Something in the world of floating have you stumped?
Graham and Ashkahn are back to give their recap on the Float Conference. No, not THAT Float Conference, the Russian Float Conference.
The guys got to go speak at the float event on the other side of the world and are reporting back on what that was like, how their industry is shaping up, and some of the lessons we can learn about their industry over there.
Additionally, Graham and Ashkahn lied to you. The show notes will not have a puppet show in them.
Listen to Just the Audio
Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)
Ashkahn: Hey, everybody.
Graham: How’s it going over here?
Ashkahn: Yeah. I mean, it’s going…
Graham: In the good old, wherever you happen to be residing when you listen to this. Or traveling. You don’t have to be living somewhere in order to listen to this.
Ashkahn: You having good weather over there?
Graham: Yeah. Are you? Huh? Answer me.
Ashkahn: Yeah, we’ll wait.
Graham: So I’m-
Ashkahn: The name’s Ashkahn.
Graham: I am Graham.
Ashkahn: And this is the Occasional Solutions Podcast where whenever we feel like it, we record an episode of float information and put it out there.
Graham: And we felt like it.
Ashkahn: This is one of those times.
Graham: Yeah. We just went on a little bit of an adventure. But enough about that. Let’s move on to the float tank knowledge.
Ashkahn: We have some sponsors here… So we just recently went out to Russia, which was pretty exciting because there was a Russian float conference happening.
Graham: Which is really cool. And they invited us to go out and speak, and we did. And we’re back. All right, we’ll talk to you guys next time.
Ashkahn: That’s pretty much it. That’s as much as we have to say about that. So this was in September. It was September 10th and 11th 2019 for all of you listening however many years in the future from now.
Graham: Or in the past.
Ashkahn: Or in the past. Yeah, it’s possible. This was put on by a Russian float association called Rusfloat and the organization, the association as well as the event itself was organized by a guy named Nail Gareev who’s been in the float scene actually for a surprising amount of time.
Graham: Longer than we have.
Ashkahn: Yeah. He’s been hustling float tanks up there for, I think he said thirteen, fourteen years. Like something in that range.
Graham: In that range, yeah.
Ashkahn: B.G and A. Before Graham and Ashkahn, as we like to mark time.
Graham: I didn’t even know you were saying. I was like “B.G.A., what does that stand for”?
Ashkahn: So, yeah, in the float scene in Russia it’s actually still kind of smaller than it is here, and they’re just starting to pick up steam. So he’s been doing it for a long time while there has not been a lot of awareness about floating and kind of watching that build up, and grow, and get to the point where he was like, hey maybe we could have a float conference and gather some people from Russia around to get together and share stories and have presentations, and…
Graham: Yeah. So we’d done a little summit earlier as well, which is kind of cool.
Ashkahn: Just March of 2019. So six, seven months ago.
Graham: And then decided to kind of springboard that into doing a full on conference and we’re still not talking about the scale of conference that we’re seeing from the float conference over here, there weren’t six hundred people rolling in from across Russia. But it was cool, just seeing these events getting going at all, in any country is I think a sign of this gathering awareness and I’m pretty much enough float centers that it actually makes sense to all come together and share crazy salty stories. So it was awesome. It was actually really cool to see that Russia is getting big enough in the float world that again, there are enough people to actually gather.
Ashkahn: It also turns out that float people are float people no matter where you go. We just got there and we’re like “Huh, I wonder what kind of people are opening float centers in Russia”. We met them all and were like “Oh yeah, float people”. There’s just float people out who open the float centers, and they’re all super chill, and really fun to hang out with, and incredibly nice. So it was really delightful to get to hang out with the people we love in a different part of the world.
Graham: Absolutely. And also, for anyone over there listening who was at the conference, a big thank you to everyone who kind of sprung in and translated for us on the fly, and it was just really hospitable and welcoming.
Ashkahn: Especially for us, we didn’t speak any Russian and we were just kind of going there, and they were super helpful trying to get us to understand what was going on and helping us translate for people who didn’t speak English. And it was great. Everyone was really, really nice to us.
Graham: Yeah. And you know, in general I’d say that there was maybe what, fortyish people.
Ashkahn: Yeah, something like that. And I guess the question I feel like I’ve been getting a bunch when I bring this up to people is just-
Graham: “How are you so handsome when you’re telling me this?”
