Bekah Interview on Training Conference and Expo 2012

Jeff Cochran


We recently had one of our colleagues, Bekah Martindale, travel down to Atlanta, Georgia for the Training Conference and Expo 2012.  She was nice enough to sit down with us to talk about her experience.

As the newest member of the SNI team, can you talk about what your role is and what your experiences have been like so far?

I started about 9 months ago and have been mostly involved in the logistics for our training programs and supporting the marketing team.  At SNI, it seems everyone tends to wear “multiple hats”, and because of that I’ve been able to get experience in a variety of areas.  Our team works well because everyone respects and encourages each other throughout the day and we’re always able to collaborate on different projects and ideas in order to get the best results.

What exactly is the Training Conference and Expo?

Training Magazine organizes the Training Conference and Expo every year to bring together professionals in training, learning, and performance industries for education and networking purposes.  The expo is a way many different organizations can showcase their company and develop relationships with professionals from organizations in need of the products or services they offer.

What were some of the main topics discussed and presented at the Training Conference and Expo?

SNI’s Mark Jankowski, along with Ann Marie Sidman from Gen Re, spoke on how they have been able to incorporate 3D Virtual Worlds into a corporate training environment.  Another colleague, Jeff Cochran, led a breakout session and did a short 3 hour intro to our core negotiations training program- The Power of Nice.

I heard this was your first trade show.  What was your first impression?

There was a lot going on! Training Magazine did a good job packing the conference full of education and networking events while simultaneously running the expo presentations.

What was your typical day like while you were down there?

Andres and I mostly worked the expo part of the tradeshow so we were at SNI’s booth from around 12 pm to 5 pm on Monday and Tuesday.  We met and engaged people with various interests and backgrounds.

You coordinate a lot of things for our facilitators who were speaking at the conference.  What’s the best and worst part of that job?

Personally, I love to travel so it’s fun for me to help coordinate details for SNI.  Our facilitators are great so that helps make it interesting and enjoyable to be involved planning their trips.  I would say the most challenging part of the job is the stress involved working with the numerous moving parts that come up when planning travel with numerous clients worldwide.  I have to make sure all the pieces are lined up and running without a hitch.

Describe your experience at the Training Expo in 3 words.

Hands-on, Interactive, Engaging.

Besides yourself, who was the most interesting or entertaining person you saw at the Training Expo?

Some of the presenters go to great lengths to get the attention of the attendees passing by, and there were some characters there this year for sure. There was one group near our booth, I believe from the Drum Café, that had their team members playing djembe drums.  Another group, dressed in gym clothes with QR codes on the back of their shirts, ran through the expo hall the entire time.

We heard there was some chatter about your book shelf display.  Can you talk about why it was interesting and what inspired it?

During a brainstorming session before the event, we had the idea to showcase some of our big clients with merchandise that represented their brand, such as a Sherwin Williams paint can or a Baltimore Ravens jersey. The shelf not only helped grab people’s attention, but also showed the versatility of our content; it can apply to many different industries where we’ve gained expertise. We had a number of people ask questions about it, take pictures, and overall I think we had a good response because we tried something different. It intrigued people enough to initiate a conversation with us.

Do you have any tips you can offer to somebody about to go to their first training conference?

I think it’s important to be creative and engaging while you’re there. There is a lot going on and all the attendees are getting a lot of information thrown at them from all directions, so you want to stand out and leave an impression.

The Big L

Jeff Cochran


An article by Cynthia Crossen from The Wall Street Journal a few years back reported that, “Most people speak at a rate of 120 to 150 words a minute, but the human brain can easily process more than 500 words a minute, leaving plenty of time for mental fidgeting.”  Herein lays one of the great obstacles to effective listening.  We have the biological capability to listen to everything, yet we often miss a lot of information because we get bored or disinterested.

In a negotiation, the last thing you want to do is lose out on information.  Everything the other side says is potentially valuable to help you make a deal.  Let the other side talk as much as they want.  Listen between the lines to what is said and what is omitted.  Listen for nuance and emotion.  Listen with your eyes to see their mannerisms and comfort level with each topic.  All the material you need to make the deal is there, it’s just up to you to gather it.

When it is your time to speak, make what you say count.  Don’t feel obligated to match the amount of time they spoke for.  Say what you need to frame the issues and keep moving forward on the key issues of the negotiation.  The less you say, the more others will remember.

Think of it this way: the best negotiators aren’t only smooth talkers, they’re smooth listeners too.

To read the article from the Wall Street Journal by Cynthia Crossen entitled “From Talk Shows to Offices, America Lacks Good Listeners”, click here

Andres Lares and the 2012 MIT Sports Analytics Conference

Jeff Cochran


A few days ago we were lucky enough to sit down with our Market Analyst/Deal Coach, Andres Lares, who attended the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference a couple weeks back.  We asked him a few questions about his time up in the great state of Massachusetts.

Market Analyst/Deal Coach is a pretty broad title.  What kind of work do you do at SNI on a day-to-day basis?

I am split between three major responsibilities.  My job as Deal Coach stems from becoming so ingrained in our clients’ operations that we are often asked to provide consultation for our clients’ real live deals.  It is unbelievable how much of an impact a trusted, objective party can have on the outcomes of these negotiations.

