FIBO 2017 was a fantastic experience. I have been anticipating attending ever since I was hired here at SportsArt America, especially since my position as Global Marketing Manager often has me working with our international teams and distributors. Between the chance to meet in person with people I’ve only interacted with digitally and all the fun stories about past shows from those who attended years before, FIBO grew more exciting and intimidating as the days to the trip counted down. Sure I had heard a lot, but what was I really supposed to expect?

Now that I know first-hand, here’s a summary of what I’ve learned for future FIBO newbies:

So to start off — what is FIBO?

There are tons of fitness, health, and wellness trade shows that happen every week of every month all over the globe. For example, IHRSA is the major trade show for the industry in America. FIBO, in comparison, is the major trade show for the rest of the world and could probably fit ten IHRSAs inside of it. It has been set up in Cologne, Germany since 2013 and happens in early April every year. It has grown so large over the years that it had to be divided into three smaller shows within it: Power, Passion, and Expert.

 

FIBO Power primarily focuses on martial arts/self-defense, weight training, and bodybuilding. The halls dedicated to Power are bursting with heavy blasts of intense music, forests of shelves of nutritio
nal supplements, and half-naked athletes showing off their god-like physiques. I took a lot of videos while I walked those halls, solely because holding my phone over my head was the only way to see over the huge crowds of people gathered around every stand!

FIBO Passion was significantly less intense, as it focused on fitness as a lifestyle. The hall I explored was all about group fitness, which was full to the brim with live classes: a huge Zumba stage, pool for water aerobics, and so many trampolines were just a few of what I witnessed while walking around. While Power revolved around the super athletic individuals, Passion emphasized the wellness community and the accessibility to healthy lifestyles no matter your age or level of physical fitness. The contrast of the two segments side-by-side was a great display of the variety one can find in the industry.

But it was in FIBO Expert that I spent the majority of my time, as that segment of the trade show — the largest part that fills nine halls! — is dedicated to the business side of the industry. Expert is dedicated to shedding light on the companies that provide fitness, health, and wellness services or products. From cryogenic therapy tanks to mom-and-infant workout classes (FitDankBaby was my team’s favorite stand aside from our own) to fitness equipment, you can find a company that provides almost anything. Think of it as a behind-the-scenes look at who really moves the industry forward and gives businesses to speak with their customers about who they are.

Lessons Learned Traveling To FIBO 2017

Everyone’s trek to FIBO will be different based on where they start. For me personally, the trip from Seattle to Cologne was particularly long — a total of ten hours each way by plane! — but still somewhat easy to handle compared to when I finally arrived. Between walking through the streets of Germany, searching for taxis at various times of the day, and taking public transportation, I learned a lot! Here are my most important lessons:

  • Imagine the look on my face when I realized we were being led outside.

    If you fly into Keflavik International Airport (in Iceland) on the way, dress warmly. Some planes are parked far from the building and require passengers to walk outdoors for a short distance. Don’t be like me stomping through the snow in a sundress!

  • Make sure you’re certain what train you’re taking and where when taking the long-distance train from Frankfurt to Cologne. We missed our first attempt at catching our train and got set back a full hour! There aren’t many benches in the station, either, so be prepared to sit on the floor or stand.
  • Taxi cab drivers only take cash, so always have some with you if only for that. On the other hand, all taxi drivers were happy to provide us with change and receipts! So that was really nice. You’ll also want to identify Taxi pick-up spots near your hotel if possible!
  • The metro station train ticket booth — at least the one I found — is exact change only, so make sure you have some coins or pray there are good samaritans on the platform with you like the ones that helped me! (Luckily for most of my team, there were plenty of people who also spoke at least some English and were polite enough to help us out when we were lost.)
  • Keep an eye on your belongings! I heard plenty of stories from colleagues on how they had their passports stolen from their pockets and bags that were taken off of chairs in restaurants. Never leave your items unattended and always keep your passport, wallet, and cell phone in pockets that you can constantly check with a quick pat!
  • The biggest travel lesson I learned while on this trip, however, was actually on my way out of Germany: Pepper spray is illegal in Europe.  I committed a crime just by having it attached to my key ring as I came through security. Since I had originally gone through security in Seattle, where it was legal, no one flagged me. But leaving Germany was a whole other story, and I had to be spoken to by a police officer before they let me go. Who would have thought an item bought for self-defense could have put me in jail? Now I know better — and so do you!

What’s It Like On The Floor?

FIBO often runs Thursday through Sunday, with the weekdays open exclusively to people in the industry and the weekends opening its doors to the general public.  The show lasts every day from 9AM to 6PM, so prepare to be on your feet a lot (Dr. Scholl’s inserts are a great investment, not just for FIBO but any tradeshow!) and make sure you eat well to keep your energy up. The convention center has several cafeteria-style buffets that accept most credit cards as well as cash, so take advantage of them if you need to. The food is pretty good!

Depending on your role in your company and what responsibilities you have at your stand, your experience on the floor will vary. For me personally, my time was split between documenting what was happening at the stand on social media and chatting with our distributors and other employees that operated outside of the US. Conversations are definitely going to happen when you’re at FIBO no matter who you are, so drink plenty of water and be ready to listen closely to a variety of accents. And if you can manage to learn a couple phrases in German prior to your trip, you’ll be all the more prepared!

Final Thoughts

FIBO is not just a big trade show that happens to be located in Germany. It is, as I said at the beginning, an experience: a way to immerse yourself into all aspects of the fitness industry and really get to know everyone that is involved. I have opened up roads of communication and spoken with people I would never have before if I didn’t attend, leaving me more passionate and excited to do my job than ever before. If you ever get the chance to attend FIBO, leap at it no matter how intimidating the trip might be. You won’t regret it!

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