Ashkahn: “Just infatuated! What did I say again? Your eyes…” After we get through that, people just really want to know what’s going on with the float scene in Russia. And it seems like as best as we’ve been able to compare it, it kind of felt like the United States in maybe 2012 ish, ’11, ’12, somewhere in that range. Floating, it’s still not like it is here, where you can ask someone if they’ve heard about float tanks before, and they kind of cock their heads and “yeah, I feel like I’ve heard something”, we’re starting to hit some level of mass awareness we’re seeing in the U.S. And Canada and Australia and stuff like that, which is cool. So it’s not really there yet, but we’re just at the point where it felt like the first kind of real serious float centers were opening up.
Graham: Yeah, for sure. So I was talking to some guys over there during the conference and I was asking “How many centers do you think have three or more float tanks in all of Russia”? And they said probably around five by their best estimates.
Graham: And so maybe it’s a little bit more, it’s hard to know what’s going on, or somewhere around there. But most of the centers are one or two tanks going on and there’s just starting to be these newer, bigger centers that are opening up that are starting to be done really nice and not just a single tank that’s almost a… what’s the nice word for single tank setups that are…
Graham: Quaint, yeah. Sort of quainter setups that people have. So it feels like it’s just kind of hitting the stage where, although there are people who’ve been doing it for a while and it’s kind of been around, the commercialism or the bigger actual dedicated center is just starting to rise.
Ashkahn: And these places, St Petersburg and Moscow are definitely the two biggest cities there, and they both have had float centers on some sort of scale really just in the last couple of years, even the bigger ones that we’re talking about or that we saw while we were there. One had opened I think a month before we got there. They had just basically started, they had a first location, they just opened up this nice second location that we went to. They were called Float Studio, super, super nice, high end sort of float center with a bunch of other services. And they were opening their second location right when we were there and there was a really cool place Flotarium that were awesome dudes and were super nice and hung out with us a bunch, which is great.
Ashkahn: And I mean they had opened, what was it, somewhere between one and two years? One year ago?
Graham: Exactly. Really recently. But had already had a second location as well.
Ashkahn: So they opened a second place in St Petersburg. They were opened 24 hours a day, one of the only float centers other than us that’s actually actively open 24 hours a day.
Graham: Which is so cool to visit. We’re like “It says 24 hours on here”. They’re like “Yeah, we’re open 24 hours a day”.
Ashkahn: And it’s cool. We’re seeing these places also do really well. These float centers that are opening with three, four tanks over there are spreading the word. They’re getting a lot of interest. They are booked out of several days. They have high capacity. it’s that sort of spring of float tanks popping up that I think we saw also in the U.S. when big cities were starting to get their first couple kind of big centers.
Graham: Yeah. So overall it was sort of invigorating. It was kind of nice hopping in a little time machine and going back to just the burgeoning beginnings of a float industry somewhere. Plus they already had statues of us over there, we were pretty much revered as sort of these float heroes. So yeah, it was neat showing up to all the… They knew every single Daily Solutions intro.
Ashkahn: Word for word. Yeah, it was pretty incredible. They would sing, they would make hymns…
Graham: It’s in the karaoke books over there. Karaoke also very big.
Ashkahn: Yeah, pretty big in Russia. There’s all sorts of interesting things like that that we can talk about, karaoke.
Ashkahn: This is just a small story I’ll share, at some point there was a presentation about float tank sanitation at the conference and someone asked the question, “Oh, what do you do in this situation”? The person’s response was, “yeah in that situation, you can just pour a little bit of vodka in the float tank”. And I was like, well no way did that just happen. No way were we at a Russian float conference, and someone just recommended pouring vodka into a float tank. So vodka is big there, despite everything you’ll hear to the contrary.
Graham: Helps with the foam.
Ashkahn: No it was fun and it was cool to see their own interest in the industry too. They had people giving these really great presentations where they had actually gone through a ton of float data and were showing the data that’s been coming out of library and other athlete specific float data and aggregating it, and giving presentations on it, and talking about what’s going on in the rest of the float world, and even having some of their own like local professors and experts kind of in similar fields including marketing and stuff like that come and give presentations to the float community there about how float tanks might work well in terms of marketing, how float tanks might work well in terms of what sort of research has even been happening there in Russia and what sort of athletes have been using it.
Ashkahn: And it was cool. It was just cool seeing like all the exciting stuff we see here in the U.S. also have these parts of it that are happening all around the world and getting to see their own kind of local athletes, and local professors, and local marketing experts kind of dig into the float world.
