With one of the fitness industry’s central players — IHRSA — priming for its annual convention and trade show in a couple weeks, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the general benefits of attending such events. For companies selling machinery, equipment, gear, software, and other products, the benefit is clear: Easy access to many potential customers at one time.
What about for health club or sports facility owners and managers? What’s in it for you? Is it worth the investment of time and participation fees?
In a word, yes. Attending a convention and/or trade show is beneficial to facility owners first and foremost because of the opportunity to connect with others in the industry. Sure, they may be competitors, but the old saying holds true: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Your competitors, other clubs in your industry, are the ones from whom you have something to learn. Happily, participants who choose to attend events like conventions generally do so with an open attitude: They’re there to share. Through casual conversation, over meals and beverages, by chance meetings and introductions, ideas are transferred and transformed. Want to know how the gym down the street handles retention issues? Want to understand why that other baseball center is so successful at attracting new customers? Here’s your chance to find out.
Also, those guys out on the floor trying to sell you stuff? They’re not just looking to fill their pockets. Most of them attend with ideals of relationship-building in mind. They really want the opportunity to meet you, get to know you, understand your needs and desires as a customer. From their point of view, the better they know you the better they can serve you — and the better they can serve you, the better off you are. And it’s a lot easier for a salesperson to cut a deal for someone with whom he or she has a personal connection than for a stranger.
Finally, there’s the whole pay-it-forward idea. As a business owner or manager, and specifically as the business owner or manager of a fitness or sports facility, you’re part of a community. Even if it’s easy to forget for most of the year, conventions and trade shows can serve to remind you that the difficult work you do is the same as the difficult work others do. And just as you can gain ideas and tips from other facility folk you meet at such events, other facility folk can gain ideas and tips from you. You might even seek to take part in a panel or give a talk — because business, as you no doubt know, is as much about giving as it is about receiving. There is no better opportunity for giving than to share what you know, what your best practices are, and how you meet day-to-day demands than at a large gathering where so many industry-mates are all at once. You might not see immediate returns, but eventually your paying it forward will pay off. In tangible and intangible ways, you’ll feel the benefits of having been part of it all.