What to Expect and How to Prepare for IHRSA 2021

For three days in mid-October, thousands of fitness professionals will descend on Dallas, Texas, for the 40th Anniversary International Convention & Trade Show. Many will gather in person at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, and others will join the event virtually from around the globe.

Whether near or far, we’re all gathering at IHRSA 2021 to celebrate the reopening, rebuilding, and reimagining of our industry through education, networking, innovation, and more.

What to Expect at IHRSA 2021

If you’ve never been to the annual convention or just need to brush up on what to expect, here’s what’s coming your way from October 13-15, 2021:

  • Education: IHRSA is known for its noteworthy keynote speakers and educational sessions, and this year, IHRSA is offering more than 80 sessions. You’ll hear from leading professionals in the health and fitness industry and walk away with ideas and inspiration for your club.
  • Trade show: Whether your club needs state-of-the-art cardio or strength machines or new software, you’ll find the best of what the industry has to offer at the IHRSA 2021 Trade Show. This year, the trade show will feature more than 200 exhibitors.
  • Networking: After more than a year of uncertainty and missed connections, you’re ready to meet like-minded professionals, and IHRSA delivers by bringing together the best and brightest in the fitness industry. For 2021, IHRSA has more than 10 networking events and opportunities on the schedule.
  • Physical fitness: IHRSA wouldn’t be built for fitness pros without offering plenty of fitness and wellness opportunities, right? On Thursday and Friday mornings, you’ll find options for Zumba, Les Mills classes, and more.

IHRSA is also offering an impressive virtual experience for global attendees who can’t enter the USA because of the pandemic or those who’d prefer to stay closer to home. Here’s what to expect if you’re joining virtually:

  • Education: Sessions will be available live, but if you can’t attend live, you’ll be able to watch on demand the next day — and through December 31, 2021 — in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese. 
  • Trade show: You can meet all of the IHRSA exhibitors by visiting their virtual booths.
  • Virtual tours: Tour 10 of the world’s most innovative clubs and see how gyms in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Russia have adapted to meet new and evolving demands.
  • Networking: Just because you aren’t in Dallas doesn’t mean you can’t network! The virtual component will feature plenty of networking opportunities for virtual attendees, too.

As for COVID-19 precautions, you must be vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 test result from within 72 hours to attend. IHRSA is planning to follow local guidelines, so be sure to  before travelling, and pack plenty of masks just in case. Also, remember that those in attendance will have different levels of comfortability, so you may see people in masks even when it’s not required and others will be fist bumping as opposed to shaking hands or giving hugs. Come to IHRSA with an open mind, flexibility, and no judgment!check the IHRSA event website before traveling, and pack plenty of masks just in case.

Remember that those in attendance will have different levels of comfortability, so you may see people in masks even when it’s not required and others will be fist-bumping as opposed to shaking hands or giving hugs. Come to IHRSA with an open mind, flexibility, and no judgment!

How to Plan Your IHRSA Schedule

If you’re looking at the IHRSA schedule and are feeling overwhelmed, we hear you! There are dozens of sessions, roundtables, and other educational events to attend, but you can’t be everywhere at once and also don’t want to drain yourself hopping from session to session. Start by thinking about what you want to take away from IHRSA and pick a few sessions per category that make sense for your business. Here are the categories:

  • Leadership
  • Strategy & Finance
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Member Retention
  • Technology
  • Wellness & Community Programming
  • Industry Partner Education
  • Studio
  • Staffing
  • Legal

For example, if your club needs help with member retention and staffing, you might want to attend “Recruit, Engage and Retain Members Using Proven, High Impact Motivators” with Karlie Intlekofer, a Global Wellness Researcher with Matrix Fitness, and “Breaking Down Silos in Your Gym Business” with Landon Burningham, the Founder, President, & CEO of Physiq Fitness.

