So I’m sitting in the Seatac airport after spending the last four days in California at a conference. And what an incredible four days it was.
There were some really good presentations and some great opportunities to connect with the icons of our industry. I’m talking about being able to hang out and have a beer with people like Mike Boyle, the guru of hockey strength and conditioning. Or Mark Verstegen of Athletes’ Performance, Dr. John Berardi, Dr. Greg Rose from the Titleist Performance Institute and legendary strength coach Dan John.
I’m pretty sure our intern Kayla was laughing on the inside every time I got excited to talk to one of them or get a picture.
But that’s not what I wanted to share with you in this blog.
Instead I wanted to share with you how I select the sessions I attend and learn. On your behalf.
Yes, on your behalf.
Because I see myself kind of like a consultant for all of you.
You invest in me in a variety of ways and I take this responsility seriously so you get the best return on investment.
In the end what separates us from our competitors is our knowledge and our people. We put together the best group of people to work for us and then invest in the best learning opportunities to make sure our skill set stays cutting-edge.
And so with that in mind here are my Top 10 Rules for Attending a Fitness Conference.
Rule #1 – A Great Lecture Needs to be Useful
What I mean by this is that there needs to be some substance to the presentation. You could have the funniest comedian at the front of the room, give them a powerpoint with s&c pictures and slides and keep the room entertained for the hour with their comedy.
But at the end of the hour does this help your business? Is your skillset at the next level? Have you been challenged to rethink your position on a topic?
Or have you simply been entertained?
I now look for presentations that are useful. And if they are interesting, all the better.
But in terms of a return on investment, useful always trumps entertaining.
Rule #2 – Mastery of Subject Area
One of my expectations from a presenter is to be an expert in their area. They don’t have to be perfect in all areas. But in the topic they have selected to present they should able to field questions on their topic.
And I don’t mean a know-it-all. Or someone who tries to answer every question.
But every now and again I’ll sit in on a presentation where a statemenet is made that cannot be backed up. There is not supporting research. And they don’t offer a reasonable explanation.
For example, a sprint coach at this conference said a particular hamstring exercise is bad and will result in injury.
I don’t really care for these type of unqualified statements. Maybe say ‘doing this exercise a certain way’ or ‘certain people shouldn’t do this exercise’ or ‘we’ve seen injuries occur when this exercise is done under these conditions’.
But an exercise doesn’t injure.
People with unbalanced bodies, weakness, lack of proper execution of a lift…performing an exercise could become injured. But the exercise itself?
Unfortunately, this to me was someone who wasn’t an expert (with respect to injuries) talking about something they couldn’t back up (the cause for the injury).
Rule #3 – Resist Tunnel Vision
Early on in my career I would attend a conference. And learn something new. Maybe it was a new core exercise. Or a new warm-up. Maybe a stretch. It didn’t matter.
Guess what happened at Monday’s training?
Everyone was doing the new thing I learned. Regardless of the goal, the individual, their level of training or my proficiency with coaching this new thing.
Now when I learn something new it’s really hard because sometimes I need to shelve it until it’s appropriate to work into the training programs of the people I work with.
In other words I habe learned to keep my focus on your goal(s) and not become distracted by something new which can get us off course.
Rule #5 – Know When to Unwind
Have you ever tried to work at something mental for hours on end?
Try doing five hours of calculus? Or pull an all-nighter to get a paper done?
What is the quality of your work at the end compared to the start? What was your focus like? Your interest? What about the number of mistakes you make?
At this conference we were up at 630 am and after doing an outdoor workout by the pool (more on that in a later blog) would be at the sessions until as late as 6 pm. Do this for a few days in a round and your mind is going to explode.
So to prevent this from happening I make sure to find some fun things to do like a day at 6 Flags for some insane roller coasters. (you know there is a blog coming on this with pictures as well)
Rule #6 – Invest in Your Core Areas
When you first start out in this field it is a good idea to sample everything.
Attend a session on nutrition. Go sit in on a rehab talk. Find out what is happening in performance training.
Soon you will find out what you are most interested. There will be a spark that is lit that causes you to continue to seek out as much information in this area as possible.
And when this happens your interest soars and your focus becomes clear.
What I try to do is match up what your key goals are and the areas where we are best able to help you. Then I make sure to attend the best sessions that align as closely to these goals as possible.
Rule #7 – Seek Out Relevant Networks
Part of the purpose for attending conferences and events is to meet others in your field. But rather than waiting to arrive to see who’s there, set this up ahead of time.
Scan through the presenters list. And then contact the ones whose presentations you plan on attending. At the event when you got to introduce yourself you’ll have a little more to go on and can establish a better relationship for the future.
It’s amazing what a 20-30 minute conversation can do to further a relationship with a respected indivudual in your field. Within a few minutes I can call upon the top specialists in the world to help me help you. Kinda cool, eh?
Rule #8 – Challenge Your Current Paradigm
After a while in the industry you start to figure out your training principles. You have a certain way of writing your programs. You believe in a particular type of periodization and rely on certain types of equipment more frequently than others.
In other words you begin to form your training philosophy. Which is a good thing. But at the same time you don’t want to be so firmly entrenched in what you believe that you immediately disregard something that comes from the alternate point of view.
I mean wouldn’t the best way to solidify your position be to fully understand what the other side believes? Either you’ll reaffirm your position with more conviction or you’ll learn something new and become better as a result. Because in coaching or training nothing is ever black or white but multiple shades of gray.
Rule #9 – Recognize Toys v. Equipment
Sometimes it’s kind of funny to watch a hands on presentation that includes a workout. And often times there is a novel piece of equipment that is debuted at these events.
And after the presentations attendees to the trade show to buy this new toy.
Is this a good investment?
I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.
But what I do know is this. The human body is the ultimate machine. And ultimate you have exhausted the number of ways to train with this machine first don’t worry about buying all the latest and greatest gadgets out there.
Because here’s the thing.
If this new device does turn out to be something spectacular it will be around for a while. And the price will drop. And there will a 2.0 model with better features. And someone will show an alternatate way to accomplish end result without the gadget.
Rule #10 – Continue the Learning
So what happens after the last session? Nothing right because the conference is over.
After taking some time to let your brain recover from all the info it’s a good idea to look over your notes again. See what you can make sense of. Try and write them out again. Get together with someone you attended with and fill in gaps in each other’s notes. Discuss key concepts so that each understand the presentation completely.
But don’t step there.
Follow up with the people you met. Ask them to send you the notes, slides, content mentioned but not presented during the conference. Set up a time to do an interview with them. Give them your contact info for an new products they release so you can do a review for them. And then keep the dialogue open.
This isn’t gospel. Some won’t agree with how I approach going to a conference. Some would say I take it too seriously. To them I would say I’m here representing some pretty important people and it’s important that I get the best info possible to bring back to them.
It’s good to be back,