2022 IDEA World Convention: A LIMITLESS Oasis
Nearly 5,500 attendees were inspired to set sights on what comes next for their careers, businesses, clients and our industry.
When you’re in the desert, there is nothing better than slaking your thirst with a long, cool drink of water. And while it was toasty last week in Las Vegas, site of 2022 IDEA® World Convention (July 20-24), around 5,500 attendees, staff and exhibitors, who traveled from as far as South Korea, Israel and Australia, stayed cool and drew strength as they gulped refreshment from IDEA World’s overflowing cup of knowledge. Attendees were inspired to set sights on what comes next for their careers, businesses, clients and our industry.
This in-person edition of IDEA World Convention was a long time coming—three long, fraught summers of pushing through the desert of pandemic, to be exact. And though IDEA hosted meaningful virtual events over that period, this event marked a reset, a homecoming and a revival of traditions that celebrated IDEA’s 40th anniversary in grand style. It also broke original, invigorating ground that foreshadows a new and exciting chapter for IDEA and the industry.
Watch for three more event reports from IDEA’s award-winning content team on everything IDEA World-related—from Opening Ceremonies, the IDEA Awards, personal training and group ex programming, to exercise science, the IDEA Fitness & Nutrition Expo, DEI issues, and mind-body connection. When all is said and done, we’ll have summed up our 40 top takeaways from the convention as homage to IDEA’s epic four decades of leadership.
Here are 10 event highlights through my lens and coverage beats, focused on the comeback stories of our businesses that demonstrate the “LIMITLESS” stuff IDEA pros are made of.
IDEA World Business, Industry and Leadership
Advocate and Collaborate for Change
Perhaps one of the most important and in-depth discussions in Las Vegas unfolded during a panel on the first day. In “Becoming Essential: Next Steps to Align and Advance the Exercise Profession,” Brian Biagioli, EdD, Graham Melstrand, Francis Neric, MS, MBA, and Michael Stack, MPH, MS, discussed ways the industry can reconstruct a meaningful, serious profession that won’t be waved off as “non-essential” when the next public health crisis erupts. This group, along with Francesca Schuler, MBA, co-founder of the California Fitness Alliance (who was unable to attend), has collaborated to raise awareness and advocacy to strengthen fit pros’ voices and influence with federal, state and local governments, as well as to carve out a seat within the health care continuum. Though this barely shows the depth of the iceberg, here are a few key points to ponder:
- It became clear early in this pandemic that there was a very large gap that existed between how we viewed ourselves internally and how external stakeholders viewed our industry. At the end of the day, what public health officials and policy makers want to see are data-supported, outcome-driven programs by professionally educated practitioners that can drive positive change for Americans’ health—and for the pocketbook of the healthcare economy.
- Policy makers have emphasized that they’d like to see greater community engagement beyond the four walls of our facilities, as well as greater diversity in the populations we serve. We also need greater diversity among our practitioners. Finally, our facilities should resemble the communities in which they’re located.
- Our facilities need to be affordable and accessible to all.
- Fit pros need to be well-qualified and current in their certifications to be taken seriously as part of the healthcare continuum. A national exercise referral framework may provide a solution to find and verify qualified professionals, and to connect physicians with fit pros and health coaches. In addition, if we want to be connected to health care, we must act like healthcare providers. We must dress, talk and prepare like healthcare providers. It’s a complete paradigm shift.
- We need to network in our own communities more. Develop and foster relationships with your local government and public health officials. Be ready with a great elevator speech to professionally represent and advocate not only for yourself, but for the entire industry. Also, ask yourself, “Who do I know? Who are the physicians, politicians and public health officials in my client base who could help?” These are the folks who will take your call in the next crisis. Get to know them better now.
There is so much more to this discussion! Look for a follow-up feature in the Autumn issue of Fitness Journal that brings the full conversation to life for readers. IDEA is also producing a video and podcast of the content, so stay tuned.
Sharpen Your CEO Skills
In her pre-event intensive, Ashley Selman dove deep into “The Essential (but often overlooked) Building Blocks for Creating a Resilient Training Studio.” A key takeaway and a high-value growth opportunity for owner-entrepreneurs, she advised, is to develop CEO skills. Here are a few ways you can start ripping your C-suite muscles today:
- Oversee your financials. “The more you understand your numbers, the more you will understand what works—and what doesn’t,” Selman said. “But this doesn’t mean you have to do your own books.” Unless you have accounting experience, hire a pro to help you. “Payroll and staffing are your big-ticket items; be most familiar with them.”
- Streamline operations. This is where scheduling and billing technology can help enormously. Strive for efficiency.
