Behind the Scenes
The Mega IHRSA Post-Show Blog

The Mega IHRSA Post-Show Blog

Zumba co-founder Beto Perez led an impromptu Zumba class after the Bash for Augie's Quest on March 21 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. (Photo by Steve Cohn.)

It’s been a few days since we came back from the IHRSA show in Las Vegas, and while we’ve posted a few items here on this blog and elsewhere on the website, I wanted to put all of your leftover Easter eggs in one basket and give you my views from the show.

In the past, I’ve posted blog after blog after blog item from a show, and sometimes the amount can get a little out of hand. But thanks to our new-look system, I can break up items more easily. Think Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback on Sports Illustrated's website, only Peter pulls an all-nighter Sunday to finish his column during the NFL season. I'm just pulling a, oh, two-weeker. Feel free to scroll up and down as you like. Extra points for lasting through the whole thing.

So without further ado, on with the show (blog):

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FACT: Augie Nieto worked out more at the IHRSA show than I did.

If you haven't seen Augie on the Octane xRide, you have to check out Pam Kufahl's blog from last week. I shot the video, and I own all the subsidiary rights, both foreign and domestic. I'm thinking about tagging "A Stuart Goldman Joint" to my next directorial project.

Speaking of Augie, the Bash for Augie's Quest was another huge success. It's amazing how much the industry comes through year after year for this cause. This year's event raised more than $1.6 million, increasing the overall total to almost $37 million in eight-plus years. Curves co-founders Gary and Diane Heavin once again went large, contributing $100,000.

Since we were in Las Vegas, the Bash was not short of Elvis impersonators. I saw three there that I remember. There was tall Elvis, John Cusack Elvis and lip-syncing Elvis. I say if you're going to go through the motions of the Elvis get-up, you should at least sing like him.

Pat Monahan of Train was the featured artist, and he and his friends put on quite a show. I forgot how many hits Train has had over the years. Monahan was pretty funny with the crowd, too. Random side note, my favorite exchange from this "50 Ways to Say Goodbye" Train video:

David Hasselhoff: "Hey, Pat."

Pat Monahan: "Hey, Hoff."

Also, my favorite lyric: How could you leave on Yom Kippur?

***

Beto Perez hangs out with members of the Newtown Athletic Club staff. (Photo by Steve Cohn.)

I enjoyed meeting and interviewing Zumba Fitness co-founders Beto Perez and Alberto Perlman during the show. I think this will be my not-scheduled-but-website-worthy interview story similar to last year's interview with Andre Agassi and Gil Reyes that pretty much came together at the last minute. I hope to have my story online in a few days, and I hope that is before their CBI cover story (that's another magazine, folks) in May. Perlman told me I had good questions, so I hope that translates into a halfway decent story.

Like Augie, the Zumba folks pretty much stole the show, both on the show floor and during their Zumbathon fundraiser that Augie also attended (and did a few moves, I hear). After the Bash, and after Pat Monahan left the stage, Beto led an impromptu Zumba class with the DJ. IHRSA's photos tell us that many of the Newtown Athletic Club folks were there. (Don't deny it, Jim and  Linda!) Not only did IHRSA present Perlman with the John McCarthy Industry Visionary Award, but Augie's Quest presented the Zumba founders with its Leadership Award.

***

A Session on Members and the Financial Panel

More and more these days, I go to sessions at shows because I know the presenters. That's not necessarily the best reason, but I still learn something new every time.

The first session I attended was on attracting, selling and retaining more members and included Bill McBride of Club One (and IHRSA president), Blair McHaney of Gold's Gym in Washington state, David Patchell-Evans of GoodLife Fitness in Canada, Bryan O'Rourke of Integerus and Fitmarc, and Edgard Corona of Bio Ritmo and Smart Fit in Brazil.

The panel discussed the changing nature of the industry, especially as it relates to membership and social media. McHaney talked about his gyms' "alumni creation process," not a cancellation process. O'Rourke said the traditional front desk concept in health clubs is going to go away, "and that's a good thing," he said. McBride said clubs should get to know their members better.

"You can't talk to me about benefits unless you know me," McBride said.

Is there a "secret sauce" in this industry? No, McHaney succinctly said, eliciting laughs from the packed room.

Patchell-Evans gave a sports analogy while suggesting club operators need to adapt to their members, who are themselves growing and adapting to different likes and dislikes.

"Very few teams win a championship two years in a row," he said.

