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Wednesday
Mar262014

Attendees: what's not to love about IHRSA 2014?

Gary Vaynerchuk was a highlight for many at IHRSA 2014.With hundreds of trade show booths, scores of educational sessions, dozens of workout opportunities and countless people to network with, it would be impossible to pinpoint the best part of IHRSA 2014 33rd Annual International Convention & Trade Show.

And if you ask 100 people what their favorite part of the event, which was March 12-15 at the San Diego Convention Center, you would get many different answers. The same would be true for what they were most surprised by or what they will take home and impart on their staff or implement in their club.

The one thing that the consensus agreed on as one of the highlights, if not the highlight, was Gary Vaynerchuk. The social media guru stressed to the audience, as well as his private hour-long talk to industry leaders following his general session on Friday, March 14, was that it was time to get on board or risk walking the plank.

“I have been a fan (of Gary Vaynerchuk) for years. I am very much in line with his message,” said Bryan O’Rourke, president of FIT-C (Fitness Industry Technology Council) and principal, Fitmarc, who found time between the four sessions he was part of to take in the feisty and energetic speaker. “He told people that he looked at our industry and we are ripe for destruction (if we don’t change).”

The change Vaynechuk was referring to was how the fitness industry markets. He said the majority market like it is 2004, not 2014, or even 2015 (he noted he markets 18 months in the future).

Jason Reinhardt, owner of Go M.A.D. Fitness in Monroe, Mich., concurred with O’Rourke on the message and ideas Vaynerchuk gave.

“I think he hit home (with his message) with everyone in that room,” Reinhardt said. “We live in world where everyone procrastinates. (Vaynerchuk) reminded us that we have stay out in front. We can’t expect people to just walk through our doors. 

Reinhardt explained that Vaynerchuk’s urging of using social media and providing content for both those who belong to your gym, as well as prospective members, is something that everyone can relate to - whether you are doing that now, or stuck “in 2004” by using billboards, newspaper and radio advertising, or flyers.

“Vaynerchuk validated moving forward,” Reinhardt added. “We are now full-fledged in a social media world.”

Women's Leadership Summit at IHRSA 2014.There were many other highlights, of course. Karen Jashinsky, owner of O2 Max Fitness in Santa Monica, Calif., thought this year’s Women’s Leadership Summit was great for the 60 or so women in attendance, as well as the handful of men.

The guest speaker was Amy Morin, who became in Internet sensation when she posted 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, but now, after millions of views and shares online and in social media, the licensed therapist has become an expert on the subject.

“I think the topic was pertinent to everyone,” said Jashinsky. “It definitely is a relevant topic for the Women’s Leadership Summit, but men were in there and they were able to share their experiences, too. Women may encounter the issue more and it is more amplified, but it is pertinent to anyone in a leadership role.”

Even though she has been to most of the past four Summits, she commented on how the roundtable format is great to both hear peers’ experiences as well as a great way to meet new people.

“The roundtable is great to get new people involved in a structured environment. The general sessions or receptions are harder to meet new people, especially if you are new to the industry,” she said.

Anna Rounaja, owner of Liikuntakeskus Hukka in Oulu, Finland, said she gained a lot from IHRSA 2014 and will even take ideas learned outside of the San Diego Convention Center back with her.

“There were so many great ideas for sales commissions, campaign ideas, new types of trial memberships, new ideas on leadership as well as new waves of marketing!” she said. “There was a whole bunch of valuable insights from colleagues and presenters alike. Not to mention ideas to take home from the hotels, restaurants and theme parks in San Diego.”

Sometimes, like it did for Reinhardt, being among thousands of like-minded individuals can allow you to step back and think for a bit.

“It’s always refreshing - not that I personally need to be reminded – to remember why I got into the industry. It really validates why we do what we do … that we can really change lives,” said Reinhardt, a couple weeks after his fifth IHRSA Convention & Trade Show. “And to be among so many difference-makers only intensifies it. I’ve been in the industry for 16 years and it still excites me.”

Of course, there is always something new and interesting at the trade show.Rounaja felt her third convention topped all others.

“This years IHRSA was among the best I´ve attended. The weather was just beautiful, the site was compact and speakers mind-blowing,” Rounaja said. “The people attending were full of passion - as Sally Hogshead proved - food delicious and Trade Show one of the biggest in the world. I really enjoyed this event and got so much to take home with me. I am definitely attending again next year and would strongly suggest anyone not hesitant to take the trip next year to Los Angeles!” 

Check out all of the coverage at ihrsa.org/live

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