- Know your marketing and sales strategy. You shouldn’t necessarily be doing hands-on marketing or social media, but you should be very clear on strategy. “Figure out the one or two marketing areas you are amazing at (e.g., hosting events, creating partnerships, social media), and go deep on those,” Selman said.
- Lead and build your team purposefully. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Lean into the strengths and work on the weaknesses—or give those responsibilities to others who excel at them.
Create Passive Income Streams
In the creator economy, the guidance shared by Sadie Nardini in “Rock Your Subscription Site!” resonated with today’s entrepreneurs. The sting of pandemic-driven business loss is still fresh for many, and Nardini delivered a cool, practical balm by sharing what she learned from building her own online subscription business. Generously, she laid out the mistakes she made so others might avoid them. She also shared what worked. Here are a few morsels to chew on:
- Her business, the Fit & Fierce Club, without any marketing beyond casual social media posting, makes between $10,000-$15,000 per month—and it’s still growing.
- Passive income takes a lot of work, but so does active income. The beauty of passive income is that you do the hard work to build it once and reap the benefits over and over. This enables you to “show up and serve when you choose to.”
- Focus on quality over quantity: “Done” is better than “perfect,” and “done well” is even better than “just done.” If you want to attract and retain more subscribers, then your videos need to look and sound better than your free ones, and they must compete with other digital experts in your filed.
Go Pro With Your Elevator Pitch
In “A Concierge Program to Beat all Sales Tactics” Billy Polson, founder and owner of DIAKADI Fitness in San Francisco and mastermind coach to many pros, shared his success secrets for boosting brand visibility, increasing profitability, improving productivity and expanding client base. One simple nugget that many pros across all professions fail to prioritize is drafting and practicing a strong elevator pitch. This critical step underpins everything a business owner does, Polson said, so if you don’t have one, put some thought and energy into writing one (and rewriting, and rewriting again), and then practice delivering it until you’re a rock star!
Polson advised your pitch should contain concise, descriptive information that tells an impactful story about you, your experience and your business. “Wordsmith it down to be honest, sincere and genuine,” he said. “Put yourself in the client’s shoes to try and understand what they might be looking for and ensure that it includes information about what you do; the problems you solve; how you improve people’s lives; your differentiators and your background.”
Women: Blaze Some Trails!
The fast-paced session “Blaze Your Trail—Women in Leadership” led by the very passionate, swift-talking Lisa Druxman, MA, and Jessica H. Maurer, packed in a ton of actionable information. With retention being a profound pain point for owners and managers across all businesses, it seemed poignant to share this takeaway: According to Forbes, the #1 reason people stay in their jobs is happiness, Maurer said. Here’s a four-point primer from the duo that will keep your team smiling and coming back for more.
- Get the “right butts in the right seats.” If a role doesn’t suit a team member, find one that does.
- C.A.R.E. for your team. Connect (connection and trust is how you lead); Appreciate (say thank you); Recognize (make sure people feel seen and heard); and Encourage (mean it when you praise and give feedback).
- Serve up a “feedback sandwich.” Lead with positivity bread, load it with constructive feedback and top it with positivity bread. “Make sure the sandwich is not so big that the person can’t eat it,” Maurer cautioned. “If it’s too big, then you’ve waited too long to serve it. Try not to make it so large that it can’t be eaten. When it’s a digestible sandwich, you know you’ve timed it right.”
- Try the delegation equation. Joy + Time + Importance = a happier you and a happier workplace: (How much joy does a task give you? How much time does it take you? How important is it that you do it?). If the task is not for you or the person doing the task is vexed by it, find the right person; investigate resources needed; set clear expectations; show-tell-do; and communicate and celebrate a job well done!
Fitness & Wellness Technology at IDEA World
Embrace and Master Fit Tech
In case you missed it, fitness technology has been the #1 trend reported in ACSM’s annual tracking in each of the last 5 years. There are many reasons to study and adopt fitness tech for your businesses and to support clients, not the least of which is the real possibility of being left behind. In “The Future of Wellness Technology,” Michelle Alencar, PhD, who has been far ahead in this realm for at least a dozen years, emphasized that wellness technologies and trends are redefining our industry for 2022 and beyond, and that the new normal is far more tech driven.
A researcher, educator and digital wellness tech entrepreneur, Alencar pointed out that pros can use wellness tech to collect and act on data, support client outcomes, engage customers, enhance sales and conversions, and to project where business is headed. The top six rising wellness tech categories, she said, are telehealth, fitness, nutrition, sleep, mindfulness and coaching. “The future is connected and customizable, driven by data and analytics,” she said. “We need to lean into the data that we can control based on our skill sets.”
