Studios charge a premium for fitness, and clients expect more from the experience. However, a client’s experience is more than the workout itself. It actually begins before they break a sweat. Ensuring your team has a documented process to follow pre-class is vital for elevating the experience and replicating the good "feels" from class to class.
Here are five parts of a winning process that you should ensure your staff follows so everyone has a successful experience:
1. Arrival Time. Establish an arrival time for your instructors. The suggested arrival time should go beyond a typical gym recommendation that suggests instructors arrive 15 minutes prior to a class. Think about what must be done before class (see pre-class checklist below)) and back it up from there. Keep in mind that the instructor should complete all pre-class work before the first student arrives. Once a live body is in the studio, customer service begins, and that’s tough to manage if the music is still being arranged and equipment organized. Of course, you need to build in compensation around the actual time you are asking an instructor to be present in the studio. You should not expect 15-30 minutes of extra work without paying for it. In the studio environment, that extra time is the difference between a good experience and a great one, which makes it well worth paying your instructors for.
2. Pre-Class Checklist. Depending on the format and the support staff you have in place, several things need to happen before the first member arrives. You have the everyday class necessities: music set up and on (always have music playing when members arrive), lighting set, headset checked and on, equipment organized and prepared for members, and class plan reviewed. Beyond this, you may have front desk responsibilities, additional technology requirements or amenity placement. It is best to create a checklist on a laminated sheet as a way for instructors to check what they have done. The final task should be "showtime." When members begin to arrive, the instructor should have a smile on their face, be fully prepared to receive the members and be stationed where members will enter the studio.
3. New Member Orientation. You will always have new members in class. Be certain you create a protocol for identifying, welcoming, instructing and setting up new members. Be conscious of how new members may feel when walking into a studio. No one likes to be singled out, especially in such a tight-knit community as a studio. But new members do like a preview of what’s to come. Find a private way to help new members get oriented to the studio, the equipment and the format. The more you can establish a relationship prior, the better the experience for everyone.
4. The Countdown. Once members begin to arrive, the instructor should be on the mic providing a countdown and any last-minute instructions. For example, “Good morning, everyone. We will be getting started in five minutes. Be sure your water bottle is full, grab a towel and be ready to begin. If you have any questions, concerns or need me to know anything, I’m Shannon. Come chat.” Script the countdown to make it universal from instructor to instructor. The room should never be "dead" in the five to 10 minutes leading up to the workout start time.
5. Warm Welcome. Finally, it’s time to welcome the group and get the party started. Script this introduction for your team. The introduction should always commence on the dot. At the exact moment the class is to begin, the instructor should start the warm welcome.
Important information to provide:
- Instructor name
- Name of class and timeslot
- Theme or overall goal of the class
- Any specific instructions or announcements
- Express excitement and gratitude
- Let’s get started
For example, you could script out the following: “Good morning. My name is Shannon, and I’d like to welcome you to the 9:30 a.m. Cycle Club. Today is endurance day, so that means long pushes at or near threshold with little recovery. As always, I’ll provide options and intensity monitoring cues throughout to be sure you know where we are, what we have coming and what you need to do to make it work for you. I’m so excited you are here and promise to make it worth your while. Let’s get started.”
Although creating such a specific protocol for everything that happens before the actual workout may seem like overkill, you should remember it’s the little things that count when trying to make it in the studio world. Creating a process that allows for a consistent experience from the beginning leads to confidence, comfort and connection. Building on these three Cs is the recipe for success.
Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is a fitness business and programming consultant who has helped brands such as Anytime Fitness, Schwinn, Power Systems, American Council on Exercise and BOSU during the last 20 years. She serves on the Association of Fitness Studios advisory council and on the ACE board of directors. As an experienced educator and certified Book Yourself Solid business coach, she helps fitness entrepreneurs navigate the industry and make more money. She is the owner of GroupEx PRO, a cloud-based group fitness management tool, and Balletone.