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Getting the Most out of Your Trade Show Experience, Part 2


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?”

In part 2 of this series, we spoke with Bill McBride, co-founder, president and CEO of Active Wellness. Here, he shares what he’s most excited about for this year’s show and why networking is so important.  

CS: What are you most excited about for this year’s IHRSA Convention & Trade Show?

BM: I’m excited about so much with regard to IHRSA 2019. The opportunity for networking is so prolific. This is one of the most advantageous aspects of being live at such a high-energy event. The leaders from all over the world gather in one place with the latest and greatest in supplier products. Learning and connecting with people you would not meet otherwise in life can not only be game changing for your business, it can be life changing personally. With over 10,000 attendees, the energy and intellectual stimulation enhances our motivation and learning beyond what we can do and learn via non-live interactions, such as webinars, podcasts and articles. This is a relationship industry, and deep relationships are formed when present with others live.  

CS: Are there any specific speakers or panels you’d recommend attendees keep on their radar, and why?

BM: IHRSA has lined up some amazing keynote speakers and over 100 educational sessions in addition to great ignite sessions, panels and fireside chats. This year’s line-up is as good as it gets – it is truly top notch. However, the key to the specific speakers, presentation topics and panels is to design a personal curriculum based on your individual needs, balanced with your team needs. The biggest mistake attendees make is showing up and looking at the schedule onsite and deciding in the moment which session you’ll attend, oftentimes based on what those around you are attending or your area of direct responsibility. Your session line-up should be framed before you get to San Diego. Of course, you can tweak it onsite, but your outline should be thought through and planned beforehand.

While going to some sessions in the areas you are most familiar or comfortable with can be good to reinforce your already proficient skill sets, you should be seeking out topics that will make you more well-rounded and a stronger operator in all ways. My recommendation is that you attend some in your area of expertise — but to also include topics in areas you are not as competent, comfortable or strong in. This is your opportunity to design an educational curriculum to enhance your career, your performance and the performance within your organization. If you have several team members from your organization attending, you should work together to make sure the team is covering all the bases that will most benefit the organization as well.

CS: Trade shows can be intense. Do you have any strategies you use to stay energized?

BM: Realize you are there for several days. Some are also dealing with significant time zone changes. Drink a lot of water. Get proper rest, especially the first night. Pace yourself and prioritize what you want and need to get out of the experience. This is also where planning ahead of time can make your experience much more productive. Schedule your trade show time — make sure you note the suppliers you want to see and visit them early on so you don’t run out of time for the most important items. After you have visited with the suppliers you have down as a must-see, make sure you go aisle by aisle to see and learn what you may not be aware of. This is an amazing trade show opportunity.

CS: Is there anything in particular you’ll be looking for on the trade show floor, in regards to technology, equipment or other products?

BM: Our industry suppliers are constantly developing and bringing new technologies and improvements to operators. I’m intrigued by:

  • Value-ad enhancements (staff-less massage, assessments, body scanning, infrared saunas, light therapy, nutraceuticals, retail, etc.)
  • Augmented Reality
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Virtual/Live Streaming
  • Facial Recognition
  • Biometrics
  • Consumer Analytics
  • Enhancements to the user interface/experience for our members  

We believe operators should define their business needs and seek out products and technologies that support delivering on those business needs, including revenue generation, retention, user results, design and customer experience. With regard to technology, operators should look for technologies that can be combined to meet their organizational needs — developing their own “Tech Stack.”

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

BM: One of my first and most influential mentors used to tell our team when I was first going to IHRSA: “If you are going to party with the big dogs at night, you still better be able to fly with the eagles in the morning.” Make sure you manage your schedule and attend the keynotes in the morning, don’t miss sessions and maximize your experience.

Download the IHRSA App.

In addition, be sure to:

  • Plan/outline your schedule – add everything you plan on doing into your calendar.
  • Make a list of trade show products you want to see/must see list.
  • Reach out to others you want to meet and connect with before you get to San Diego.
  • Attend the networking events, opening reception and small group sessions.
  • Set some goals on what you want to get out of this experience.

Goal examples include:

  • Meet 3-5 people that can influence your success.
  • Meet 3-5 people that you can help with their success.
  • Get 3 actionable ideas that will lead to your personal growth and success.
  • Get 3 actionable ideas that will lead to your organization’s growth and success (you will get more, but prioritize three to start with).
  • Show your organization’s leadership appreciation for allowing you this incredible opportunity — take full advantage of it and don’t waste it.

Also, learn about the ILC (Industry Leadership Council) if you or your organization aren’t already familiar with it. It is the advocacy group that helps the industry grow and protect our industry.

And have fun – productive fun.

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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