Organized by the European Outdoor Group (EOG) in collaboration with Assosport and the Italian Outdoor Group (IOG), the European Outdoor Summit (EOS) attracted 270 delegates in Treviso on Oct. 4 and 5. The EOS will take place next year in the Swedish city of Malmö, which is easily reachable from the airport of Copenhagen. Like the first EOS in Stockholm four years ago, it will be organized with the collaboration of the Scandinavian Outdoor Group.

Last month's EOS drew praise for the quality of the attendees, who had plenty of opportunities for networking, and the quality of most of the speakers, who engaged the audience around the central theme of the conference: “It all starts with the consumer.”

As John Jansen, president of the EOG pointed out, the outdoor industry's common goal is to excite the consumer as the consumer decides what to purchase. He invited managers to get out of their “comfort zone,” in view of the declining growth of the market, and to reach out to a larger number of potential customers, finding their own niche for their differentiation from the fashion brands and capitalizing on what they stand for.

The audience got into high gear with the first keynote speech, delivered by the baseball coach, Brian Farley, who exhorted the executives in the room in invest in the “growth mindset” of their employees, making them interested, passionate and persevering.

Farley led the Dutch baseball team to World Cup victory in 2011 – an incredible feat considering that there are just about 25,000 players in the Netherlands, probably the same as in some neighborhoods of New York. Farley went out of his way to identify the motivation of each of the players.

While persevering to make up for the team's technical shortcomings, he focused on the mindset of the players. He said he aimed to place them in the “stretch zone” where they were challenged and expectant – in contrast with the frustration and anxiety caused by the “panic zone” - tearing down any perception of potential failure. One of the tricks to this end was to create training that was competitive but had realistic objectives to reach over a particular period of time.

People are the most important “products” of a company, said Farley, suggesting that companies should invest in their employees before investing in their consumers. They should be driven to develop a sense of mission for the creation of something that matters and for improving their collective performance.

Noting that a good self-image is cultivated from a young age through recognition and rewards, Farley said that a positive mindset can be developed by embracing challenges and from being praised for the value of effort, seen as a path toward mastery, or from doing things better than others.

In another speech out of the box, Richard Kastelein outlined the development of Bitcoins and other immutable ledgers that have created entirely new platforms for exchanges. The founder and publisher of Blockchain News explained that Bitcoin has created a new approach to financial transactions, doing away with banks. Similar systems to remove middlemen may well affect areas such as property and law, he suggested. Examples that may be relevant to the outdoor industry included immutable ledgers that provide exact records on products and related transactions, thus supposedly adding transparency to the supply chain.

Among other current topics, Mark Held, secretary general of the EOG, warned about the challenges brought by “thunderous” technological change, particularly through the internet. Accordingly, several sessions were devoted to the use of data analytics. Others dealt with the stimulation of outdoor participation, sustainability, the relations between fashion and outdoor, the collective action being taken by the industry in the U.S. and other topics. We'll summarize some of the speeches in our coming issues.

Located north of Venice, Treviso was a good choice for the convention. More than 200 companies in Italy are involved in the outdoor sector, and most of them have their offices in Montebelluna, Asolo and other towns near Treviso, close to mountains, lakes and other areas that are suited for many outdoor activities.

As a result, Italy was the main source of delegates at the convention, representing 23 percent of the registered attendance. The proportion of Spanish attendees at the EOS in Barcelona last year had been much lower. Participants from the U.K. represented half of the delegates at the 2015 EOS in Sheffield.

Assosport and the IOG took the opportunity of the convention to organize a contest on Facebook for the best outdoor shop in Italy. The candidates posted photos of their stores. The winners were RRTrek Il Rifugio of Rome and Stile Alpino, which is located in Morbegno, a town near Sondrio. Both of them got a similar number of likes, although the latter has only been open for six months.