Graham: And I liked that even though you didn’t really have this depth of flotation experts over there that you have in the United States or places who have had a little more time to kind of develop, you did really have this depth of people who are experts in their field and really passionate about floating, coming out and presenting. I guess just kind of hopping on your bandwagon there, it’s really neat to see just that interest coming from all different areas and in the college scene, and in the business scene, and again, I actually didn’t expect to come back from that with that same sort of post float conference glow that you get from the float conference here in the States. But I totally did, I came back from Russia and I still had this Russian flavored float conference glow about me, it was good. It was tasty.
Ashkahn: I mean at least that’s…
Graham: It was tasty. That’s your cue, dude.
Ashkahn: That’s at least what we think people were talking about. I mean it was all in Russian, so we don’t really know. They could have been talking about something totally different, and whoever was translating was just making it all up. But at least that’s the impression we got.
Graham: And I did see slides up there of Justin’s data. So at least they were loosely trying to pull one over on us a little more. It sounds like they’re planning on having more of them too.
Ashkahn: I think so, yeah. It seems like they’re hoping to make it an annual thing.
Graham: And I don’t remember what they’re doing for talks or anything. I mean it’s all in Russian, but if you speak Russian and you want to hear the talks or see the slides, we’ll post up some information in the show notes about it.
Ashkahn: If we have it. I mean, sure.
Graham: Or we’ll post up a lack of information. We’ll say “We’re sorry, we don’t actually know anything”, and we’ll put that in the show notes.
Ashkahn: At some point.
Graham: Along with a handwritten note written by Juliet.
Ashkahn: We haven’t seen any slides here. Were they videotaping it?
Graham: There was some recording going on, but I really don’t know what the plans are for it. We’re out of our element. We shouldn’t be…
Ashkahn: All right. Well if they don’t, we’ll just impersonate all the speakers and reproduce the entire event for you guys in the show notes. Juliet will reproduce the entire two day event, with sock puppets.
Graham: Live! One time only.
Ashkahn: In the show notes.
Graham: On ice. I recommend it. If you get a chance you should definitely go over and hit up the Russian float conference. Ruscon.
Ashkahn: Well all right. That’s not what it’s called. That would just be Russian Conference.
Graham: Yeah, I know. I know.
Ashkahn: What were some differences you felt…
Graham: Between what?
Ashkahn: Between us and the Russians.
Graham: This turns into an interview show, huh?
Ashkahn: So one thing that was interesting was when marketing would come up and they’d start talking about paid marketing. This is kind of a small thing, but Instagram was just much more popular as an advertising platform than Facebook, they’re both owned by the same company and Instagram is very popular here too. But you still, here in the U.S. and when we do our industry survey and stuff like that, you just still see Facebook ads as this huge return. Much more than even you see people investing money or using Instagram. And it was basically flipped there. Instagram really was the main platform everyone was using and releasing media on.
Graham: Even more so than it was, flipped or something. It was, way more prevalent than Facebook was. Yeah, for sure.
Ashkahn: So that was interesting, that really was their key platform, and the main focus they had in terms of social media and content release.
Graham: Yeah. And there were some interesting takeaways just from some of their strategies that some of the centers were using too. Just the idea of not trying to sell immediate appointments but selling gift cards instead, really double that down on the gift card sales. But yeah, just trying to sell this idea of grab a gift card or grab a float on your account and then you can schedule anytime and trying to push that rather than pushing selling a float, for scheduling an immediate appointment. That was kind of an interesting note to take down.
Ashkahn: One of the bigger, more successful centers there, they said that was really helping them out. I mean it relies on a discount. So you’re incentivizing people through some sort of platform like Instagram to say “Hey, for the next day you can buy two floats for twenty bucks off” or whatever, and really I think just the call to action being not booking the appointment but buying the float.
Graham: Yeah, it was the interesting stance on that.
Ashkahn: It’s lowering and lowering that barrier. Don’t get people to have to sit down and try to deal with their schedule and stuff. Just get them to buy the float and incentivize it with some kind of discount. And then that’s just an easier pitch rather than… Then once they have the float, then they can book it and deal with the more difficult part of getting people into the float tank, which is them actually finding time in their schedules to come and do it and that seems to be working really well for them, which is cool to hear.
Graham: Yeah, definitely wrote that down in my little invisible marketing book in my brain.