But if your gym is struggling with how to leverage social media and technology to boost membership and engagement, you might want to pencil in “Tiktok, Reels, YouTube, and More: Creating Videos Wherever You Are” with Kaitee Anderson Fernandez, IHRSA’s Creative Content Director, or the Digital Marketing Masterclass: Proven Strategies for Your Fitness Business with Alan Leach, CEO of West Wood Clubs.

Don’t Miss the 2021 IHRSA Keynotes

This year’s three IHRSA keynote speakers pack a powerful punch, and we recommend attending all three to get the most out of your experience:

  • Diana Kander: The best-selling author, entrepreneur, and innovation consultant will be speaking on Wednesday from 10:15-11:30 a.m. on “Competing on Value Instead of Price.”
  • Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper: The founder and chairman of Cooper Aerobics will deliver his keynote address on Thursday from 8:30-9:45 a.m. on “Preventative Medicine: It’s More Beneficial & Cost Effective to Prevent Disease Than it is  to Find a Cure.” He’s also speaking on Wednesday from 4:15-5 p.m. about “The Importance of Fitness in Solving the Health Care Crisis.”
  • Scott Stratten: The best-selling author and president of UnMarketing will deliver his keynote, “The Age of Disruption: Everything Has Changed and Nothing is Different” on Friday from 8:30-9:45 a.m.

And don’t miss Thursday’s “Spark: BIG Ideas — POWERFUL Talks!” featuring three short presentations from business leaders that promise to be thought provoking and ignite powerful conversations:

  • “The Emotional Power of Physical Activity: Leveraging Behavioral Economics to Win New Members”
  • “Building a Growth Mindset Culture for your Staff and Members”
  • “Cooking Up Success: Why Restaurant Marketing is Good for Your Business”

If you haven’t registered yet, there’s still time! Register for IHRSA 2021 here.

Don’t Forget the Trade Show

One of the best parts about any conference is the trade show, where you can network, learn about the latest industry trends, try out state-of-the-art products first-hand, and find technology partners to help take your club to the next level. The trade show will be open on Thursday, October 14, and Friday, October 15.

You can find a full list of the IHRSA 2021 exhibitors at this link, and you can even create a list of brands you’d like to visit during the trade show on Thursday and Friday. Don’t forget to stop by Booth 2500 to see what we’ve been up to at ASF! Check out the IHRSA floor map to find us.

Bonus: Fun Things to Do in Dallas

If you happen to be arriving early or staying late — or you just have a few holes in your calendar — here are some fun things to do in Dallas near IHRSA 2021:

  • Cooper Aerobics Center: Don’t miss a visit to the birthplace of aerobics: The Cooper Aerobics Center. The 30-acre campus features a clinic, fitness center, spa, and hotel.
  • JFK Memorial: For history buffs, check out the concrete monument to President John F. Kenney in downtown Dallas. The monument was designed by influential postmodern architect Philip Johnson, a Kennedy family friend.
  • The State Fair of Texas: Always wanted to experience a larger-than-life state fair? The Texas take on the summer classic runs through October 17, 2021, in Dallas. Get your tickets at BigTex.com.
  • The Dallas Farmers Market: Featuring shops open seven days per week, a genuine farmers market, restaurants, and more, the Dallas Farmers Market is a downtown staple. Learn more at DallasFarmersMarket.org.
  • Reunion Tower: Get a 360-degree view of Dallas from this observation deck hundreds of feet above the city. Get your tickets at ReunionTower.com.

Also, don’t forget to eat plenty in Dallas! With plenty of options for BBQ and seasonal, down-home Texas fare, Dallas has hundreds of restaurants to choose from.

See You Soon at IHRSA 2021 in Dallas

We hope you’ll stop by Booth 2500 to say hello and learn about our flexible, all-in-one solution that gives your members the tools they want and your team the tools it needs to stand out from the competition. If you can’t make it by the booth and want to learn more, you can contact us to learn more about how we can help your club run at peak performance.



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About ASF

ASF is a leading technology company that provides software, payment processing and customer support to the fitness industry including gyms, health clubs and martial arts studios. Since 1973, we’ve given gym and fitness club owners the ability to generate more revenue through member engagement and stronger communities.

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