Building Communities – Retention Convention goes virtual for 2020

More than 1,700 industry professionals from 47 different countries joined Dr. Paul Bedford’s virtual Retention Convention on 3 December, making it the sector’s largest online event of the year.

The documentary-style conference brought together speakers from around the world to discuss Building Communities. Retention Guru, Dr. Paul Bedford said: “I knew we couldn’t replicate the Retention Convention in its traditional way, so we didn’t try. The event was a mix of pre recorded and live material designed to be more like an extended webinar, with our fantastic speakers sharing their know-how on turning customers into communities.”

Bedford played an emotive video from Magna Vitae, demonstrating how the trust had created a true, family-like community within its facilities. Bedford said as an industry we need to showcase this type of content more widely, to prove we are not just hard core training, but health care providers that contribute massively to society.

The convention was opened by award-winning Australian studio owner, Amanda Bracks’ session, ‘Making People Feel Like They Belong’. Bracks’ top tips revolved around getting members to attend. “For some people the gym is a place they go. For others it’s a place they belong. This is what you want,” she said. “Everything is about inclusivity and encouraging people to attend as much as possible.”

énergie’s Learning and Development manager, Lauren Moate, told us her journey from énergie member to énergie employee in her session ‘Creating a community, not just a club’.

Lauren shared her Super Six tips, which included a world-class VIP welcome, every visit; daily dialogue with members to create a deep and meaningful relationship; every shift is showtime, put on your best performance; go tribal by promoting group exercise, as members that work together stay longer; yes, it’s personal, get to know each member so you can deliver an experience on their terms and; until next time, find out when they’re back and start over again.

“When a member cancels, take it personally. They’re actually breaking up with you,” said Moate. “If members aren’t getting good customer service it’s because you’re choosing not to give it to them. Embed this in your team as a non negotiable. This will create a community and that will make members stay.”

Gillian Reeves delivered a thought-provoking session around ‘Building Communities; the difference between Big Box and Boutique’. Reeves, who now owns the Yoga Hub studio, was previously responsible for Virgin Active’s Group Exercise, as well as Head of Instructor Development at EMD UK.

She said: “I have a fascination with connection – what it is to have meaningful relationships that encourage and uplift others. How do you feel when you think about a good relationship you have with another person? This is how you want customers to feel when they come to you.

“Have you asked customers how they feel about their experience? Do you know their names? Why they come? It’s easy to set business values and a mission statement, but harder to live by if it doesn’t come from the heart. The people that succeed are those with soft skills who can interact. Good community builders simply love people.”

The all-female cast for 2020 included Stacey Seward Vandiver, owner and CEO of US-based group fitness education and subscription brand, SoulBody Fitness, who showed videos of club owners to demonstrate ‘The Power of Community through Group Fitness’.

One advocate, Carrie Kepple, who is IHRSA Chair and owner and CEO of Styles Studios, explained their ‘best of boutique’ concept, which sees four unique studios offering completely different experiences, all within one big club.

She said: “We’ve flipped the traditional model. We have a village of studios in one big space and classes are king. The gym floor is just a nice to have. We use a lot of technology to make the member experience as frictionless as possible. All this helps us keep members engaged; they don’t have to go all over town to fulfil their exercise needs.”

Named one of IHRSA’s Women Who Inspire in 2019, Marisa Hoff didn’t disappoint as she talked about building communities through social media, stating the similarities in social media marketing across all industries.

“The key word in social media is social. It’s not about selling, it’s a place for engagement and consistency is vital to success,” explained Hoff, as she worked through her three top tips, Recruit, Retain and Refer.

Anyone interested in accessing a copy of the event should email

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