I wasn’t going to make this Industry Report all about me. I was going to make it all about our conference, Raving NEXT: Analytics and Marketing Conference that starts today virtually – it’s not too late to join us! But the two stories go hand in hand.
This year is the 20th year that the Raving NEXT conference is being held. (To be exact, it’s our 24th conference – for a few years we held it twice a year). It used to be called Raving’s Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference until we re-branded it three years ago.
Tap dancing into a new start
So, as of January of 2001, I had to find a job. I had been recruited the previous year for my dream job in publishing up at Lake Tahoe, California. Well, I ended up being the highest paid newspaper slinger in the history of the world, really. I never had a paper route as a kid and certainly didn’t want one at age 34. Although I developed a great toss over the top of my Jeep and even saw a mountain lion one morning as I was shucking papers into driveways.
I answered a goofy but intriguing ad, by a funny company, called Raving, located in a “quaint area of downtown Reno, surrounded by cool eateries” and I’d be working with fun people. I answered in kind and told this Dennis Conrad guy that I would tap dance during my interview. I landed the job (I was actually the second choice, the first gal didn’t show up).
A signature conference was born
A couple months into my career, Dennis tells me we’re going to have Raving’s first Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference at this Tribal casino in California, a three hour drive away from Reno, called Jackson Rancheria. “Chris,” he told me, “Handle the operations and I’ll do the rest.”
Meanwhile, before this April event, Dennis had hired this marketing whiz from Bronco Billy’s in Colorado, named Toby O’Brien. We were to meet for the first time at the conference.
Hand-written name badges, a few invited vendors to sit in the back of the room, course books that we copied and hole-punched on the floor of our office … we had 75 folks attend. A signature conference was born. On the way home, through the winding roads of the Sierra’s and Dennis’ driving, new team member Toby got to experience me getting sick. The night before, we drank lots of red wine out on the patio with attendees and presenters, Steve Browne was on a roll telling jokes, our first after-conference party.
Tradition meets virtual
This conference is where a lot of traditions were born that we still do or have expanded today:
- Education always comes first
- We don’t hire a registration company to greet attendees – it’s all Raving folks ready with hugs and “so glad to meet ya’s”
- There’s always an off the hook networking party (live music, furry party hats, scavenger hunts, karaoke, bonfires on the beach …)
- We never skimp on course materials and always provide no-strings-attached support
- Our host properties are invested and go OTT with their food and services for our attendees
- We make learning fun with hands-on workshops and several ways to engage
So this year, we’re all virtual and have we checked off most of the boxes above? Yeah, I really think so, we’ve certainly tried hard. We truly care about the experience of our attendees, heck you are our friends or will be soon … and I believe our personal investment shows.
In 2017 Deana Scott and her husband Brady Scott, a Coquille Tribal member, purchased Raving from Dennis. Deana was a long-time client of Raving’s and then a consultant for us. She had come to the conference several times and never wanted to lose the Raving spirit or heart that we had established. She has opened new doors with her vision and has expanded Raving in ways never imagined. The conference AND the company we have today is a reflection of over twenty years of trust, hard-work and deep relationships, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it.
Folks, thanks to all of you who have reached out on LinkedIn and have helped me celebrate 20 years as a Raver. I tip my hat off to YOU, for educating me and always being there to laugh with. I look forward to seeing you when we can be together in person again.
With warmest regards,
VP Marketing, Raving
Executive Editor, Tribal Gaming & Hospitality Magazine
PS – And I must say, Raving NEXT virtual is pretty dang cool (although we really had to rebuild everything from scratch!). We have gaming folks from across the world that have been on the conference platform, interacting, watching on-demand bonus sessions. Check it out!