The Traveling Trade Show Comes Home

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Does anyone remember the show "Quantum Leap"? That's the show in which Scott Bakula's character, Sam Beckett, leaps from life to life, hoping that his next leap will be the leap home. (That's taken straight from the show's intro.) My all-time favorite episode was the third season premiere titled "The Leap Home," in which Beckett does in fact leap home into his teenage self.

When you attend trade shows in this industry, and I've been to 18 of them in my time here at Club Industry, they all tend to blend together after a while. Expansive trade show floors, long sessions, meet-and-greets, cocktail hours, late dinners—that's all part of the experience.

Last week, after leaping from trade show to trade show, I got a chance to do something I hadn't done before—attend a trade show in my hometown of Kansas City, MO.

The National Fitness Business Alliance, led by Thomas Plummer, held one of its two-day workshops last week at the Westin Crown Center, just a short drive from our office in Overland Park, KS. As soon as I arrived at the registration table, I felt right at home, especially when the first three people I saw were trade-show veterans Rudy Fabiano, Ken Reinig and Sal Pellegrino. Vendor tents were set up all around the ballroom, plus a nearby table held free coffee, another trade-show staple.

Plummer didn't mince words when he said that the membership model in the club industry is struggling and that the industry is moving more to a results-driven area led by intense group training studios. That may have stunned the mostly quiet attendees. A few of them were from New York, California and Las Vegas, but a lot of them were from smaller towns near Kansas City, including Lawrence, KS; Louisburg, KS; and Chillicothe, MO.

I would imagine most of the attendees don't often get a chance to go to the Club Industry show or the IHRSA show. In a way, this traveling road show allowed them to sit in on sessions, talk about their clubs or studios, meet and greet vendors, try out new products, have some free coffee, have a cocktail or two and get sweaty in an early-morning workout. Some of us in the industry may take all of that for granted. For others, it's a new experience.

It certainly was a new experience for me. During the lunch break, I got to walk around Crown Center, a shopping center where my Uncle Alex used to come during the workday when he wasn't selling office supplies. The Westin hotel lobby, in particular, was his favorite hangout.

When you're killing time between sessions, your mind gets to drift off, as it sometimes does at trade shows. I saw other families with their kids enjoying the summer weekday, and I thought to myself, as I sometimes do at trade shows, what the heck are you doing away from your kids?

But this was different. After each day of the workshop, I got to go home and tuck my daughters in at night, sleep in my own bed and not have to spend hours going from airport to airport, hoping that the next flight will be the leap home. I was already here.

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