And That's How You Play The Name Game


Everyone talks about the importance of greeting members by name. How it makes members feel welcome, like they're more than a number and part of the family. This may be well and true, but often, greeting members by name is easier said than done.

Generally, someone sitting at the front desk has no excuse for not greeting a person by name; I mean, as the member checks in, his or her name generally pops up on the computer usually accompanied by a picture in case the person standing there isn't enough of a reminder. Granted, viewing the computer monitor isn't always possible. Sometimes the front desk staff is busy helping someone else, answering the phone, and all too often, reading a magazine. But in most cases it isn't really asking them to go too much out of the way to say, “Hi, Mike,” when Mike's name and picture pop up in front of them.

But, moving deeper into the gym, such as on the fitness floor, greeting by name is often a little trickier. In the course of a day a trainer or group-exercise instructor may work different shifts at different gyms. Learning all those names is, well, a little tougher.

That's why my fellow trainers and I created the name game. Now don't think this is a how-to on remembering people's names. In fact it is quite the opposite — more of a way of getting away with not remembering names.

Rule 1 — Refer to everyone as “Hey.” It doesn't matter if you know a person's name or not. Call everyone “Hey” and you can't get the name wrong. Go ahead, try it. “Hey, how you doin'?” “Hey, how's the workout going?” “Hey, um, hey” Really, it works.

Rule 2 — Give members secret nick-names. Nicknames for members help ensure staff are talking about the same people when they discuss members. I remember the staff at one gym referring to a member as “Sweaty Guy.” His name needs no explanation. And then there was “Spinning Lady,” who would get in the pool and just spin for hours. “One More Set” was a nice enough guy, but he always came into the gym five minutes before closing. One woman even had two names, but we seemed to never get her confused. She got her first name, “Vegetable Lady,” for bringing in tasty, home-grown zucchini and tomatoes for the group exercise instructors. She was also known as, “Crazy Lady” because in the middle of kickboxing class she would shout out things such as, “Why are we doing this?” and “I don't feel it!”

The good thing about these nicknames was that I could talk with any staffer and they would know exactly whom I was talking about. It made discussions about members — such as “Have you seen ‘One More Set’ lately?” — very easy among staff.

Rule 3 — Never let members know about Rule 2, especially if their nickname isn't “Really Fit Guy.”

When you put the rules of the name game together, you can come up with a really meaningful and helpful conversation:

“Did ‘Sweaty Guy’ leave this mess?” one trainer asks the other.

“Yeah, ‘Sweaty Guy,’” the other trainer responds.

So trainer one seeks out “Sweaty Guy” to engage in a meaningful conversation:

“Hey, how you doin'?” the trainer asks, remembering not to call him “Sweaty Guy” to his face. “Do you mind wiping down the equipment when you're done please?”

Okay, so connections might be greater if staff could remember every name and little details about each member, but until every member wears a nametag, the name game will continue to be one of the most popular games in the facility.

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