The Road Less Traveled - Massage Therapy Events & Conventions

Reprinted with permission from the October, 2009 issue of Massage Today. Complete issue archives and other resources available at

Recently, I have had the opportunity to attend a couple of events off the beaten path from my usual trade show and convention stomping grounds. This year, I wanted to make a concerted effort to find out what is going on in some of the places I had not historically frequented.

Most years, you can be sure I will be at the American Massage Therapy Association's national convention, as well as the Florida State Massage Therapy Association (FSMTA) convention. These two powerhouse annual events are always informative, fun and full of friendly faces. Some I have known for years, and more that I have the privilege of meeting for the first time. I will most definitely be in attendance for these events in 2009, but this year, I thought I might branch out a bit more and see what is happening in other parts of the world as well.

A few months ago, I attended the Ontario Massage Trade Conference in Ontario, Canada and the New England Regional Conference in Framingham, Mass., and most recently, I attended the World Massage Festival in New Braunfels, Texas. I have also presented on Massage Therapy Radio. All of these events have opened my eyes to the importance of supporting more local events as well as the larger and more nationally recognized events. At these venues, I have had the incredible fortune of meeting therapists from all walks of life, coming together for a common goal; they come to learn and be a part of a community. The education available at these events is certainly worthy of note with well-known names heading the lineup, and the exhibit halls were packed with vendors and products for massage and wellness! I was able to slow down a little bit and experience these events not only from a vendor's perspective, but also from the attendees. In being afforded this different view, I am more excited than ever before about learning of more regional venues, and seeing what they have to offer.

I would offer this piece of advice to anyone who thinks they may not need to attend these events because of cost, time, inconvenience, or any of the countless other excuses we can come up with: SIMPLY GO. Being surrounded by your peers in a place that has the profession you love at heart, immersed in an environment of healers like yourself is truly something every therapist should experience and take part in. I can certainly attest to the value of these events for students just starting their career, as it is an event saturated in industry leaders, both locally and nationally recognized, sharing first-hand knowledge and tips to aide them in building a better, more lucrative career. If you are a school owner, instructor, director, or involved with education in any way, I urge you to work to make it mandatory for your students to spend time at these events. The exposure to the various modalities and products to support them is tremendous; moreover, gaining a sense of the "State of Affairs" in the massage industry as a whole is absolutely invaluable.

I had the distinct honor of being invited to sit on a panel of industry leaders at the recent World Massage Festival, and the discussion was open to attendees in the form of a question and answer forum. It was truly an eye opener for me, as I listened to questions of the attendees and the answers from my fellow panel members. I learned more in those hours about the grass roots industry and the issues the average therapists face daily than I could have learned in any other forum. I was honored to be involved with that panel discussion, and the take away I obtained from that experience is quite simply: "get involved."

What do I mean by get involved? In my vernacular, it means get off your duff and volunteer; go out and advocate for your profession by being an active member of your AMTA chapter and its events; become a part of the groups speaking on your behalf at the state level where decisions effecting your practice are made; make your voice heard in the medical field by advocating massage; support fundraising for further massage research which quantifies the positive outcomes of massage therapy; and above all else, BE an active part of this great community of healers.

In New England, I was delighted to meet so many therapists already in practice as well as those on the cusp of beginning their career. The professionalism in the attendees as it regards to their self-esteem and belief in massage as true therapy without exception or compromise was inspiring! In Ontario, I met people who cared for the profession, industry, and sustainability of the products they use. Their focus was on the ecology and the footprint they leave as much as it was upon healing the human condition. And in speaking on Massage Therapy Radio, I was asked questions about products, about business, about economics and about the fundraising event, Sanctuary, which Massage Warehouse facilitates to bring greater awareness and funding for massage therapy research. Each of these events has shown me another beautiful facet of massage therapy, and makes me proud to be a part of this community of healers and custodians of the planet.

There are so many things you can do to support and broaden the scope of acceptance and growth for the future of the massage industry. The one thing that will absolutely guarantee stagnation and industry deterioration is to opt to do nothing. To be one of the ones who is "too busy" or "too tired" to be involved is to be one of the root causes of quagmire. Great changes occur because of people willing to make the change, and willing to do what needs to be done to effect positive outcome. Those who actively learn, attend, and present" are making the active choice to be involved. Call them activists, advocates, or any other moniker your heart desires, but the bottom line remains the same. These people get it done, and without them we have no growth and no future.

I choose to be one of those who gets it done. And I want to learn more, do more, be a part of more and create positive momentum and energy for the profession I love so much, and offer my support to those who choose to do the same. I will continue to seek out the road less traveled, as well as continue to frequent and support the tried and true paths I now know so well. I will be a part of the growth, and I will do all I can to leave a legacy of hope, activism, encouragement and support for this incredible profession and the beautiful souls who comprise it.

What do you choose to do?