Endlich! SMART Summit Brings Fitness Industry Together in Europe

    Finally! The fitness industry gathered for the IHRSA SMART Summit in Munich, Germany, from November 17-19. Here’s a taste of what happened.

    Last week, the Inaugural IHRSA SMART Summit, a concurrent event of FitnessConnected, went off without a hitch. Despite COVID-19 concerns and increased travel restrictions, more than 150 fitness industry professionals from 18 countries participated in the three-day event in Munich, Germany.

    From November 17-19, fitness industry professionals connected with industry leaders to discover SMART (Sales, Marketing, Analysis, Retention, Technology) business solutions. The Summit set the focal point on creative problem-solving and anticipating where industry trends and markets are moving. Attendees experienced:

    • keynote presentations and a world class club operator panel discussion,

    • education sessions from some of the top minds in and outside the industry,

    • live tours through Munich’s leading health clubs,

    • access to more than 100 health and fitness exhibitors during the three-day FitnessConnected trade show, and more.

    “Like IHRSA 2021 in Dallas, the IHRSA SMART Summit demonstrated its value by bringing key industry leaders together in Munich to network and learn,” said Jay Ablondi, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global products. “There is clear optimism for the future as club operators see a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.”

    “People in Munich were festive and eager to connect again,” Ablondi said. “The FitnessConnected team was a pleasure to work with and had all the appropriate safety measures in place.”

    For those who weren’t able to attend, here are key highlights and takeaways from the IHRSA SMART Summit.

    IHRSA SMART Summit Keynote Presentations

    On day one, Bryan O’Rourke, managing director of Fitness24Seven Thailand, CEO of Vedere Ventures, and IHRSA Board member, presentedAccelerating Into the Future of Fitness, sponsored by Perfect Gym. This session revealed the four primary areas of planning for your business and how to execute opportunities for future success.

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    On November 18, Cate Trotter, head of trends for Insider Trends, presented Innovation and New Revenue Streams for Fitness Businesses, sponsored by Gympass. Trotter’s presentation unpacked and amplified trends and areas of revenue for health clubs, gyms, and studios to give operators and owners a leg up over the next 6-12 months.

    Munich Health Club Tours

    The IHRSA SMART Summit commenced with a walking tour through Munich city center. Fitness professionals networked and checked out local fitness clubs PRIME TIME Fitness, ELBGYM, and FitX for inspiration.

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    From upper left clockwise: PRIME TIME Fitness, FitX, and ELBGYM.

    A Festive Bavarian Night Out

    To unwind, socialize, and celebrate the SMART Summit’s gathering of fitness industry professionals, an opening night Bavarian dinner was held at Zum Franziskaner, a traditional local restaurant in the heart of the prestigious Opera/Maximilianstr district in Munich. Over 200 guests enjoyed the Bavarian atmosphere, food, and spirits. The evening festivities were generously sponsored by Milon and PRIME TIME Fitness.

    FitnessConnected Trade Show

    The three-day trade show opened on Thursday, November 18, showcasing new equipment, products, and services. Learn more about the innovative products.

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    An attendee takes ICAROS equipment for a spin at the FitnessConnected trade show.

    Education & Panel Discussions

    Education sessions and panel discussions stayed true to the SMART themes. Proven leaders covered each category, for example:

    • Sales: Henrik Gockel, founder and managing director of PRIME TIME Fitness Germany and IHRSA Europe Council member

    • Marketing: Alan Leach, CEO, sales trainer, and marketing and sales director of West Wood Club and IHRSA Board Chair

    • Analysis (market): Gonzalo Artiach, co-founder and chairman of DeciDATA

    • Retention: José Teixeira, head of customer experience of SC Fitness and IHRSA Board member

    • Technology: Guy Griffiths, director of GG Fit, Ltd.

    A noteworthy panel discussion included Wednesday’s CEO panel, moderated by Maria Angeles de Santiago Restoy, owner of Management Around Sports (MAS). Participants included Annie Fältman, owner of 360 Träningscenter, Juan del Río Nieto, CEO of VivaGym Group, David Mazerot, vice president of L’Appart Fitness, and Martin Seibold, CEO of Life Fit Group. The group tackled how to attract, retain, and motivate people—arguably the number one challenge and opportunity for leaders right now.

    Networking & Connecting With Friends

    As the only in-person fitness industry trade expo in Europe this autumn, the SMART Summit allowed industry professionals to gather to reconnect and share their experiences among old friends and new ones. And after two long years of virtual-only meetings and events, the SMART Summit was truly the place to be. John Harris, managing director and owner of Stars Fitness Wien Schottenring and IHRSA Europe Council member, summed it up well. "I haven't left my little area in Austria in 20 months, thank you for giving me this opportunity to learn and for bringing everyone together again," he said.

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    Bryan O'Rourke, Henrik Gockel, and Alan Leach reunite at the IHRSA SMART Summit.

    The FitnessConnected expo will return in November 2022. Information about the next IHRSA SMART Summit will be announced in the coming months. The next IHRSA event will be IHRSA 2022, the Annual IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show, June 22-24, 2022, in Miami Beach, Florida.

    Author avatar

    Sami Smith

    Sami Smith is IHRSA's Senior Manager of Digital Communications, working to shape the organization's image on various digital platforms. On a typical day, she creates content, delivers impactful communications, and executes targeted marketing efforts to keep IHRSA at the forefront of the industry. Outside of the office, you can find her exploring new destinations, indulging in food, or participating in just about any sport.