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If there's one thing I'm going to remember about Sandy Coffman's presentation titled "The Secret Lies in the Stars: Hiring the Best Staff," it's her smile. That, and the way she shook hands with each one of us before her presentation.

Coffman encourages club owners and operators to smile more often when dealing with their customers. (Like Michael Scott Scudder, Coffman uses the word "customers," not "members.") If you don't want to smile, fake it. Coffman also showed us how to shake hands like we mean it, even grabbing the arm of the person with our other hand for greater emphasis. The "S.T.A.R.S." Coffman outlined stand for Service-minded, Teeth and eyes, Attitude (positive, preferably), Relationship building and Success-oriented.

As positive as this presentation was, Coffman also gave us some grim news. The club industry is not making a lot of money and is in trouble, she says. "It's not that we have too many clubs--we don't have enough people in them," she points out. She also questions whether club owners know enough about their customers or even the industry as a whole. Although colleges and universities are turning out more degreed individuals who are entering the club industry, Coffman says the focus of the industry needs to shift from having the right equipment in clubs to the emotional and psychological state of the customers. Coffman even scoffed at the word "deconditioned," which is frequently used in the industry and in our magazine. I'm not a big fan of the word myself, and as Coffman correctly points out, it doesn't even come up in spell check.

Give Coffman props for using at least one prop in her presentation. In describing how people want to come to clubs to lose weight, feel better about themselves, etc., Coffman brought out a magic wand, which was appropriate since we're at Disney World. She says customers are looking for that "magic wand" solution at a club, and if they have a negative experience there, they're going to go home, not to another club.

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