I’m a huge fan of the International Spa Association’s annual conference, as my pre-conference blog post will attest. This year was off the charts – my favorite in all my 22 years of attendance. The keynotes were carefully curated to bring unique perspectives to the INNOVATE theme. The show floor of more than 200 booths was vibrant, and chock-full of new and innovative products. The excitement was palpable.
As with every year, the ISPA community gives me the warm fuzzies. In the words of longtime ISPA exhibitor, Mia Richardson, founder of Comphy Co., “The ISPA Conference is the one place where the whole spa community comes together.”
Michael Tompkins, Executive Recruiter for Hutchinson Consulting, presented the ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award to Jean Kolb, former director of wellness for Kohler Waters Spa and founder of Jean Kolb Well By Choice. Jean stressed the opportunities she has been given through ISPA and told the audience of nearly 2300, “You make me better.”
The late Geraldine Howard, co-founder of Aromatherapy Associate, was awarded the ISPA Visionary Award in her memory. Howard’s husband, Captain Peter Redman, accepted the award. Students Kelsey Brink from Florida Gulf Coast University and Margot Mangiarotti of Cornell University were awarded the ISPA Foundation Mary Tabacci Scholarships.
Second-day keynote John Ondrasik received this year’s ISPA Alex Szekely Humanitarian Award for his charitable work, presented by Alex's mother Deborah. Ondrasik compiled five albums to give away to United States troops, with over a million distributed. He also broke new ground by creating a video charity website.
He captivated the audience with heartfelt songs and reflections on innovation and creativity. Talking about the importance of failing “Failure is the key to success,” he said. “If we’re not failing some of the time, we’re not pushing the limits.”
Opening keynote Dr. Brené Brown, best-selling author and research professor at University of Houston, challenged the audience to accept that there is no innovation and creativity without failure: "The only people who innovate are the people standing in the arena getting their butts kicked on occasion...It’s just the physics of courage if you keep putting yourself out there.”
Author, speaker Simon Sinek described how to create "circles of safety" to enhance feelings of trust and confidence in employees, the subject of his latest book Leaders Eat Last. His message resonated with the C-Level Executives and small business owners--I heard from several who were rethinking their customer-centric over an employee-centric focus.
Sinek also stressed that leadership is a skill that needs to be practiced. Similar to a mediation practice, you must practice being kind, speaking words of encouragement and putting staff first. "It is a daily practice, like brushing your teeth. To avoid 'environment paranoia,' a leader must avoid self interest and find a balance of consistency and intensity."
There were so many cool things on the trade show floor, it deserves another blog post. In the words of retail consultant Patti Biro, "The trade show floor was a hub of energy and excitement. The number of new vendors bringing in exciting and engaging lines of jewelry, gift and boutique retail items and retail add ons pushed the quality of the floor to a new level. Spa retail has moved beyond lotions and potions to embrace a wider variety of inventory-and the guests will love it!"
Comment below on your favorite products and equipment from ISPA 2016. Thanks!
(All photos courtesy of ISPA)