Futurist Crystal Washington previews her IHRSA Innovation Summit keynote presentation, sponsored by Club OS.

Crystal Washington Talks Technology, Imagining the Future

Planning for the future right now can seem daunting, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Futurist Crystal Washington shares her outlook as we reimagine the future.

  • August 27, 2020

When thinking about all of the challenges the fitness industry has faced in 2020—and may continue to face for the foreseeable future—it’s easy to fear what is ahead and feel out of your depths. However, “you don’t have to stay overwhelmed,” says Crystal Washington, an author, futurist, and technology strategist.

This message is a welcome one for health club operators and fitness industry professionals—groups who have had it particularly tough this year. In her IHRSA Innovation Summit keynote presentation, “Imagine the Future,” Washington will use her unique insights to inspire and encourage attendees.

“During my keynote presentation, you’re going to discover the very strange and real ways technology is changing humans—and what you need to know to be successful in the midst of a turbulent 2020,” she says. Washington’s keynote address is generously sponsored by Club OS.

Our relatively new reliance on technology has completely changed the way we work and the way businesses operate. The impact on health clubs has varied from innovative to detrimental, and how we embrace, change, or reimagine the way we work in this time will change the long-term outcome both for the success of our companies and our personal successes.

Work and life lines blurred, the haze of virtual meetings set in, and we have found ourselves face to face with a new reality. A key question to ask yourself is, “how are you imagining your future?”

Technology & the Fitness Industry

Earlier this year, Washington spoke to Club Business International about how technology will continue to change businesses—including health clubs.

“The internet has shrunk the world and at the same time pushed us all further apart,” she said. “It’s smaller in the sense that we now can have an impact on someone on the other side of the world in an instant. We can, for example, send money instantly to the victim of a natural disaster. It’s pushed us apart in the sense that, having developed a near addiction to the internet, we’re substituting it for handwritten notes, face-to-face conversations, and even spending quality time with one’s family.”

This “near addiction” can cause problems for health club operators as they compete for consumers’ attention—something especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. But where should clubs begin to tackle this issue?

“Number one, I’d say that you have to think about this technology strategically,” Washington told CBI. “There’s no such thing as an app strategy, or web strategy, or social media strategy—it’s all part of your marketing strategy. These are just methods you utilize to communicate elements of your marketing plan—in the same sense that cold calling, for instance, might be a part of a club’s marketing strategy. So that’s No. 1.”

And what’s the second-most important area of focus? Two words: target audience.

“You have to know your target audience—you have to know who they are, where to find them, and how your messaging affects them,” she said. “In the case of social media, join the networks that appeal to them. When it comes to being on the web, or buying ads, or having a presence in different places, you have to understand their browsing habits. And when it comes to apps—if you’re looking at using or developing them—you should be aware how they’re using apps now.

“Make sure you’re thinking about how these efforts are impacting the consumer. It shouldn’t just be about your internal efficiency. In the final analysis, it’s about the user experience.”

In recent years—and especially over the past several months—health clubs have made great strides in its technological prowess. Back in February, CBI asked Washington where she thought the industry fell on the learning curve.

“The fitness industry as a whole, I’d say, is probably a middle-adopter,” she said.

“Clubs are a B-to-C business, and B-to-C entities tend to be more cutting-edge and much earlier adopters than other sorts of businesses, period. It isn’t in the forefront, like clothing or other forms of retail. But, by the same token, it’s not in the back like healthcare or financial services, which have to contend with legal restrictions or FCC rules, or some of the less ‘sexy’ businesses, such as construction. Fitness is actually sitting in a pretty good mid-position.”

Leadership 20 CV Crystal Washington column

Why You Can’t Miss Washington at the IHRSA Innovation Summit

Washington will be sharing the strange and real ways technology has changed humans, and what we need to do to prepare for this fall and beyond. This session resonates even more now with new challenges we are facing each day in the technology space. Have you ever been more grateful for your tech-savvy friends, family, and colleagues?

The benefit of attending Washington’s session is to immediately implement new ideas to get ahead and thrive in the future. She’ll be sharing these insights and more on new technologies—and overcoming the old and new habits that come along with these technologies.

Reimagine, reinvigorate, and rebuild your business and personal career with Crystal Washington on Thursday, September 17, at the IHRSA Innovation Summit.

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This article was a team effort by several IHRSA experts.