I also work within our Sports Practice, where we train and consult with teams across the four major sports.  We assist business departments with sponsorships, tv/media, suites, and season ticket sales and help front offices negotiate player contracts and trades.  We often also advise on strategic planning and other issues– because we work with teams across the various sports, we’re aware of the best practices across the industry, which is additional value-add for our clients.

Finally, I am responsible for developing SNI’s brand, which is all about highly customized and engaging negotiations, sales, and influence training and consulting that provides organizations with a proven return on investment.  It’s an interesting responsibility because once we get in front of people our service sells itself.  The difficulty is just getting our foot in the door and being found with all the noise in the market place.

Can you tell us a little about SNI’s Sports Practice?

The Sports Practice is all about taking SNI’s systematic approach that has worked so well across industries and implementing it in sports.  Most of our engagements in the sports industry include some training up front and then extensive deal coaching thereafter.  It’s interesting because at first teams are extremely hesitant to work with an outside group because of confidentiality, but it does not take long before we have a visible impact on their operations/bottom line and that rapidly accelerates the relationship and improves the partnership’s effectiveness.

Tell us about the role of analytics when developing negotiation strategies for teams/player representation?

We tend to focus less on the analytics and more so on using a systematic approach to help them throughout the negotiation.  We firmly believe that the same amount of resources should be spent planning, preparing, and scripting as is used in the collection of data and its analysis.

How many MIT Sports Analytics Conferences have you been to? How did this one compare to the others?

I’ve been going since the original conference, which I’m fairly certain means I’ve been to 6.  It’s funny, thinking back how a couple of years ago there were only a few hundred people in a basement.  Now it’s become a huge event that takes up a
significant portion of Boston’s convention center.  Of course there are pros and cons to the change in size.  It has lost some of the intimate feel due to the increase in size, but this has also allowed the scope to grow, which is great.  It’s really become a huge event with great speakers.  The group has done a tremendous job.

Who were some of your favorite speakers at the conference?

One of my favorites was Gary Bettman.  He was part of an impressive panel in the morning.  The Toronto Maple Leaf’s President, Brian Burke, was interesting and, as always, hilarious.  Since he’s no longer tied to a team, Eric Mangini was particularly open and candid, which was great.  Of course, we can’t forget Ron Shapiro.  He was a star.

I heard this conference was full of sports nerds anxiously waiting with their calculators.  How would you describe most of the people there?

Now that it’s so big, it’s actually become pretty diverse.  The conference even has added a commercialized trade show.  It has everyone from the actuary trying to break into the sports industry to team executives trying to get a sense of what’s out there and how to stay on top of new trends.

Can you tell us a little bit about how Ron’s session went?

We were very pleased with the attendance and participation.  It was exciting to receive lots of follow-ups requesting check lists or more information.  I think this was a direct result of Twitter’s high activity during the conference.  Thank you to everyone that attended!

Did you meet anyone interesting at the conference?

The presence of English Premier League soccer teams, such as Manchester City and Fulham, and German Bundesliga team, Hamburg, were exciting.  They are impressive organizations because they always feel like they are behind and trying to catch up to North American sports, but in many ways I think they are more advanced.  They are humble, intelligent guys that are always looking for ways to stay ahead.

A Quick Guide to Links, Connections, and Common Interests

Jeff Cochran


One of the best ways to make a deal—and keep making future deals—is to create a relationship with the other side.  If you can find a connection that goes beyond just business you can make better deals now and in the future.  These connections, however, have to be real.  A fake connection can be seen a mile away and will ultimately get you in trouble.  Take a look at the following list to make real connections that can build relationships.


Environment and Style

Desk—The comfort zone.  Everything there is important.  Souvenirs, kid-stuff, photos, company mottos, mission statements.

Cars—Alter ego. Fast, plush, safe, exotic, functional.

Clothes—The style of the person.  Aggressive, conservative, neat, messy, severe, natural.

Speech—Audio clues.  Sports metaphors.  Literature or movie references. War analogies.  Name-dropping.  Place-dropping.

Recreational Links

Sports (Spectator)—Mementos, souvenirs, autographs.

Sports (Participatory)—Trophies, framed scorecards, golf or running shoes on floor, clubs, racquets, rods in corner, bandages, limps.

Hobbies—Spare time.  Collecting anything.  Stamps, coins, antiques, toys, books.  Hunting, fishing, diving, photography, golf, gardening, reading, movies, travel.

Pets—Dogs, cats, birds, fish, horses.  For fun, for show.

Human Connections

Families—The obvious connection, often the best.

Children—The big connection.  Babies and late night feedings, adolescents and acne, teenagers and driving, college kids and tuitions, married and having babies.

Friends—Who knows who you might have in common.

Heroes—Mentors, influences.

Culture Links

Art, Music, Theater, Dance

Civic Activities

Boards, charities, causes, politics—(be careful).


Ethnic Heritage—Never underestimate the power of a shamrock.  Handle with diplomacy.

Ailments—Bad backs, allergies, pulled muscles.

Jokes—Some people collect them.

Alma Mater—Grade school, prep school, college, grad school, military, fraternity, sorority, Rotary, Kiwanis, Elks, Scouts.