"If you're not assessing, you're guessing." Not performing some form of assessment in small group training is a missed opportunity to add value to the class and to build your professional credibility. Here are three common mistakes personal trainers make related to small group training (SGT).
Before getting to the most common mistakes, it is important to understand that clients pay good money to participate in SGT for a variety of reasons (e.g., their "WHY");primary of which are results and session experience. Failure to address the clients' "why" reduces attendance, retention and referrals, and it decreases a trainer's bottom line.
Mistake #1: Trying to be all things to all people (results)
While traveling for a conference last month I stopped in a gym for a quick workout; it helps me stay in my routine and gives me an opportunity to see what is going on outside of my little world. While there, I noticed a flyer for a "bootcamp" class; two workouts per week workout for four weeks that promised increased power and strength, "toning," improved endurance and about 10 other bullet points. That is an awful lot to accomplish in eight sessions...
Instead of trying to be all things to all people, trainers should hyper-focus on the delivering 1-2 primary, tangible goals by developing programs so that each participant has the best chance of attaining this goal.
How do you determine what those goals should be and when to schedule the class? Start by doing homework up front, it will pay continuous dividends over time:
- Determine the target market and schedule -- go to your membership manager and ask for daily/weekly numbers along with general demographics; you are looking to see who is coming in and when (seniors, working professionals,youth; male vs. female). You want your SGT to match the needs/demands of the members at a time that is convenient to them. Also consider the time of year; for example, the New Year is a great time to focus on "The New You (weight loss)," and you can use the holiday season to offer "30-minute Express Workouts."
- Asses Resources -- How much space and what types of equipment do you have access? Based on what you have access, how many people can you accept into the SGT? Are the space and equipment reserved so that attendees feel like they are part of an "elite" group?
- Match Your Niche -- Consider your training specialty and make sure it matches the needs/goal of the SGT's purpose and target market. If powerlifting is your niche and you are offering a "Senior Fit" SGT session,chances are you are not going to be able to deliver results.
Tip #1: Identify and promote 1-2 primary goals of SGT that resonate with the demographics of gym goers when the class is scheduled.
Mistake #2: It's not about you (the trainer) (session experience)
SGT should bean (relatively) enjoyable experience, not a trip to the dentist. Clients want results but quite often want to enjoy the session and leave the workout with a sense of accomplishment. Mistake #2, and likely the most important mistake trainers make in SGT is putting themselves first, saying 'I' and making clients feel like a number. To combat that, and make every session a fun "experience" by incorporating the following:
- Call each client by name, make eye contact and touch them (cueing,handshake) at least once during every session.
- Introduce clients to each other and get them talking; encourage group motivation.
- Be respectful of your client's time and schedule by starting and ending every SGT session on time; be the first person there and the last to leave, and don't schedule clients immediately before or after SGT without a buffer window to take care of your group.
- Communicate with every client via email or text at least once per week, checking in on them to see how they are doing.
- Have the workouts planned in advance and make sure to have appropriate exercise variations for clients of various levels.
Tip #2: Personalize the SGT experience with simple, yet effective and deliberate steps.
Mistake #3: Missing out on simple value-added opportunities (results and session experience)
What differentiates your SGT from other group training options (e.g., internal group fitness class, external competition)? Here are some efficient and effective ideas to add perceived value and differentiate your SGT from others:
- Send a weekly newsletter/email -- Include a client success story,nutrition/fitness tip, exercise of the week, and include a referral program(e.g., bring a friend and receive 'x'). Write the content so that attendees are likely to share with friends and family or pass around their office.
- Assign homework -- Create a few standard "homework" programs and send them to clients. Give them a diet log with practical nutrition tips, a home mobility/flexibility program and a strength and interval cardio workout.
- Encourage accountability -- Use the "buddy-system;" assigning clients a partner and have them discuss their goals and obstacles on a daily/weekly basis outside of the class. Not only will this improve accountability but also it will increase the social aspect of SGT and increase the likelihood of retention.
Tip #3: Adding small but valuable add-on's can increase SGT perceived value leading to increased retention and referrals.
SGT is a great way to increase revenue per hour and reach clients who might not be able to afford 1-on-1 training. To maximize the success of the program and deliver the promoted results, plan the workouts in advance and have exercise variations ready to go so the workout can be adapted on the fly. Increase the perceived value of SGT by sending nutrition and exercise information, and create a session experience by connecting individually with each member and encouraging the group to motivate each other. By following these simple tips, you will see better attendance rates, improved retention, and an increased number of referrals.
Nick Clayton is the Personal Training Program Manager for the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He has 16 years of experience as a personal trainer and strength coach and earned his Master’s degree in Exercise Science and his MBA from the University of Florida.