Use TikTok and Reels to Grow Your Business
Part of the point of social media is to cultivate a community of people who absolutely want to hear your message, said Leah Rich during her workshop that gave attendees step-by-step intel on how to create TikTok posts and Instagram Reels. First, she said, evaluate whether you’re telling your story in a way that others will relate to. Do you use words your customers and leads understand (as much as you love “corrective exercise” it probably sounds scary to the uninitiated)?
Rich holds that in terms of social media platforms, “Instagram and TikTok give you everything you need.” She advised that fit pros “dedicate whatever time you can per day to meet your goals—or plan all your posts on Sunday and schedule them for the week. Just commit to being consistent. You don’t need a huge marketing budget—this is a time investment. You just have to keep showing up. The more content you create, the better. Focus on quantity over perfection.”
Behavior Change at IDEA World
Kick the Habit-Habit
Distinguished University of Michigan researcher and leading expert on behavioral science, Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, MS, is no stranger to the IDEA World stage. Appearing at IDEA World for the third time and fresh off the publication of her newest book, The Joy Choice, How to Finally Achieve Lasting Changes in Eating and Exercise, she added to the depth of habit change science and application that have made her a beloved presenter. Admittedly, it was surprising when she said “there’s little evidence suggesting that habit formation can produce sustainable change.” Huh? Okay, then what’s the story?
Segar says we need to think more critically about habit formation for exercise. The habit loop doesn’t fit multi-step behaviors. Furthermore, most research on habit formation has been on animals, students and in labs. The old story of behavior change is outdated, simplistic and it misguides fit pros and the approach many clients take. “It gets people to start, but then they start and stop, start and stop but they don’t sustain,” she explained.
So, how do we “stop the stop” so more clients can sustain?
SNAFUs in the intended plan are always going to arise, Segar said. “What we need to do is show clients how to think of the SNAFU as a choice point.” The superpower of this approach is that it puts clients in charge of the narrative. It gives them the opportunity to choose the solution. Like a balloon, give clients the chance to “POP” the exercise plan: Pause; Open your Options; Play with the Possibilities; and Pick the perfect-imperfect option or “Joy Choice.” “It’s our choice; it’s our narrative,” Segar said. “Change does not happen in the future; it happens right now. If people don’t know how to navigate the now, they aren’t able to change.”
Hurdle Mental Barriers to Performance
The beauty of the sessions at IDEA World is that they’re applicable multidimensionally. Often, we see ourselves first in what’s being presented, which gives us the opportunity to improve ourselves and try the techniques we learn before bringing them to clients. That was the case with “How to Help Clients Overcome Mental Barriers to Maximize Performance,” presented by Angie Miller, MS.
One of the first things we all might consider looking at is taming our own inner critic. “All of us, no matter how positive minded and secure we are, struggle with negative dialogue—that internal voice that preys on our deepest fears and insecurities. It’s part of the human experience,” Miller shared. Try building conscious awareness for how often you self-sabotage and focus on how it impacts your success; how you might be better if you stopped engaging in such thinking; and grasping how you might be better off next year if you stopped doing this.
Another Miller axiom in terms of helping clients with their challenges that will probably resonate with many fit pros—and especially health coaches—is this gem: “You can’t come between people and their problems. You can guide, but it’s not your job to drive their car.”
Nutrition at IDEA World
Gut it Out for Elevated Athletic Performance
Among many fascinating IDEA World presentations that continued IDEA’s strong commitment to nutrition science, was an exploration of the relationship between gut health and overall health, fitness and athletic performance. Joni Boyd, PhD, delivered a general primer on probiotics, prebiotics and gut health for all clients, but then focused specifically on how gut health can impact athletic performance. Here are a few straightforward tips.
- You can train your gut! Be intentional and observational as you do it. Journaling can be powerful.
- Aim for two probiotic sources per day but ramp up gradually to build tolerance.
- Athletes should begin intake at least 14 days before a major training period or competition.
- Expect transient, increased rumbling, gas and other gastrointestinal disturbances for a few days. “You are literally changing the nature of the environment,” Boyd said. “You’re moving out the bad and moving in the new. It will be disruptive.”
- Tolerance and side effects should be monitored based on training and travel.
- Consult with a sports dietitian if there are questions or concerns.
Fortified, Inspired and Ready!
IDEA members and fitness pros around the world are a scrappy bunch who have toughed out the storm. They’ve innovated, pivoted business models and creatively partnered with competitors to survive—and even to thrive. They came together last week to quench their thirst and to share stories of grit and inspiration, and to feed the momentum of an industry rising from the ashes. The vibe was so good and so right. IDEA World served as a desert oasis that fortified and strengthened the IDEA community for whatever comes next.
Hope to see you at IDEA World next year. Save the date for Los Angeles, July 12-16, 2023!