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2017 Club Industry Show Welcome Reception
After the Oct. 4 keynote address by Michelle Poler of, more than 200 Club Industry Show attendees packed into the Welcome Reception in the 720 South Bar at the Hilton Chicago, where the event was held. The reception was sponsored by The Abs Co.

The Club Industry Show Continued Its Transformation at 2017 Event

From Oct. 4-6, the 31st annual Club Industry Show returned home to the Hilton Chicago with a renewed commitment to community engagement and education.

When Michelle Poler, founder of, kicked off the 31st annual Club Industry Show on Oct. 4 with her keynote address, she focused on living life not in fear but with bravery.

"There's no such thing as being fearless; there is being brave," she told the keynote crowd of about 200 people.

The refocusing of the Club Industry Show during the past three years could be seen as an act of bravery that is paying off with more engagement, higher conference attendance and a greater community feel, according to Marty McCallen, managing director of Club Industry.

"Any time you step out there and change things up to differentiate yourself—whether you are a health club operator or a conference and trade show—it requires steeling yourself and taking a leap of faith that your vision is correct," McCallen said.

The 2017 Club Industry Show, which occurred Oct. 4-6 at the Hilton Chicago—the venue for the first Club Industry Show in 1986—had an increase in conference attendees to the 90 education sessions plus packed attendance at the two keynote addresses, the Welcome Reception (sponsored by The Abs Co.), the Networking Nightcap and engagement at the trade show happy hour (sponsored by Sports & Fitness Insurance Co. and Rogers Athletic Co.).

"Three years ago, we created a new vision for our event to differentiate it from the other trade show events in the industry," McCallen said. "We refocused away from being a trade show event with a small conference to being a conference and networking event with a smaller and more intimate trade show where people can engage with each other, and this year, that vision paid off."

Bill McBride, CEO of Active Wellness and the track chair for the Leadership Mastery track for the conference, agreed.

"Club Industry was an amazing event," he said. "Attendees came to learn and were engaging and inspiring. The entire Club Industry event was full of energy and a who’s who in the industry. The venue of all events under one roof was perfect. No one will want to miss the education, vendor exhibits, connection and networking next year. If they do, it will definitely be their loss."

Some of the best-attended sessions were those in the Leadership Mastery track, which was sponsored by Aktiv and GymSales. The two highest attended sessions in that track were "Leadership: The Direction & Strategy" presented by McBride and Brent Darden of Brent Darden Consulting and REX Roundtable, as well as "The Management and the Operating Plan," a lunch session presented by Allison Flatley of Allison Flatley Consulting. 

Another well-attended track was the Business Basics track, which was created by Eddie Tock and Will Phillips of REX Roundtables and was sponsored by ABC Financial. The two highest attended sessions in that track were "Member Engagement & Retention" presented by Darden, and "Secrets to Hiring and Training for High Service and Performance" presented by Adrian Antigua, regional manager, Gainesville Health & Fitness, and Nick Sarillo, founder of Nick's Pizza & Pub. Sarillo was the keynote speaker on the second day of the show where he shared insights about being a better leader. His keynote presentation and the Club Community Breakfast that preceded it were sponsored by ABC Financial.

The Wellness track was another track with high attendance, especially its lunch presentation, "Exercise is Medicine: A Game Plan for Linking Health Clubs and Health Care," presented by Mike Alpert of Claremont Club; Liz Joy, medical director of Intermountain Healthcare; and Walt Thompson, president of the American College of Sports Medicine. The Wellness track was chaired by Kevin Steele, president of PTA Global and PTontheNet, and was sponsored by Genavix, Silver Sneakers, h2 Wellness, MedPro Wellness and the Medical Fitness Association.  

Two other top-attended sessions were "Internet Marketing: Websites, Lead Generation and 2017-18 Trends for the Modern Fitness Gym" by Tim Sarazen, director of operations, 97 Display, in the Technology & Trends track, and "Make Member Experience Your Competitive Edge" by Chris Stevenson, owner of Stevenson Fit, in the Retention track. The Technology and Trends track was sponsored by Motionsoft, MYZONE, Jonas, Precor, GymSales and Wexer. The Retention track was sponsored by FitCloud Connect and TRP.

This was the third year of a partnership with the Association of Fitness Studios (AFS) that brought four sessions specific to studio operators to the event. The session presented by Josh Leve, founder of AFS, on key performance indicators was the best-attended session in that track, which was sponsored by TRX and Sports & Fitness Insurance Corp.

Other sponsored tracks were:

  • Active Training, sponsored by Power Systems
  • Marketing, sponsored by Instinctive Insights and Silver Sneakers and chaired by Casey Conrad of Communication Consultants
  • Personal Training, sponsored by WITS
  • Programming, sponsored by Matrix

The show also featured 10 sessions in a Sales track, which was chaired by Karen Woodard of Premium Performance Training. Woodard also presented three sessions and participated in two panels in that track. 

Much of the new focus on the conference program led to moving vendor dollars from the trade show floor and big booths to sponsorship of education tracks and networking events as a way to increase community engagement and promote the vendors' focus on educating the industry.  

Plus, for the first year, the show organized a Club Connect event in which a small group of vendors and health club operators and buyers had one-on-one meetings the day before the exhibit hall opened.

"The Club Connect event was well received by the vendors and fitness executives who attended, which included a YMCA. We look forward to doing this again next year, as it allowed for great one-on-one conversations and relationship building, which is what the Club Industry Show is all about," said Crystal Romberger, integrated media account executive for Club Industry. 

Norm Cates, publisher of Club Insider, received the Lifetime Achievement Award prior to the Oct. 5 keynote address. Cates began his career as one of the founders of CourtSouth in Atlanta, but he was honored for his work as one of the founders of IHRSA and as the current publisher of monthly trade tabloid Club Insider.

Prior to the Oct. 4 keynote address by Poler, PFP magazine announced its Trainer of the Year Award, which went to Josh Bowen, owner of Aspire Fitness, Lexington, Kentucky. Bowen's flight to the event was delayed, so he was not able to accept the award in person, but he recorded his acceptance speech while waiting in the Cincinnati airport, and that speech was shared with the audience.

For the seventh year, the Club Industry Show also included the CEO Summit, an invitation-only event for the owners and CEOs of the largest health club companies in North America. This year's event drew more than 80 CEOs. As a cornerstone of the CEO Summit, 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, TMI Sustainable Aquatics and str.  

To view some of the Facebook Live videos that Club Industry did, check out Club Industry's Facebook page

Next year's Club Industry Show will be Oct. 24-25, 2018, at the Hilton Chicago.

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