With so much to do and see and IHRSA 2012, if you asked 100 people – pretty much the line at the Starbucks in the lobby – you’d probably get around 99 different responses.
Whether it was a first-timer or a veteran, a club owner or an associate member, there was no shortage of interesting seminars, intriguing speakers and new and innovative products on the Trade Show floor.
“What I really like this year were the (speakers). I certainly was inspired by their message, which to me, was all about, ‘why are we here and that’s how we will be successful’,” said Linda Mitchell, director of Marketing & PR at Newtown Athletic & Aquatic Club. “People are spending money more carefully and (they) won’t buy (your products) if they don’t believe in them.”
Mitchell also was impressed with the many examples of women leaders throughout the conference. She wasn’t the only one as Liz Battaglia, director of Marketing for the Aquatic and Fitness Center in Philadelphia, started a Facebook page, Women of IHRSA, following the event as a way to stay in touch and network with many of the women who attended the Women’s Leadership Summit.
“Women’s leadership really was resonating everywhere,” Mitchell said. “I had a chance at this conference, more than ever, to make connections with other women leaders.”
Alexandra Williams, who attended the four-day event as a blogger with funandfit.org and was a speaker in 2011, also liked what she heard.
“I thought IHRSA did a very good job getting good speakers,” said Williams, who writes with her identical sister. They may have been seen on the floor challenging her twin, Kim, at a variety of Trade Show booths. “Last year I went to a couple (speakers) and I was put off because they felt like ads. This year they stuck to the topics of interest.”
Of course if you attended the Los Angeles event as a vendor than your perspective is totally different – in terms of how many people you saw and did you come away with strong sales leads.
Bryce Taylor, Program director and inventor at Halo Trainer, was surprised by the strong international contingent at IHRSA 2012. He explained that having a small company and a unique product – which was launched in January - limited the amount of marketing and testing they can do. But they were able to cover all areas they had been hoping to in one spot.
“I thought we had incredible exposure to the international community,” said Taylor, at his inaugural IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show. “I also was able to strengthen some relationships I’ve formed over time with other vendors.”
He said thus far Halo has focused on the US and Canada, but met club representatives from Hong Kong, Panama, Israel, Dubai, Holland and South Korea among others during the two-day Trade Show.
“Because this is an absolutely unique product … it was great to see the international interest in the product. And we hadn’t tested (internationally) before.”
Daron Allen, president and CEO of Visual Fitness Planner said that 2012 was one of his best years. And he’s been attending since 1994 – eight years on the club side and 10 as an associate member.
“As far as the amount of traffic at our booth and the quality and type of people coming by - the top decision-makers and owners – this was the best (convention),” Allen said.
He explained that it may have had something to do with his company recently unveiling seven new products and Visual Fitness Planner’s Sponsored Supplier Seminar on Wednesday, which drew around 400 attendees, but added that the upturn in the economy probably was also a factor.
“(The show) was amazing. Certainly for our business, in general we felt it was a real strong show.”
Mitchell, from Newtown Athletic Club, said as a club member the trade show is a great one-stop shopping experience.
“I made a lot contacts plus I had several sitdowns with major players,” she said. “It is really convenient and helpful to have (everything) in one place. It is worth the price to get to the event just to see everything at once. Then you can start filtering. (The vendors) know that and that is why they put their best foot forward.”
Williams added that the bloggers were treated extra special on the trade show floor, too, even though that hasn’t always been the case.
“There were lots of variety of choices this year. We probably checked out every booth and we tried so much equipment and activities,” said Williams, who pointed out Queenax, Hyperwear, Cybex, Precor and Ballbike as some of her favorites.
Skye Kaiss, director of Operations for Gold’s Gym Regina (Saskatchewan), who attends as both a club member and vendor, felt that while the the Convention and Trade Show wasn't packed every minute, he did note that was more quality than quantity.
“We seemed to have less leads but a lot more were solid,” said Kaiss. "It seemed like there were more decision-makers attending."
“What I missed was last year (IHRSA CEO) Joe Moore played the guitar and this year he didn’t,” Williams said with a laugh.