What’s in Store for the 2019 IHRSA European Congress?

    The 19th Annual European Congress Returns to Dublin on October 14-17. Here’s what to expect.

    Lisbon. London. Barcelona. Seville. Madrid. Marseille. ... And, once more after 10 years, Dublin!

    Each year, the IHRSA European Congress arrives in a legendary city on the continent, offering attendees one of the most personally and professionally rewarding industry events of the year.

    The 19th Annual European Congress arrives in Dublin next month, October 14–17.

    “After a 10-year break, I look forward to welcoming the Congress back to my birth city, Baile Ãtha Cliath (Gaelic for Dublin),” says Kilian Fisher, IHRSA’s international public policy advisor. “I’m looking forward to seeing all of my friends from the EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) region and beyond.

    “We’re delighted, this year, to have the support of Ireland Active, our host partner, as well as Failte Ireland, the Irish Tourism Authority.”

    The Congress also will be returning to the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road, located just minutes from the center of the Irish capital. “I’m pleased to say that, since 2009, when we last hosted the Congress here, the hotel has undergone more than $23 million in renovations,” says Fisher.

    An estimated 600 individuals—Pan-European business leaders and decision makers from nearly 40 countries—will participate in the four-day conference. They’ll hear from distinguished keynote speakers; attend educational sessions, panels, and roundtable discussions; network with their colleagues during social gatherings; and confer with leading industry providers at the Supplier Showcase.

    Over the course of the event, they’ll learn about the current status of the industry, the effect of macro-economic factors, recent developments, emerging trends, and new opportunities for growth.

    Congress Schedule Packed with Content

    As attendees continue to register or take part in an early-morning health club tour of the city on Monday, October 14, the educational component of the Congress will be well underway. The very first session will address “UFIT: Inclusive Fitness in Your Organization,” one of the most vital issues of the day.

    It will be moderated by Catherine Carty, the manager of the UNESCO Chair in Physical Education, Sport, Fitness & Recreation, Ireland; Fisher, who’s also the UFIT Global Industry Lead; and Gerard Yélamos, the Global Coordinator for UFIT, Germany.

    The session will describe UFIT (Universal Fitness Innovation and Transformation), the many benefits it provides, and how IHRSA’s partnership with UNESCO and the World Health Organization (WHO) is helping to drive the initiative.

    “An estimated 600 individuals—Pan-European business leaders and decision makers from nearly 40 countries—will participate in the four-day conference.”

    Next and new on the agenda this year is the Women’s Leadership Panel, which is headed by U.K. journalist Kate Cracknell and will feature three accomplished female club professionals. They are Bahar Uçanlar, the CEO of Mars Sportif in Turkey; Francine Davis, the chief strategy officer for Pure Gym in the U.K.; and Sandra Dunne, the operations director for Gym Plus in Ireland.

    The evening’s rich lineup of activities will commence with an official “Welcome to Dublin!” from Joe Moore, the president and CEO of IHRSA, and Conn McCluskey, the CEO of Ireland Active. And, providing a context for all that’s to follow, Jay Ablondi, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global products, and Florian Cartoux, the director of IHRSA Europe, will discuss the “State of the European Industry,” sharing data from the newly released 2019 IHRSA Global Report.

    According to the report, the European industry had nearly 62,000 facilities, served 62.2 million members, and generated $32.1 billion in revenues in 2018. In terms of membership penetration, Sweden ranked No. 1 at 21.6%, followed closely by Norway, at 21.4%. In terms of facility count, Germany led with 9,343 units, trailed by Italy (7,700) and the U.K. (7,038).

    Keynote Speakers to Remember

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    IHRSA's Alison Giannaras takes the stage at the 2018 Congress.

    Following the update, Caspar Craven, the first of the Congress’ three keynote speakers, will take the stage to explore “Team Dynamics in a Changing World.” An adventurer, entrepreneur, and investment banker, Craven will describe how businesses can transform rapid-fire change from a challenge into an opportunity.

    Considering the topic of team-building, Craven says, “It’s the result of doing many things well. ... One is creating a simple, powerful story—a vision that engages each person so they can see their contribution, and the impact they’ll have in getting to the desired goal.

    “Provide fuel for the team by helping each person become the very best they can be.”

    His presentation is sponsored by Technogym.

    Tuesday, October 15, will dawn with a keynote presentation by Michaël Aguilar, who will reveal “The Secret of Elite Sellers.” Aguilar is a sales specialist; a lecturer at HEC Paris and the University La Sorbonne; and the author of 12 books, including Elite Seller and The Art of Motivating.

    “The most important thing in sales is not to be convincing,” he says, “it’s to be contagious. If you want to be contagious, you need faith—in yourself, in the company, in the product.

    “A salesperson with great faith and an average product is superior to a salesperson with a great product and no faith.”

    His appearance also is made possible by Technogym.

    The final keynote address, “Survive Digital Disruption and Triumph,” will take place on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 16, the final full day of the Congress. Shivvy Jervis, an award-winning futurist, will report on the latest digital breakthroughs, and explain how to achieve sustainable innovation. Her presentation is sponsored by Les Mills International.

    All three keynote speeches, as well as the educational sessions, will be simultaneously translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, and Russian.

    Events Offer Up Club-specific Substance

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    Attendees at the 2018 Congress in Lisbon, Portugal.

    The educational series gets off to a solid start on Tuesday with the CEO Panel, a perennial Congress favorite, that will be led by Dag Lee, the nonexecutive director of Fitness World, a U.K. club company. The topic: “Our Evolving Industry—What’s Coming Next and How to Stay Relevant.”

    Other sessions, with intriguing titles and thought-inspiring speakers, include “Creating Unique Customer Service and Experience,” presented by Brent Darden, the CEO of Brent Darden Consulting, based in Richardson, TX; and “Let’s Get Wild: Compete with Creative Sales Tactics,” with Leila Timergaleeva, IHRSA’s ambassador to Russia.

    Among the other topics and presenters: “Leadership in an Evolutionary World,” with Jan Spaticchia, the chairman of the énergie Group in the U.K.; “Sharing the Vision: Setting Goals and Igniting Your Team with Storytelling,” with Ahmar Azam, the CEO of the Leejam Sports Company, in Saudi Arabia; and “Creating a Successful Team,” offered by Pelle Johansson, the CEO of Hagabadet, in Sweden.

    Excitement Until the End

    Another highlight of the meeting will be the presentation of the European Club Leadership Award, conferred each year to an IHRSA member who’s advanced both their company and the industry through strong leadership and performance in the European market.

    The Congress will wrap up on Thursday, October 17, with another tour of clubs in the area.

    “We’re very much looking forward to again convening in this wonderful city,” Moore says. “Dublin plays home to centuries of culture and history, and to some of the most remarkable, cutting-edge, IHRSA-member clubs to be found anywhere. This year’s Congress promises to be a remarkable, game-changing event for all.”

    Patricia Amend

    Patricia Amend is an executive editor to Club Business International.