***

The 17th annual IHRSA Financial Panel, moderated by our good friend Rick Caro, didn't disappoint. The panel consisted of Jon Canarick of North Castle Partners, which recently took over Curves; Doug Lehrman of Pulse Equity, which invests in In-Shape Health Clubs; Kayvan Heravi of LNK Partners, which invested in Life Time Fitness before it went public and now has an investment in Beachbody; and Diego Cordoba of Teka Capital in Colombia, which runs Body Tech clubs.

Cordoba is the first Latin American panelist on the IHRSA Financial Panel. He told the attendees that Caro told him, "You have to hit a home run." To which Cordoba, a little nervous about the task, told Caro, "I'd rather run home."

Before the panelists gave their presentations, Caro offered his annual headlines of the industry, and it was interesting to me that he said that there was some real consolidation of clubs in the United States for the first time. What he added—and what he's told me in the past—is that all of the mergers and acquisitions really only count for about 1 percent of all commercial clubs. So yes, we have consolidation, but no, it's not quite overwhelming.

The panel talked in general terms about the growing specialty options that we've highlighted this year: cycle studios, CrossFit, personal training studios, etc. Health care, active living and nutrition were common themes in a couple of the presentations. This is not just a fitness club industry, the panelists said.

In 2012, Cordoba operated 91 total clubs in Colombia, Peru and Chile. The percentage of club members in those countries to the total population is very small, compared to our percentage in the United States. Also, those countries have an increasing obesity problem. Overall, the health club industry in Latin America is lagging behind the industry in the United States, Cordoba said.

***

To add to Pam's kind comments about Rick, I also want to congratulate him for his Lifetime Achievement Award. I didn't get to hear his acceptance speech, but I'm told that afterward, he, Joe Moore and other IHRSA dignitaries performed their version of the Harlem Shake. (Photos and video not available.)

***

Star Trac, Andre Agassi and Some Quick Hits

We had fun at the reception for the 30th anniversary StairMaster. Our thanks to StairMaster's Merrill Richmond for the invitation.

At the reception, I ran into Michael Bruno, who owns the company that owns Star Trac, StairMaster, Schwinn and has a partnership with Mad Dogg Athletics (Spinning). A good friend of ours coined the side-by-side booths at the IHRSA show "Bruno Row."

Bruno told me about a great charity event that he and his family attended during the show. Last spring in Las Vegas, Bruno outbid those attending Muhammad Ali's 70th birthday party for a chance to play tennis with husband-and-wife Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, followed by one-on-one lessons. What an opportunity, right? So that's what Bruno's wife and daughter did, and Michael got a chance to sneak away from the show for an hour to watch the match. The donation went to the Cleveland Clinic to find a cure for Parkinson's disease, a cause near and dear to Bruno's heart.

Tennis great Andre Agassi meets IHRSA's Meredith Poppler. (Photo courtesy of IHRSA.)

***

Speaking of Agassi, he made a surprise appearance on the show floor at the BILT by Agassi & Reyes booth. Isn't that right, IHRSA's Meredith Poppler?

***

And Speaking of Star Trac, I got a chance to speak with new hire John Gamble, formerly of Fitness First in the UK as well as Technogym and Life Fitness. A pleasant fellow, I might add, in my brief encounter. Very British, too, isn't that right, soon-to-be newlywed Vanessa Klapper?

***

I didn't visit as many booths as I did last year, but a few shout-outs go to TRX, which told me they had more staff at this show than at any show ever, KettleWorX, Valencell, Powerbahn and, ahem, Big Ass Fans. There was a sales executive with KettleWorX, Craig Bradley, who actually saw my attempt at a joke on Twitter when I announced during the show that I was at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, wondering where everybody was.

***

Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod! One Direction is coming to Mandalay Bay Aug. 2-3! (If you spent any time on elevators at Mandalay Bay during the IHRSA show, you already know this.)

***

I spent too much of my time at the show chasing a big story. Still chasing. As Forrest Gump would say, "That's all I have to say about that."

***

I roomed with our publisher, Marty McCallen, during our stay at the Mandalay Bay. Two dudes sharing a room. See the Forrest Gump quote above. It applies here, too.

***

More Quick Hits

A veteran fitness industry executive told me at our booth that this IHRSA show had the most energy since 2006. Those of us here agree. Did others feel the same way?

***

More people this year came to our booth saying they were reading our stories on the website or in our Newsbeat or in our digital edition. A trend in our publishing world, perhaps? Also, more international folks came up to us than at any IHRSA show that I can recall. I even got a business card from Yoel Hakimyan, a gym manager in Israel, my first business card from the homeland. You can read the card forwards and backwards.

