This year, fitness professionals from around the world will gather in sunny San Diego, California, from March 21-24 for the IHRSA Trade Show & Convention.
This year’s trade show floor will feature more than 350 vendors spanning equipment, education CMS and more. Because there’s so much to see, it’s important for club operators to create a strategy for maximizing their time while at the show.
For Robbie Sprechman, the chief financial officer at Retro Fitness, the real opportunity in attending IHRSA lies in being introduced to new vendors or products he’s not already aware of.
“You’ll find me mainly in the back aisles of the trade show floor,” explained Sprechman. “That’s where I spend the majority of my time. I can call up [well-known vendors] and meet with them any time — so when I’m at IHRSA, my goal is to find the companies who aren’t well-known. Maybe this is their first year at the show. If I can come away from the show with one new partnership or idea that’s going to have a huge impact, then I consider that a success.”
In addition, Sprechman said his strategy typically emphasizes looking for new technology partners and solutions, versus equipment. “For me it’s all about technology, looking for partners that can help us with artificial intelligence, virtual reality,” he said. “I’m not really looking for new equipment — no one is reinventing the elliptical or treadmill. Instead I’m looking for technology partners who can really take us to the next level with attracting and retaining members.”
However, that doesn’t mean Sprechman abstains from equipment products altogether. When a piece does catch his eye, he puts himself in his members’ shoes — is it intuitive and easy to use? “If you have to explain how to use the piece of equipment then I’m not interested,” he said. “Put yourself in your members’ shoes — if it’s easy for them to understand and use, then it’s worth considering.”
At the end of the day, Sprechman said the main value of IHRSA lies in the relationships built between not just vendors, but other industry professionals as well.
“It’s also about the relationships — on the vendor side and on the club side,” continued Sprechman. “One of the great things about IHRSA is getting to meet with colleagues in similar roles and being able to pick their brains. What’s great about our industry is how open everyone is, and that’s something I think everyone should experience at IHRSA.”
His final tip? Wear sneakers. “These are long days,” he said.