From July 16th to July 19th, I was one of over 22,000 fitness professionals and enthusiasts who lunged, burpee’d, TRX’d and Zumba’d their way to the LA Convention Center for IDEA World Fitness Convention 2015.
For those who have not experienced this annual IDEA event, it is, in my humble opinion, a convention that all fitness professionals should have on their to-do list. The shear size of the event and the energy it creates is invigorating. The lectures and presentations are first class and address exactly the kinds of things that will elevate fitness professionals as practitioners and business people.
After three packed days of lectures, meetings, presentations and networking, I left LA with renewed energy and enthusiasm for the fitness industry and the work we do, In fact, this is one of the great effects of a good convention experience (and let’s be honest, even the most dedicated fitness professionals can get tired.)
Having been fortunate enough over the past 10 years to regularly attend fitness and related conventions, I have been able learn and apply some techniques that have elevated my experience and the value that each conference has provided, techniques I thought it might be fun to share. So, for the next 5 minutes, I invite you to delve into “5 Tips to Survive and Thrive at a Fitness Conference”
1. Balance your session schedule
It can be tempting to fill your convention schedule with the things you are most passionate about, which can cause you to sacrifice some great opportunities to grow as a well rounded professional.
A good fitness convention will offer a solid line up of lectures, presentations and events, in fact the sign of a great convention can be the inner-turmoil of having to decide between equally appealing sessions, scheduled at the same time – “Do I listen to Dr. Len Kravitz hypnotize me with metabolic melodies, or do I sharpen my business edge with knowledge nuggets from Rachel Cosgrove….. decisions, decisions!!”
My recommendation is to create a list of 3 – 5 training skills and 3 – 5 business skills that you would like to enhance and look for sessions that will support these skills, for example:
- Movement assessments
- Weight loss programming
- Small Group Training
- Building client base
- Enhancing social media presence
- Referral programs
This will require a little research – like reading the session descriptions and Googling the presenter (don’t forget to tap into your fitness network to get feedback from anyone who has seen the presenter in action)
2. Make new friends and help others make new friends
Conventions provide some of the greatest opportunities for people to connect, but it won’t happen unless you are willing to extend a smile and a hand. Whether waiting for a session to start, lining up for a coffee (and there will be lines), or checking out a booth at the trade show, your mission is to engage strangers. I can’t tell you how many times I have started a convention flying solo, only to be adopted by a group and walk away with new industry friends and connections. Once you have connected with a handful of people, you will start to have the opportunity to provide introductions – make sure you capitalize on this. Connecting those who do not know each other not only feels great, it strengthens your relationship with each person and will encourage them to connect you with other people they know.
*Did you know that one of the most effective ice-breaker questions is “Where are you from?”
Connecting with new people will not only enhance your convention experience, but will give you some new resources, leading to new insight and ideas. Also, make sure you are well stocked with business cards so you can end any interaction with an exchange – this will be vital when you download everything after the conference.
3. Filter Your Session Contribution
It is great to be engaged in a session, and it is very likely the more engaged you are, the more you will have something you feel you want to contribute. I have, unfortunately sat through numerous sessions, where an individual or two have hijacked chunks of valuable session time to express themselves (I know that in my early convention attending days, I was definitely guilty of this). The three key culprits that can derail the session experience for everyone attending are:
- Disagreeing/Arguing with the presenter
- Sharing too much/rambling
- Asking questions specific to self/clients
In order to respect everyone’s time and experience, I recommend running any contribution you feel compelled to make, through this simple filter:
- Will my input provide any enhancement of experience for other attendees?
- Can I deliver my input quickly and concisely?
- Is my input on topic and 100% appropriate for a group setting?
If you can confidently answer yes to all three questions, you are probably going to be making a good addition to the presentation, but, if you answer no, or even not-sure, I would refrain from contributing in the group setting, and maybe seek to have a one on one chat with the presenter after the session.
4. Write a Convention Review
After enjoying a successful convention you need to quickly organize your takeaways. You will likely be feeling high levels of inspiration and empowerment, while also feeling over-stimulated. An effective way to organize your thoughts is to create a brief review that you can share with colleagues and peers. I say a brief review, as this will force you to cut to the meat of things. A simple paragraph for each session you attended will work well, for example:
Session: The future of personal training
The personal trainers of today will cease to have a business in the future unless they embrace more of a health-coaching role. Future professionals will need to have networks of specialists so that they can address multiple areas of a client’s health and wellness, with the personal trainer able to communicate fluently in each area and coordinate.
Make sure you review the new professional connections you made. Make a note of how you met , what they do, how you might be able to help them and how they might be a resource to you – and of course, send them a “great to meet you” email.
5. Keep an Open Mind
In my years of attending conferences, I can testify that each one takes on its own personality and provides its own unique experiences. Regardless of how you see the fitness industry, you will have the most enjoyable, productive convention if you approach it with as open a mind as possible. I guarantee that having an open mind will provide you with countless opportunities to enhance your experience, sometimes in the most unexpected places. The fitness industry is a people industry, and the more we can understand people, the better we can serve them – which sometimes means we need to make ourselves a little uncomfortable, and always means we need to keep developing our knowledge, assessing our opinions and challenging our views. Conventions provide the opportunity to do this like no other environment, you just need an open mind.
*Bonus Tip – Use the #
All good conferences have a social media hash-tag that you can follow and use – do it. The hash tag will allow you to share your experience with your network and other attendees. This can lead to interactions with fellow conferences goers as well as the presenters themselves, even after everything is over. Making a conscious effort to post on social media with the hash-tag is actually a fun component of the modern convention and you might be surprised how many new friends you can “collect”, how many likes you amass and how many times your comments get reposted, all of which make you feel even more engaged and connected.
Those are my 5 tips to survive and thrive at a fitness conference. At the end of the day, a good convention provides an engaging and stimulating environment that you can choose to experience at the level that you want. There is knowledge, inspiration and a new idea waiting to be discovered, there are amazing tools waiting to be introduced to your clients and new friends waiting to be met. There is so much to be gained by attending a good conference, even if you engage as little as possible, you will walk away with something, but for me, it is much more fun to thrive, rather than just survive!!