***

Overall, I was humbled by the many of you who complimented us and to let us know where we stand in the industry. I have never received/heard more compliments at any other previous show (including ours) than I did at IHRSA this year. Thank you for that. And thanks also to our booth neighbor Danny Weiland, who was doing his thing on an exercise ball up and down the aisles for a good six, seven hours straight. Here is some of his work. (Kids do not try this at home.)

***

Joe Cirulli is not resting on his laurels. A few months after we presented him with our Lifetime Achievement Award, I saw him hustling from meetings to sessions at IHRSA, always wanting to learn how to get better. I ran into Joe and told him again how our story came up short in the Neal Awards in New York this year. But hey, I got to see Tom Hanks across the street in New York. Who's the real winner now?

***

Good to see Club Industry columnist and good friend Karen Woodard Chavez, who stopped by during our staff dinner.

***

Our sales associate, Laurie Kerr, and I attended the World Gym International reception at Minus 5 Ice Bar. We had to put on heavy coats and gloves because, you know, it was really cold in the place.

I met Guy Cammilleri for the first time. Guy, for some reason, was wearing a faux fur coat. It's not his normal attire, he told us, but I suspect it was just another Wednesday for him. Guy told us all about how he and his family bought World Gym, and I got the feeling that it was just one of those meant-to-be situations. It's a great story. Suppose I will tell it one of these days….Oh, and Keith Albright is working for World Gym now, and he met with us at the booth the next day.

***

I was impressed with former NFL player Kevin Johnson of Team85 Fitness & Wellness, who met with us at the booth. Johnson is putting together Team Campus Bordentown in Bordentown, NJ, which will be a 32-acre site hosting more than 200,000 square feet of dedicated medical space and an additional 124,000-square-foot fitness, wellness and multi-sport complex. Johnson hopes to have everything up and running by the end of this year.

***

Three Keys to a Good Keynote

After hearing two of the main keynote speakers at the show, I've decided I'm going to create my own speaking tour since I've figured out the secret formula.

In fact, you can be a public speaker, too. Anyone, even someone who is unemployed and living off of the earnings from a malpractice lawsuit can still be a successful speaker using these three key examples: Apple. Southwest Airlines. Harley-Davidson.

You mention those three companies in any presentation at any business convention, and you'll be set for life. There will not be enough days on the calendar to fill your speaking engagement schedule.

Just about every business-related speaker I've heard recently uses those three companies at some point in their presentation. I even joked about it with Pam Kufahl while we were sitting together for the Chip Conley presentation. Every step of the way, Apple (ding!), Southwest Airlines (ding!) and Harley-Davidson (ding!) was duly noted. Southwest Airlines employees would feel their job is a calling more than a career or a job, said Conley, the founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels.

I discussed my theory the next day with Sara Kooperman, CEO of SCW Fitness Education and Les Mills Midwest (and one of the few people who get to call me "Stu.") As we were about to see the Friday speaker, Peter Sheahan, founder and CEO of ChangeLabs in Australia (and author of "FL!P"), I told Sara something like, "All these speakers use the same companies: Apple, Southwest and Harley-Davidson. You watch."

Well, right before Sheahan came out on stage, the man introducing him said Sheahan had done work with Harley-Davidson. That was a good sign, but it really didn't come during the presentation, so it only sort of counted.

A few minutes into the address, here comes the Southwest Airlines example. Boom! I'm lovin' it. Sara is beside herself. She can't get over the fact that I'm right. I'm still lovin' it.

Another few minutes pass, and boom! The Apple example! By now, Sara is punching me in the leg, physically injuring me. I don't feel the pain.

So at this point, all three companies were mentioned, but again, the Harley-Davidson example was only a sort-of example. There were only two minutes left to go in the presentation. Nerves were rattled. And then suddenly, Sheahan talked about how UFC fights have a sponsor right in the middle of the mat during their televised bouts. And that sponsor is…Harley-Davidson!

Yes! Nailed all three! I did a victory dance in the chair. Sara was done speaking to me at this point.

This was Babe Ruth calling his shot at Wrigley Field. This was Jordan hitting the game-winner against the Jazz. This was Jon Gruden running down the sidelines in the Super Bowl, punching his fist in the air as he watches an interception return for a touchdown.

Boom! Boom! Boom! Apple, Southwest, Harley-Davidson. The trifecta! We have a winner! No more calls, please. I rest my case, your honor. Thank you, and good night.

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