I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that this time, last week, we were on a plane traveling back to Florida after three action-packed days in Chicago.
I was fortunate enough to be one of the representatives of the company(ies) that I work for to learn, engage and share with a wide variety of influential women, incredible brands, and fellow athletic and fitness professionals from all over the country.
As somewhat of a “first” event, I was not sure what to expect, but after experiencing it firsthand, I can definitely say that it was something I hope to is offered again, and that I am invited to :)
It’s taken me a few days to whittle down my thoughts, but I think I’ve finally organized everything into somewhat of an orderly fashion…so here goes!
The entire “Event,” held over three days at the beautiful Chicago Navy Pier Convention Hall, was comprised of three basic components – the trade show, a speaker series, and a few organized social events (for details, here’s the event guide). I’ll get back to this in a minute!
Attendees of the event generally fit into three categories: Exhibitors, Retailers and Guests. All the exhibitors were responsible for maintaining their booths in the trade show, which was open two of the three days of the event – and were also welcome to join the speaker series and social events as time allowed. Retailers (like us) were invited to attend as many speaker sessions and social events as our schedules allowed, as well as create and cultivate dialogues with the many vendors on the show floor. Finally, guests (such as the speakers) were out and about, happy to answer questions and speak with attendees.
The Trade Show
Other than race expos, I had never really experienced a trade show floor before, so this was pretty exciting for me. There were a wide variety of vendors – from major players like Champion, Brooks, and Skechers, to new and up and coming brands like Momentum Jewelry and one of my perennial favorites – social media superstars, Sparkly Soul headbands.
It took us about two days to sweep the entire floor, chatting, exchanging business cards, and attending mini-sessions within the trade show. Since my colleagues and I are not the apparel or accessory buyers, we were not there to ink deals, but more to check out the possibilities. We brought back a lot of information for our buyers and store owners, though, and as the social media, communication and marketing folks we are, did our best to share what we were seeing, hearing and experiencing via twitter and instagram.
The Speaker Series
With our travel time, we unfortunately missed the first two speaker sessions of the event, but the ones that we were able to attend were insightful and engaging.
Two of my favorite speakers were Kelly McDonald, of McDonald Marketing (not affiliated with the fast food chain) and ironically enough, Jan Fields, former President of McDonald’s (yes, the fast food chain). I took extensive notes on the key points that both presented (and even livetweeted) and though each had a very different message to present, both resonated with me equally.
With Kelly McDonald’s “Mommy Marketing,” we learned the importance of “speaking to” the true “IT” girls of modern buying power – MOMMIES! Her discussion centered around the mindsets of moms, which could be wrapped up into four key values, including:
- Nurturing Relationships
- Sharing (Connecting with Other Moms)
- Doing it Better and Simpler
- Raising Happy & Healthy Families
I loved the fact that Kelly’s presentation utilized relevant and recognizable examples – such as a tie-in to the Disney Parks Mom’s Panel, as she explained the importance of moms being connected!
Jan Fields’ closing address, “Leadership Lessons on the Run,” was of a much different tone, yet it was one that I can’t stop thinking about. As a female leader, she stressed the importance of making your message clear, taking care of yourself, and pushing to reach goals. Fields recalled many specific scenarios from both her professional and personal life that illustrated the importance of confidence and strong will – important skills on and off the track, for sure!
The Social Events
This is where the event organizers really outdid themselves!
As a group, we attended four social events – what can we say, we love talking and meeting new people!
On the first day, there was a Welcome Reception at the Navy Pier’s Lakeview Terrace. Originally planned to be held on the rooftop, it was moved indoors after the threat of stormy weather – but the indoor locale did not dampen our spirits! At this fun mixed, we were given great event-emblazoned pullovers (thanks to Leslie Jordan!) and sipped on Reebok signature cocktails.
On the morning of Day 2, we woke up with the sun and attended the Lakefront Fun Run (presented by Runner’s World) and were treated to hydation by Nuun. We even got to test out the Mino, BIC BANDS, and the SPIbelt - and if we so desired, Altra shoes!
Finally, on the last morning of the event, we rode the elevator up to the top floor of the W for a special workout, presented by Vibram called POUND Fitness! I had never done anything like that before, so it was kind of fun to try a different workout, and bond with my coworkers :)
All in all…
The event, in my eyes, was definitely a success. We were able to learn more about how to attract consumers to our retail offerings, gained a broader knowledge of what other products are on the market, and most important, made great connections with a lot of fantastic people.
My only constructive feedback to offer would be that of logistical support suggestions. Although the convention center was just a mile walk from the host hotel, the W Lakeshore (which was awesome, BTW), it could prove to be a bit long for some participants – and even though there were advertised pedicabs, we never saw signage so we did not partake. Also, on the paddleboard day, we were wandering around aimlessly for a while before being corralled into the demonstration, and then ended up walking back to the hotel afterward since we didn’t know where to go to catch the bus back. Nothing major!
While we were in Chicago, we talked to so many different people – it was interesting to hear their perspectives on the event as well, as many of them had much more extensive experience – for example, some saw this event was very small scale, while others were overwhelmed at the numbers and crowds!
As my colleagues and I continue to sort our notes and thoughts on the myriad of promotional material and information we brought back, I can’t help but smile as I think about all the fun we had in just a few days – and honestly, the organizers could not have picked a better place to hold this event!! As my first visit to Chicago, it made me even more excited to return in October for the marathon :)
Did you attend the Running and Fitness Event for Women? If not, s it something that you’d like to experience? Any questions?