How to do IHRSA right: a guide to technology at the biggest fitness trade show in the United States
In 2013, I went to my first IHRSA trade show. In one word it was – overwhelming. There are so many providers that go along to the show in a bid to show off their latest fitness-related products and services and it can be difficult to make the most out of the valuable talks, demos, and displays on offer.
But over the years, I’ve had enough conversations with gyms, studios, software providers, equipment manufacturers, insurance companies and even cleaning product companies that attend the event that I started to form a little map of the industry and eventually managed to make sense of it all.
The stand out sector in all of this quickly revealed itself to be technology. Apps, wearables, and software in all its forms are revolutionising the fitness industry. Paying homage to this, IHRSA 2020 will dedicate an entire half-day on the Saturday of its show to technology alone, calling it IHRSA TechX.
This article will act as a guide for anyone walking the aisles of IHRSA this year looking to develop a technological game plan for their fitness company. We will look at:
- Why you should use IHRSA to shop for new technology
- How to prepare for the show
- Understanding fitness technology
- What else can you get from IHRSA
IHRSA is the perfect opportunity for you to scout the best technological services that could bring your business up-to-speed with the latest innovations in the fitness industry, generating exponential growth for your business.
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Why you should use IHRSA to shop around for your technology
All of the major software and technology providers operating in the fitness space attend IHRSA each year. That means you have a one-off opportunity to experience and demo all of them in one day – plus you can meet representatives in person to ask all the questions you need. Doing this kind of research for your business could take weeks if you were to do demos and speak with each of the companies individually outside of a trade show environment.
There’s also the fact that during a software demo, you usually only get the opportunity to chat with a sales person. At IHRSA you have the chance to meet members from across the company. That could mean a conversation with a client service team, developers and even CEOs. This will help you form a more complete picture of a given organization and ensure that you are working with a company that aligns with your values.
IHRSA is also a space in which many companies share big announcements such as new features, integrations and partnerships, which means that if you opt to subscribe to a service on the day, you may be one of the first businesses to be able to offer your members and clients the latest in fitness tech.
How to prepare for IHRSA
One of the biggest mistakes fitness professionals make at IHRSA is to show up without some idea of where they want to go and what they want to see. If you plan to aimlessly walk the trade show floor without an agenda, you’re planning to fail.
Prepare a list of goals you’d like to accomplish. Are you looking to use technology to upsell a new digital service? Do you want to use technology to better engage your current customers? Do you simply want software that will help you streamline tedious business processes?
You should also prepare a list of questions that allow you to evaluate the different providers according to your criteria. Write them down on the notes on your phone so that you don’t forget them and they are always at hand.
You should also try to plan meetings with technology providers ahead of time so that you can plan your day most efficiently. Instead of standing around waiting until someone is free, reach out and lock in some time with them ahead of the day.
So what kinds of technology is out there?
There are six key components when it comes to using technology to run your business. They include:
- Membership management
- Mobile app
- Smart equipment
Membership management is crucial in helping you keep track of your members, payments, collections and scheduling. Plus CRM (customer relationship management) helps improve your sales process, can help with upselling and can improve your member journey through better communication.
Most gyms and studios these days work with a mobile app, which can help you break the four walls of your business. Software solutions essentially add more value to the customer experience, in particular where they allow you to engage with your members. Some software providers such as Virtuagym act as an all-in-one software solution and will deliver you technology that assists across all of the six key areas.
What kinds of technology should I consider for my fitness business?
Here is a summary of the types of areas in which technology might be a crucial feature for your company and the way you conduct your business.
Back of house
This is the technology the customer doesn’t interact with. This includes Membership Management, CRM, payroll and admin, and process management.
Front of House
This is the technology that is customer-facing. The industry defines this as booking technology, check-in software, scheduling, and sometimes buying memberships. It is important to note that this definition does not include workout tracking and other engagement options. These solutions are offered by providers in the CRM, Membership Management, and scheduling spaces, and are sometimes interfaced by a mobile app.
This is a new area of technology that has been recently disrupting the market and has seen increased spending from facilities interested in innovative technology solutions. This includes digital workout plans/guidance, fitness tracking, nutrition tracking, progress tracking, and social community features. This is a core competency of industry-leading software-provider Virtuagym and is delivered through a branded Mobile App.
3rd Party Disruptors
These are the indirect competitors that gain the attention of the consumer. They don’t compete with the facilities or with any software vendors however they can influence trends in engagement technology. Some current examples are Pear, Fitbit, and even Spotify.
Each business is different in size and the way it operates. Before shopping around for technology you should consider which facets are most important for your business model. Sometimes it may make sense for bigger companies to have a dedicated staff member who manages and maintains software and tech. However, this comes with a larger investment not just on the front end for licenses to technology but it may also require expending resources on staff to support this approach.
An all-in-one software solution could help with this, taking away many of the monitoring and managing tasks of a staff member. This will leave you with more money to invest in other areas of your business.
So what else can I expect from IHRSA?
Alongside getting to grips with the latest tech, fitness professionals can also test and try the latest fitness equipment. You can learn more about the newest classes that are emerging in the workout world and use this knowledge to identify trends that will be relevant to you and your members.
IHRSA is also a brilliant opportunity to network. Take the time to talk with other people within your industry. Do some market research and also make valuable connections with media and industry leaders that could turn into future partnerships. You will also have the opportunity to join in on education sessions in which you can learn more about the latest developments in your area. Experts will give talks on topics such as marketing, leadership, personal training and much more. So determine exactly what you would like to learn ahead of the day, who you would like to speak to and be prepared to come away from the experience with some exciting new plans for your business.