What’s not to love about a preconference? You get here a day before the rest of the crowd so you get a chance to scout out all the best wi-fi spots and restaurant nooks. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch your favorite presenter fresh from the cab ride from the airport and you can ask him for management advice (or business advice, or cuing tips). Preconferences were created for the overachievers, the ones who just can’t accept hoi polloi status.
Preconferences by their nature are special. They hone in tightly on one subject and you can settle into a subject for a few hours, get your fix and set the pace for the rest of the convention. This year’s preconference line-up at IDEA World Fitness Convention highlighted everything from cadence to networking to muscle insertions. I love covering the precons because not only are they educational and I get to meet lots of great IDEA members, but it’s also fun to see how fresh the faces are and how 3 and a half days of workouts, education, parties and, well, Mickey Mouse transform a person.
Today I sat in on two tracks: IDEA’s Business Forum and Focus on Fitness Management—Success Through Synergy. These were all day affairs and both groups of fit pros really bonded on business tips and management skills. One highlight for me were learning more about the hybrid fitness professional—you know, the person who does a little group exercise, a little personal training and sometimes even manages other hybrids. This category isn’t new, but it is finally demanding more of a defined skill set. 2008 IDEA Program Director of the Year P.J. O’Clair, owner of Northeast Pilates Certification Centers, perhaps says it best: “the hybrid fitness professional is a commodity in the marketplace today.”
Another highlight was getting to rotate with IDEA member fitness facility managers during Sherri McMillan’s facilitated roundtable discussion “Solving Problems and Sharing Solutions.” Among the questions we all brainstormed were:
• Which time management skills do you use to ensure you get all tasks done and still have time left to interact with members and staff?
• How do you manage hundreds (yes hundreds) of instructors and keep a consistent group fitness program?
• Which initiatives have you used to promote and sell small group training?
• How do you get staff to buy in and follow rules?
• How do you get instructors to not abuse the AV system?
These were real-world problems and we all put our heads together to come up with real-world solutions. I learned a lot from this exercise and was quite surprised by some of the “solutions” facilities currently use. For example, one facility takes the microphone away from instructors for one week if they abuse the equipment. While I am not advocating this, it is a sign that some directors are at the end of their rope and need good management advice.
So, again, thank goodness for preconferences!