Forecast 2022: My Return To An In-Person Conference


(By Justin Sasso) The last time I attended an in-person broadcast conference was February of 2020. I had a late afternoon flight out of Reagan Washington National and was cajoled by a gate agent to give up my seat on an overbooked flight to Denver. Instead, I would take a connecting flight through Houston. There would be a short layover and I would be home an hour later than my original flight. The incentive was an $800 flight voucher to anywhere my heart desired.

Fifteen minutes later, I was paged back up to the gate agent’s desk to learn that my connecting flight from Houston to Denver was cancelled. My original flight home was long gone from the jet wing. However, the agent, wrapping up what seemed to be an intense call of airline agent jargon, slammed down his phone and informed me that one final option existed. It was a direct flight to Denver, leaving in 45 minutes. All I had to do was get from Reagan to Dulles International at 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon. With the speed of an auctioneer, I negotiated an additional $300 flight voucher, cab fees and meal tickets, snapped them from the gate agent’s hand and bolted for the taxi stand.

Did I make it? That comes later, but first I want to tell you about my first broadcast conference since that hectic day in February of 2020: Radio Ink’s Forecast 2022, a lengthy twenty-one months later. Instead of slowly putting my big toe back into the pool of conferences, I went to the one nestled in mid-Manhattan, “The Big Apple,” “The City That Never Sleeps,” but does require proof of vaccination. Five weeks earlier, when Frank Montero called me and asked me to participate in his panel, I had come to two conclusions. One, I was never going to fit in any of my suits again, as I had “gained the COVID-19,” and two, conferences were a thing of the past. The weight I could lose, but having witnessed the postponement of two NAB Shows made it seem that broadcasters might never gather in-person again.

This was my first invite to Forecast and I was excitedly anxious to attend. After all, this is the legendary gathering of industry giants, envisioning the future of our industry. In reality, it’s a manageable gathering of people who love our industry and want to keep it healthy and strong.

There were great takeaways during the back-to-back panels, featuring many of our industry’s best and brightest. Several panels made it clear that broadcasters need to continue embracing digital and use it for growth and outreach. Broadcasting and digital both provide platforms for unlimited creativity and when combined, the outcome can be advantageous for both the audience and the broadcaster.

First and foremost, as an advocate for broadcasters, I was delighted to hear the detailed blueprint laid out by FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington. The Commissioner cherishes the service broadcasters provide to their communities. It was clear that broadcasters have a friend at the Commission and an ally for any battles ahead. During the panel I participated on, I was given the opportunity to share my experiences with the soon-to-be-confirmed Chair of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel. In short, I think she will be fair to broadcasters, providing us with the opportunity to make our case on almost every broadcast decision that comes before the commission.

Aside from the abundance of data points, developing technologies, and thoughtful panel discussion, Senator Smith’s Lifetime Leadership Award acceptance speech was a significant highlight for me. The Senator never misses an opportunity to share a timely story that gently blends into a meaningful lesson. Using an account of a trip he took to Sao Paulo, Smith expressed the joy he received from supporting an industry that always places its community before itself. His speech concluded with a heartfelt standing ovation.

Thank you Frank Montero and Deborah Parenti for the opportunity to attend Forecast 2022 and jump back into the conference waters with both feet. I can declare that this is a conference not to be missed and I sincerely hope to participate next year.

By the way, I made that flight out of Dulles, panting slightly as I took my seat, but with $1,100 tucked in my wallet and relieved that I was heading home. I felt a similar relief as the wheels of the airplane left LaGuardia’s runway. I was leaving with a head full of knowledge, a swarm of new ideas and the feeling that everything is going to be okay.

Justin Sasso is President & CEO, Colorado Broadcasters Association



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here