Other than some nice, warm weather in comparison to back home in January, one of the major reasons I enjoy going to the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando each year is the gathering of the industry and the chance to catch up with acquaintances and meet new people.
These days, they call it networking, when a decade or two ago, it was called shooting the, um, breeze. I hesitated before using the word “breeze” because this is a family website, but it was also known as a gabfest, yak session or any other uncomplimentary name that comes to mind.
Usually, it’s the yakkers themselves that use the unflattering names for their impromptu sessions. Impromptu is a key word because it all comes so naturally when you stop to chat with somebody, or even pop a cold one together.
These days, it still goes on, but it happens less frequently and a big reason for that is the growing effect of e-mail and texting on business.
Don’t get me wrong. Instant communication plays an important role in our business lives and has made life so much easier when you need to get a quick answer on something, but it’s also reduced the one-on-one aspect that made this industry so much fun to work in.
In my little media corner of the business, so much information is passed along via press releases that arrive through e-mail. There are also teleconferences that put people in front of the media, but generally, the same quotes are used by several outlets, taking any uniqueness out of it.
Occasionally, you get an exception. On Tuesday morning, I’ll be at Hamilton Golf and Country Club for a media breakfast, where the Canadians who will play in this year’s RBC Canadian Open will be announced.
That should offer some opportunities to speak one on one with Adam Hadwin, the low Canuck at the Open the past couple of years, and 2011 Canadian Amateur champ Mackenzie Hughes. You can still get one on ones, but you need to work for them more than in the past.
In the cases of press releases, it’s easy to understand why people count on them so much. They want you to drink their flavour of Kool-Aid and with time such an issue nowadays with media cutbacks, it increases the chances that a release might actually get used.
Yet, there’s nothing like a one on one. A statement made by somebody can spin off into a whole new line of questioning that can enhance the story, so it’s worthwhile to make that extra effort to get one, wherever possible.
The same holds true in casual conversation on the show floor or any other golf venue. Granted, shooting the, um, breeze may touch on your latest round of golf, but it can also lead to industry issues and common challenges in which one person can help the other.
Just like in the interview, a statement made by somebody can lead to a discussion on a specific topic common to everybody involved in the conversation. Some may view such sessions as a colossal waste of time, but they should just look at it as informal networking.
It’s okay if you have a buzz word to describe it.
There are always things you can pick up in casual conversation with colleagues. If there’s one thing you learn in this business, it’s that its denizens usually don’t hold back in such casual circumstances. Gabfests can be both enjoyable and informative and there’s no reason the two can’t mix.
The frequency of those sessions seems to be dwindling, specifically with the number of Canadian shows dropping in recent years and time in peak season devoted strictly to one’s place of employment.
As a result, people aren’t answering phone messages the way they used to and while a quick e-mail might help resolve an immediate situation, communication within the industry is missing the personal touch that used to be so prevalent in the golf business.