Navigating a Trade Show – A Club Industry Experience

Billie and Angie Pattengale

When attending a trade show there’s planning involved, if you’re going to do it right. Recently, we (Billie and Angie Pattengale from NFPT) attended the Club Industry Show in Chicago (October 4-6, 2017), and we took our own advice.

NFPT’s first ever Facebook Live Show topic was ‘Navigating Fitness Conventions’. It was originally timed around the IDEA World Convention in Las Vegas, but is applicable to any educational convention or networking event. We discussed 4 basic tips that are foundational to productivity …because why else would you go if it’s not to be productive?

The 4 Tips and How We Followed Them:

#1 Set a Goal.

Our primary goal for the Club Industry Show was to meet, greet and mingle. We also wanted to learn something new. We were on a mission to seek ah-ha moments and build lasting relationships. The knowledge seeking was easy at Club Industry, every session we attended was one that we learned from. The meeting, greeting, and mingling was even easier, thanks to the hospitality and well-coordinated efforts of the people at Club Industry.

michelle Poeller keynote CI2017
Angie gets out of her shell, conquers her introverted-ness by first meeting keynote speaker, Michelle Poler, well known for her ‘100 days without Fear!’

As an acknowledged introvert, I’m a minority among fitness industry people who are most often extroverted by nature (I wish I had more of that. But not having the knack for engaging in social settings makes me even more thankful for my industry friends who are incredibly down to earth and easy to talk to). I know first-hand how important it is to find opportunities to meet face-to-face with the people you are working with, especially if most of your average workday is spent behind a computer screen and most interactions are limited to emails and conference calls.

The Club Industry show is a great place to reconnect with friends and colleagues, and to make new ones. Over the course of a year or two, you’ll find that many of the people you regularly connect with are going to the same industry events that you are.

  • Set a goal to make the most of this.
  • Be well planned and connect with those you want to meet or eat with.
  • Schedule and confirm for lunch dates or formal meetings, ahead of time.
  • Be purposeful in your efforts, whether it’s to come out of your shell or it’s to represent your brand well, know your goal and remind yourself of it.


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Getting our day started, coffee then sessions!

#2 Plan your sessions.

First, look at all the sessions that the event has to offer. Choose ahead of time the sessions that you want to attend, and put it to ‘paper’ (actual paper or the electronic kind, just make sure to have a quick personal reference guide to keep you on track). The Club Industry Show offered active training sessions and lectures across several categories, from Business Basics to Leadership Mastery, Corporate Retention to Advanced Wellness Programming, and our personal favorite – Trends & Technology.

We attended several sessions a day, and, though we wished we had time for more, we stayed on track and productive about it because we followed our own schedule guide, created prior to getting there.

Choose sessions in areas where you seek personal growth and knowledge, but also those that are relevant to your business and its internal goals. Take something back to your team.

Also, as part of your guide through the week/end/, include blocks of time that you leave ‘empty’ for impromptu meetings or for mental breaks in your day so that you can better soak in all that you’ve been learning.

#3 Take breaks.

Don’t discount the value of a break. These events require working the brain and the body, and not just during the day but at night as well. So take a break, whether it’s time alone to read or nap, or to have lunch with a friend, give yourself some downtime. Fitness conventions offer the best of both worlds, mental and physical. You can go from education sessions to group workouts, fun fitness, and networking events.

These keep you excited and worked up to do more; but a break in the day gives you a refresh, a reset, and may just be the thing you need to be the best you that you can be.

Crystal Romberger
Angie and Crystal Romberger (Club Industry Account Exec), she brought the fun!

#4 Take notes and ask questions of presenters.

Don’t waste your time being in a session and not take notes. However you take them, your notes will be what you look back at later to remind yourself of what you want to do or who you want to remember to contact later. Presenters are presenting in your industry for a reason.

Club Industry had expert presenters that left us with valuable information to bring home, and, even though we get the slides later, I could not have remembered all of the little pieces of insight or valuable information that caused the lightbulb to go off. Your notes will be what you use later to refer back to. Write it down. Ask questions. Don’t be shy.

This is your opportunity to meet the presenter, thank him or her for their session, and ask a quick thought through question that won’t take up too much of their time to answer. If you feel that there is a business synergy or a win-win that can be developed with the presenter, then exchange business cards if/when the moment is right (and only if you can execute the exchange in a way that’s not awkward or mistimed). If the moment didn’t happen, then look them up later to say thank you.

The Club Industry show did well in achieving a feeling of community and made our goals easy to achieve. It really is about people. The people of Club Industry coordinated events with a personal feel that gave all attendees that opportunity to be a part of the community.

I personally appreciated the intimate setting of the Welcome Reception and the networking breakfast. The keynotes were inspiring and the awards ceremonies were genuine. Simply stated, my goal was to talk to people. The Club Industry show made this easy to do. This show gives an opportunity for a meaningful time between industry professionals, club owners/managers, club vendors and fitness enthusiasts; it is all about the people. And with that, I thank the people of Club Industry who made this event have value, a personal feel and a welcoming atmosphere. We’ll see you next year!

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CI fun 2017
Time with friends after hours_make time to make friends
gregg justice CI staff
Billie Pattengale, Greg Justice (Best Selling Author, Event Speaker, Fit pro and entrepreneur), Pam Kufahl (Club Industry Content Director), Angie Pattengale








Angie Pattengale is co-owner and chief executive officer of the National Federation of Professional Trainers, where she works behind the scenes on relationship-building, advertising, policies and procedures, test development and delivery, and growing the business. She joined her father, NFPT founder Ron Clark, at the company in 1994.
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