In the first year of a move away from McCormick Place in Chicago to a more intimate venue, the Club Industry Show wrapped its 31st year Oct. 12-14, drawing engaged fitness professionals from health and wellness facilities of all types.
The show's new venue, the Hyatt Regency Chicago, offered a greater opportunity for networking and education, according to organizers.
"The ability for attendees and vendors to stay at the same hotel where the event occurred led to a more intimate atmosphere at this year's show," said Pamela Kufahl, director of content for Club Industry. "I heard from attendees that they had a much easier time networking with people. They also raved about the conference program and the speakers, which was great to hear since we increased our emphasis on education and networking."
Attendees from facilities such as Fitness Formula Clubs, Active Wellness, Crunch, Gold's Gym, Sparrow Michigan Athletic Club and Gainesville Health & Fitness joined with a variety of YMCAs, university rec centers, Kroc Centers, and parks and rec facilities to explore the newest fitness products from returning vendors, such as Life Fitness, Core Health & Fitness, SportsArt, as well as 36 first-time exhibitors.
The education program of 10 tracks and 85 sessions focused on educating fitness facility owners and operators. It was standing room only in most sessions of the Leadership track (chaired by Bill McBride, CEO of Active Wellness), Marketing track (chaired by Casey Conrad, president of Communications Consultants) and Operations track (chaired by Eddie Tock and Will Phillips of REX Roundtable). Many of the speakers in the Operations track were REX Roundtable members, and that track drew the most attendees overall, according to Kufahl.
"Congratulations on what I thought was one of the best shows," said Mark Miller, CEO of Merritt Athletic Club, Baltimore, Maryland, who spoke in the Operations track. "I not only loved presenting but thought the setup and tracks were outstanding."
Brian Evans, CEO of American Family Fitness, Glen Allen, Virginia, said: "The session content and presentation quality to me was as good if not better than IHRSA. In fact I had trouble at times selecting what sessions/topics to go to … From an education standpoint, the show is top notch."
In looking forward to where the fitness and wellness industry is heading, the show again offered a Wellness track, which was chaired by Dr. Kevin Steele of Communications Consultants. This year, the track was sponsored by Cigna Health, a health services provider that is seeking partnerships with health club operators for wellness initiatives across the country. Other track sponsors were Genavix Wellness Network and the American Council on Exercise.
"The focused Wellness Track included all levels of medical care providers stating we need to work together because our expertise complement each other," said Allison Flatley, chief strategy officer for Corporate Fitness Works. Flatley was a speaker in the Leadership track but also attended many of the Wellness track sessions. “I’m even more excited about the future of our industry and the role clubs can play in the medical continuum and helping communities thrive to be healthier."
Candace Snapp, program manager for Corporate Fitness Works, has attended the Club Industry Show for eight years.
"I consistently leave the event with fresh approaches to membership recruitment, incentive programming and team leadership," she said. "The knowledge I gained from our industry leaders assisted me with increasing my membership by 48 percent and improving our incentive program participation by 65 percent. Additionally, my team of employees has remained happy and loyal to our company."
Snapp added that she enjoys the exhibit hall where she can try new fitness equipment and group exercise formats that she can bring to her members. She also said she likes being able to earn her CEUs by attending the education sessions.
"Thank you for bringing the Best of the Best in our industry together and under one roof—it makes my job easier," Snapp said.
Annbeth Eschbach, CEO of Exhale Enterprises, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. In accepting the award, she shared her thoughts about how the industry has changed since she began working in it more than 30 years ago.
Award-winning journalist and bestselling author Bo Burlingham offered the keynote presentation, “Big or Small: Take Your Health and Fitness Business from Good to Great,” which focused on the six qualities that give great companies the "mojo" that make them great. Those factors are: a solid vision, being rooted in the community, personal ties with customers and suppliers, putting employees first and customers second, good finances and leaders who have a passion for the business. In his presentation, Burlingham shared that these six factors are evident in Gainesville Health & Fitness in Gainesville, Florida. The company is owned by Joe Cirulli, who was Club Industry's Lifetime Achievement Award recipient in 2012. In Club Industry's 2012 profile about Cirulli's experience in the industry, he shared some of the struggles that Burlingham relayed to the group about Cirulli during his keynote.
The show offered early morning workouts on Wednesday by Power Wave and on Thursday and Friday by BollyX.
“We had an absolute BLAST at your show and are very excited about next year," said Meredith Higgins, global community manager at BollyX. "We learned a lot about what's next for the industry, we gained a lot of new hosts for our certifications, and we even met a university looking to offer BollyX to their students graduating in exercise science! I'd say first year was a win.”
Co-located with the show was the CEO Summit, which drew 60 CEOs from some of the largest revenue-generating clubs in North America. In its sixth year, the event expanded to a day and a half upon the request of attendees, who wanted more time to learn and network. Attendees heard a presentation on technology and health clubs from Jeffrey Cooper, senior business development manager at Samsung. Dr. Peter McCauley, northeast regional medical director at Cigna, offered a presentation about wellness opportunities for health club operators. Back by popular demand, Steven Rogers, Harvard Business School professor, led an interactive case study on how to determine whether a company is worth purchasing. The CEO Summit was sponsored by Motionsoft, MYZONE, Good Earth Distribution, Cardio Ready, HMR and str.
Next year's Club Industry Show will be Oct. 4-6, 2017, at the Hilton Chicago.