Ashkahn: and I guess the really early feeling of what float centers are going to be like over there. Even Nail, who again was putting on the conference and started this Russian float association and has been doing float stuff for many years, has been kind of putting float tanks into existing spa businesses and working, partnering up with them and even just recently was actually opening up kind of his own full-on float centers. So just kind of seeing the beginning of what float centers really look like over there and the different approaches that people are taking from high end to kind of, just having a float center right in the middle of the city that’s super convenient to really kind of creating that super relaxed space for people and all the whole variety of float experiences you get to see.
Graham: Yeah. I mean to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if in two to three years there are two to three times as many larger float tank centers over there, that have three tanks or more. It really does feel like just the beginning of that curve of larger places opening up. So yeah, it’s going to be really exciting to see what happens over there.
Ashkahn: Yeah. Unfortunately the exchange rate and just the difficulty of, I think the cost of importing stuff has made it hard for them to get equipment from out of the country it seemed.
Graham: Yeah, way more homemade tanks or just even things that are more piecemealed together over there, then we’ve seen in a lot of places.
Ashkahn: And it sounded like just out of necessity, they just looked into buying float tanks from European or U.S. manufacturers and the costs, the combination of the distance, plus the importing difficulty, plus just the fact that their exchange rate is kind of not working well in terms of comparing buying things from the U.S. or Europe, all of that resulted in a lot of float equipment or U.S. And European float tanks kind of just being cost prohibitive for them there.
Graham: When I was, when I was asking Nail what we should bring as gifts or something like that, and he was like, “Oh, I’ve been having a hard time getting these Halo neck pillows delivered swiftly. Throw a couple of Halos in your luggage”. And I was like, “Yeah, for sure”.
Ashkahn: Yeah we smuggled some Halos in.
Graham: They really don’t like that, yeah. But just speaking to how hard it is to get things. Even something as simple as neck pillows is, you can get it, but it might take a while to actually get delivered over there.
Ashkahn: Yeah. And even that, I mean it seems like there’s about four or five actual Russian float manufacturers too, but some of them at least are getting started, and some of them we heard were not really creating very long lasting float tanks, sort of thing. So they’re still kind of figuring that side of things out as well.
Graham: Yeah. Got to go out to visit this country house of someone who is constructing this whole kind of big underground chamber to be able to sit a float tank on, which is really interesting. So yeah. You know, even on the home use tank front for crazy contractors, there’s some interesting float projects going on.
Ashkahn: You know, I floated in a giant moon. I was in St Petersburg and I was like, let me see what float tank centers are around here. And the very first place I clicked on the photo pops up, and it’s just this humongous half moon dome that they built a custom float tank inside of.
Graham: We’ll put a picture in the show notes.
Ashkahn: Yeah. So there’s some crazy stuff going on over there. So I guess our advice for this show is get a visa, go to Russia.
Graham: The visa process is not the most enjoyable thing in the world.
Ashkahn: No, that was tough.
Graham: But then you do it and it’s done. anyway, you should. Definitely if you’re just passing by, stop by Russia.
Ashkahn: Yeah. If you’re out to get groceries and… Oh, I’m in Russia now.
Graham: Yeah, go say hi to Nail for us.
Ashkahn: And we’ll put the website for the conference and stuff in the show notes too.
Graham: And some amusing photos of us at the conference as well. And… Nothing else, I think, because Juliet’s been complaining that we give her too many things for the show notes.
Ashkahn: All right. Okay. Well cool. Thanks for hanging out with us, guys.
Graham: Yeah. We really enjoyed this.
Ashkahn: Yeah, this was nice.
Graham: And we’ll be back occasionally to do it again.
Ashkahn: Yeah. Sometime in the future.
Graham: maybe the not so distant future.
Ashkahn: Maybe, but also maybe the distant future. But probably not. Maybe right now. Should we just do another episode?
Graham: All right. We’re going for it! Hit the intro!
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In every service business, there’s a running joke that someone likes that’s usually somehting along the lines of “this job would be great if it weren’t for all the customers!” (*cue laugh track and uproarious applause*), well, the boys have not shied away from talking about the difficult sides of running a shop like ours. We’ve got episodes about handling negative Yelp reviews, customers too intoxicated to float, and even what to do when it’s time to 86 a problematic client.
You can tell this episode was recorded a little while ago, really close to after we all got back from the Conference. The boys are a little tired today, but they still have lots to talk about.
Grashkahmn share their initial reactions to the Conference now that it’s being run by the industry as a non-profit. This is a nice episode especially if you’re looking for some insights on their behind-the-scenes perspective on this big industry event and how it has changed this year.
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