Getting the Most out of Your Trade Show Experience, Part 1

IHRSA trade show

Each year, thousands of industry professionals from a broad cross-section of the industry gather in March for the annual IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show.

If you are one of those fitness professionals, you might be asking, “How can I get the most out of my convention and trade show experience?”

With this in mind, we spoke with Katie Santangelo, the member services and spa director at Stone Creek Club & Spa, about how she maximizes her time and experience at industry conferences like IHRSA.

CS: Trade shows can be intense. What strategies do you use to stay energized?

KS: As a seasoned conference attendee, I’ve found it’s important to take advantage of the beautiful setting the show is usually in. This year’s location, San Diego, happens to be my very favorite. Don’t hesitate to get outside and get some fresh air and vitamin D. Take full advantage of everything indoor and outdoor that both San Diego and the trade show have to offer.

CS: Would you recommend attendees use the time at the show to network with as many of their industry colleagues as possible?

KS: Yes, absolutely — even though it can be intimidating at first. Thinking back to the first show I went to, I was super intimidated to talk to anyone other than the little group I came with. But over the years, you actually start to recognize some familiar faces. Make sure you have business cards so you can exchange email addresses with folks you might break into a small group with. I really love the annual Women’s Leadership Summit and some of the roundtables where there’s a little bit more interaction. You can really build some relationships that last beyond just the show. Then you feel even more comfortable at a show the following year, when you see some folks who you do recognize or bonded with the year prior.

CS: Are there any specific speakers or panels at this year’s show you’d recommend attendees keep on their radar?

KS: Looking at the sessions, some of the things that caught my eye include a talk by Mark Miller titled, “This Is a Service Business: Are You Serving?” I’m a big fan of his and this topic is just a really great way to set the tone for the entire week. Brent Darden is also doing a talk on “Leading by Design, Not by Default.” That sounds super interesting. And, I look forward to The Women’s Leadership Summit each year. There’s also a strategy session that looks really interesting called “Finding the Blue Ocean: Differentiating Your Club from All the Others.”  

CS: Are there any other tips you can share for how attendees can get the most out of their trade show experience?

KS: I would suggest really trying to find that balance between taking full advantage of what the show has to offer, but also getting in a little R & R (rest and recuperation) at the same time. Take advantage of not only the education and the trade show floor, but have fun too. Make the effort to go to some of the receptions at night. In addition, Augie’s Bash is such a big part of what we look forward to every year. Even if you’re not a big sponsor and your club can get a few tickets to that event, it ties the whole week up and it’s such a great cause.

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