are going into the actual execution of the event.  Any money over and above the cost of the event will be donated to charity, which is selected by the players at the event.

For additional information, please head to the official website: http://www.siliconalleygolfinvitational.com


Masterful Takeaways

ImmelmanI spent the last 3 days down in Augusta, Georgia @ the Masters with some friends and colleagues.  I had absolutely no idea what I was in for as I had not been to a golf event of that magnitude.  Here are a few things I had observed and learned this weekend:

  •  The Masters is offline:  Do you think the airport has tight electronics security?  Head over to the Masters… they do not allow any electrical device including ANY cellphone, Blackberry, camera, etc. The only people with cameras are the press photographers and even most of them do not have cellphones.  It’s extremely nice to shut-off for 6+ hours per day.
  • Respect:  Sometimes we forget this living in Manhattan.  At the Masters, you can put a chair down by the fairway and return to it 4 hours later… and still use your seat and not worry that someone else has moved it.  If you aren’t in your seat within the first inning of a Yankee game, chances are, someone will move down to it and remain there until you kick them out.
  • Tiger Woods is the PGA Tour:  Unless you see him in person at a golf event (that he’s playing), you cannot understand the magnitude of his fanbase.  Even if you aren’t following him around the course, you always know where he is by the cheers and screams of his thousands of fans across the fairways.  When Tiger moves onto the hole you’re standing on, his thousands of fans follow and you’re instantly surrounded on all sides and generally, it’s 5-10 people deep.  No other player had his following but the closest was Phil Mickelson.
  • Food is cheap; merchandise is not:  The Masters is old school and the prices have stayed the same since the late 50s (I believe). Sandwiches are $1.00-2.50 and beers are $2.  You can have an entire meal for under $4.  Where else can you do that?  The famous sandwich is a cheese and pimento sandwich on white bread… and it’s pretty good!  The merchandise is not cheap but I didn’t see anyone NOT buy something.  The lines into the merchandise store were incredible and the amount of inventory moving off the shelves was more than Walmart on Black Friday.
  • People Love to be Social and Share:  As we walked the course and ate on picnic benches, we met people from all walks of life and the one thing we all had in common were stories of golf.  We heard from people who had been coming to the Masters for 30+ years and others who were here for their first time.  People love to share their stories and if given the chance, more often than not, will do so.  This makes me think harder about all of the startups in the digital media world who help people communicate.
  • The Best/Most Popular Doesn’t Always Win:  This tournament wasn’t Tiger’s best, but congratulations to Trevor Immelman.  Show’s that ANYONE can win at anytime – Google/MSFT/Yahoo doesn’t always dominate and there is room in the market for everyone.
  • Brands Don’t Have to Be Everywhere, Just Strategically Placed:  There are NO brands on the inside of the Augusta National Grounds… the only brands were on the clothing of the players.  Even the food was branded, Masters.  There were hundreds of opportunities to have areas of the course co-branded but they were not…

Lots of observations and looking forward to more golf events this year…

Brand Affinity on the Tee

While living in Manhattan, it was very hard to get to the golf course on a regular basis due to having to travel outside of the city to play. Now that I’m back in suburbia, golf courses are abundant, and there is ample opportunity to play (my grandfather, father-in-law, friends, etc). I had a bit of free time this past Sunday as Sherri was at a bridal shower for my cousin Dean’s fiance so I packed up a few of my golf clubs and went to Fairview Golf Center in Elmsford, NY to hit a few golf balls at the driving range and to test out some new drivers.

Fairview Golf Center Logo I am in the market for a new driver this season so did a little research before I got to the proshop and wanted to sample the Cobra, Callaway, and Nike drivers. I sampled about 7-8 different drivers and ended up really liking the Ping G5, Cleveland Hibore XL, and the Nike SQ Sumo. For the most part, I was hitting 200-275 with those clubs and fairly straight. Not bad!

There was something special about the Nike SQ Sumo club. For whatever reason, when the pro handed it to me, I got excited. I grew up wearing Nike sneakers, watching Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods… and now, Lebron James. While I was playing ice hockey, Nike was just emerging as a leader in hockey equipment and started dominating the market. Basically, wherever I played sport, Nike was there… and they dominated.Nike Tiger Woods Golf

I couldn’t wait to hit the club as I walked up to the practice tee. It held up nicely. Very nicely. I was skeptical at first as to whether or not the club would play well against Ping, Callaway, and Cleveland which are native golf organizations but it really did. The club had a little pizazz to it as well… a bit of yellow on the head and a multicolor face. It stood out nicely.

Nike did very well with me. I showed extreme loyalty to the brand as the club hit just as well [to me] as the Ping and Cleveland. The club felt fantastic and sporting the swoosh put a little hop in my step. I’ll never be Tiger, but I wouldn’t mind having the same tools of the trade as him.

Check out Wikipedia’s definition of the Q Score if you’re interested in learning more about brand affinity and measuring the familiarity with a brand. In this article in Fast Company, Linda Tischler talks about that a brand must not function well, but must also feel good too. Nike struck that chord with me more than any of the other clubs. Maybe we should compare advertising spending between the club brands?