An off-the-chain networking opportunity

From politics to fashion, from health to entertainment — business owners, entertainers and professionals from all areas are looking to connect with the LGBTQ community. And Wesley Smoot is here to help them make that connection through LGBTQ Unleashed, a virtual event beginning Thursday, March 25 and running through Saturday, March 27.

“We want to create a space where brands, entertainers and LGBTQ professionals can connect with LGBTQ consumers and the LGBTQ community,” said Smoot. The event, he continued, will allow them to showcase their latest products and services and projects that are “culturally and commercially relative” to the community.

For consumers, he continued, it gives them the opportunity to check out “what’s new from their favorite LGBTQ artists and to see what’s new and to learn from industry professionals.”

Unleashed LGBTQ will offer three days of keynote speakers, discussion panels, performances from headliners and more.”

Smoot said that the virtual conference will be structured very much like a traditional, in-person conference: “The beginning of each day will be geared more toward the business side of things, then we will have the Unleashed Happy Hour and from there we move toward the entertainment side.

“Just like at any conference, you get the work done first and then it’s time for some cocktails and time to have some fun,” he said.

Smoot had originally scheduled Unleashed LGBTQ as an in-person event last year. But like most other such events, it had to be delayed and then reworked into a virtual gathering.

“We had to look at what we were trying to accomplish, and we could do that with a virtual transition,” Smoot said. “We wanted our presenters to be able to engage with the attendees; we wanted those attending to be able to ask questions and have those questions answered. All of that can be done with our virtual format.”

He said that Unleashed LGBTQ has partnered with Webinarjam to create a website where people can “attend” the event without having to download any specialized apps. “You just go to our website, find the link for the event you want to see and click that link,” he said.

Some of the keynote addresses, panel discussions and entertainment events will be streaming live. Others will be pre-recorded to accommodate scheduling conflicts and avoid problems with servers failing.

Main sponsors of the event are Gilead and Pride Radio. Other partners include Addicted (ES), AT&T, Commando, Dallas Voice, Grindr, He Said Magazine, iHeart Media, Legacy Counseling Center, Pink Media, Pride Radio, Ride Bodyworx, Romperjack, The Trevor Project and World Gay Boxing Championships.

A complete line up and schedule are available online at

“I had people, especially here in Dallas, saying I was being too ambitious, that this couldn’t be done,” Smoot said. “They were quick to shut me down. But I found friends to partner with, and we worked our tails off to do this, and the networking opportunities are going to be just unreal.

“So many of us are trying to do our best to revitalize the economy, while being as responsible and as safe as possible,” Smoot said.

— Tammye Nash