Matrix brand fitness equipment will be on display this Nov. 19 and 20 at the 34th annual Athletic Business Conference & Expo, just as it has been for eight previous years. What keeps the company coming back?
"We find value in attending Athletic Business primarily due to the amount of reach it provides the Matrix brand," says Ashley Haberman, assistant marketing manager at Matrix parent company Johnson Health Tech in Cottage Grove, Wis. "We are able to get our fitness solutions in front of myriad audiences, including education and athletics, active aging, rehab, municipalities, YMCAs, health clubs and the military."
For Matt Lalonde, vice president of sales and marketing at Kalamazoo, Mich.-based spectator seating manufacturer (and eight-time ABC exhibitor) Interkal, the reach extends beyond U.S. borders. "The Athletic Business Conference is one of the most productive conferences that we attend annually," Lalonde says. "I have found the conference to be a good source for project leads and a good place to meet prospective representation both domestically and internationally."
The quality of prospects encountered is just one reason Rexdale, Ont.-based Covermaster, manufacturer of sports surface protection solutions, has put ABC on its exhibiting calendar for more than 25 years. "The professional attendees at ABC are our ideal target market," says Covermaster vice president Ken Curry. "We find that the people we meet are the key decision-makers for the projects that we are involved with. We also appreciate the large turnout at the conference and enjoy the face-to-face communication that ABC provides."
Long-term relationships forged on the trade show floor have established ABC as a valued annual destination for many vendors. In an effort to better welcome first-time exhibitors into the fold, the Athletic Business Conference & Expo staff is rolling out, well, a carpet of a different color inside the inaugural New Exhibitor Pavilion.
Occupying premium space within ABC's exhibit hall at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the pavilion will announce its presence with a distinct carpet-and-drape color scheme, hanging signage and floor decals. According to ABC exhibits director Adam O'Brien, 20 10-by-10-foot booth spaces sold out this year, prompting plans for an expanded New Exhibitor Pavilion when ABC visits Orlando in 2016. "The whole purpose is to give them a little extra visibility with the attendees," says O'Brien, who adds that perks also include an icon next to first-time exhibitors' listings in the ABC guide and a push notification on the ABC app. "We want these guys to have a really good first show, and then come back year after year."
For those companies that do return, it's always advantageous to have a new product to exhibit. "Interkal will be introducing the Vision platform chair and the Aura stadium chair in New Orleans," Lalonde says. "These new seating options will offer unparalleled comfort and stability."
"This has been an exciting year for Matrix, and to cap it off we look forward to presenting several of our new product offerings for attendees to try out for themselves," says Haberman. "They can stop by the booth to see our recently updated 7xi cardio with the exclusive, science-based Sprint 8 program. Attendees can also experience the versatility of the new Connexus group training system, or discover how the new In-Trinity board opens up possibilities in yoga, strength and flexibility."
Covermaster will be showcasing its diverse product line, which includes a new inflatable tarp system. Says Curry, "We always strive to have industry-leading products and solutions in our booth at ABC."
Brimming with confidence that they have the answers attendees are looking for, ABC exhibitors encourage lots of questions. "I hope that the attendees have many questions for the exhibitors," Lalonde says.
"The conference is a great opportunity to learn what different industries have to offer." Adds Haberman, "The show floor will present attendees with experts from several different fields, so there's a wealth of information available to maximize potential for growth. Interact, listen and ask questions."
Attendees should "allow more time than they think they will need," adds Curry, "as invariably they will have more conversations of longer length than they anticipate."
In the interest of trade show time efficiency, Curry encourages attendees to study the exhibitors list in advance, create a map of top priority visits and, if possible, make enough time to take it all in. "The ABC trade show floor offers an impressive array of solutions to facility managers. It is the largest single event that they can visit and learn about the latest cutting-edge technologies and products for their industry," he says. "They should take the time to view all of the exhibitors' booths as they walk the floor, as there are many more solutions and unique ideas to problems that they may currently be facing."
For Curry, and no doubt countless other veteran ABC exhibitors, the learning goes both ways. "We always appreciate the chance to speak with past clients who take the time to stop by our booth to provide great feedback on previous purchases of our products that they have made," Curry says. "We also look forward to keeping up with industry trends and gaining further insight into new projects."
ABC FLASHBACK: THE ORIGINAL 51 EXHIBITORS
Athletic Business magazine was born in 1977 under the name Athletic Purchasing & Facilities, but the first conference didn't occur until five years later. Held in Chicago in 1982, the first AP&F Facilities and Equipment Conference featured many exhibitors that can still be found on the ABC trade show floor today, though maybe under a different name. How many do you recognize?
ATEC Equipment Co.
Basketball Products, International
The Carlson Corporation, Architects
The Channon Corporation
Hastings & Chivetta, Architects
Heery Fabrap, Architects/Engineers
Hydra Gym Athletics
International Sports Surfaces
Keiser Sports Health
Rossman, Schneider, Gadbery, Architects, Engineers
Royal Athletic Surfaces
Supreme Allweather Surfaces
The Tarp Shop
Tully Associates, Inc., Architects/Engineers
Vitality Fitness Centers, Inc.
Western Wood Structures
This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of Athletic Business with the title "The Place to Be"