If you’re an academic or practitioner working in sport management, 2012 promises some great destinations for conferences and trips . However, if you cant attend, the social media world is increasingly making them more accessible. With the first of these opportunities not far away, here we profile the concept of virtual conferencing and introduce some of the leading sport management conferences for 2012.
‘Virtual conferencing’  is something I saw increasingly take shape in 2011. Primarily through the use of microblogging, tweets and hashtags, it both enhances the experience of being at a conference, as well as provides the ability to be involved in a virtual sense if you can’t be at the real thing.
The annual Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand (SMAANZ) conference held in Melbourne in November 2011 presented the best example yet of the potential impact and future opportunities. The volume of Twitter activity was strong and worthwhile, helping to generate debate, encourage networking and allow the sharing opinions and insight as part of the feed. SMAANZ saw hundreds of tweets over the opening days, the #SMAANZ hashtag trended in Melbourne on day 1, and overall it engaged a core community at the conference, and shared information to a much wider audience that those in attendance at the MCG.
There are some limitations to the practice. For example, attention committed to screens, smartphones or tablets can be conveyed as rude or inattentive and off-topic virtual discussion is probably more distracting overall than actual discussion in sessions. However, the practice overall delivers clear and immense benefits in sharing beyond the conference centre that warrants encouragement.
So with the benchmark established – I didn’t see anything in the Sport Management/Marketing field globally nor in other business conferences in Australia or NZ that matched this – we look forward to a]] 2012 where virtual conferencing plays a greater role in the overall conference experience.
See below for a list of the leading sport management, marketing and media conferences for 2012, along with contacts and Twitter handles where possible for each.
 Not to say they last few years haven’t been good to us (Amsterdam (2009), Prague (2010), Madrid (2010) in the case of EASM).
 Virtual Conferencing in this piece refers to the interaction (e.g. sharing of material, interests and opinions) between attending delegates and online followers of a conference through for example, social media channels.