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Member Orientation


Photo courtesy of GoodLife Fitness.

Once a prospect signs your membership agreement, what’s the next step? Do you show the member around the club? Do you train them in how to properly use equipment? Or, do you take the new member’s money, and trust that they know what they’re doing?

According to Alana Free, the vice president of people and culture for GoodLife Fitness, trusting that members know what they’re doing could be a huge mistake. “If people are scared — which so many people are when they walk into a club — they sometimes don’t feel comfortable asking questions,” said Free. “And if people don’t know how to use the equipment properly, they could hurt themselves, or other members.”

Not properly orienting your members to the club could put your facility at risk for liability, and hurt your retention. Take a look at how the following clubs orient their members, to lower the risk of both liability and attrition.

GoodLife Fitness

When a prospect signs its membership agreement, GoodLife Fitness highly recommends that each new member immediately sign up for at least two to three of its orientation classes, which covers topics from strength training equipment to Group X.

For example, GoodLife’s FIT-FIX orientation teaches members how to properly use the strength machines, safely and effectively. GoodLife also offers four Group X orientations, which orient members to group fitness classes such as Les Mills® BODYBUMP™, and GoodLife’s signature NewBody class.

The orientations are offered in groups during set times throughout the week, and can be taken by both new and experienced members as often as needed.

“The orientations are a slow introduction to the club, and hopefully the members will branch out into other parts of the club from there,” said Free. “We don’t want donors — people who pay their membership fees, but who don’t visit the club — we want active members.”

According to Free, the orientations help with that goal. “The orientations give new members a chance to better understand the equipment and meet other members, who potentially could become their friends,” she explained. “Friendships help with accountability, so members are encouraged to keep coming back. We found that if we have our members workout at least six times in the first month of their membership, their chances of staying a member substantially increases.”

Personal training at GoodLife.

Maryland Athletic Club

After a staff member had oriented a new member to its facility, Maryland Athletic Club (MAC) discovered that some members still needed additional help discovering the ins-and-outs of the club’s amenities and programs. As a result, MAC created a member ambassador program, where new members would buddy up with a more experienced member, to become better acquainted with MAC facilities.

Each new member is presented a new-member packet, which contains a flyer that provides the member ambassadors’ name, e-mails and picture. Each member ambassador has a particular area of the club they are an advocate for, such as indoor cycling, circuit training, aquatics, etc.

“The ambassador is there to hand hold [new members] through a class they might want to try, or just answer questions,” explained Sharon Nevins, the vice president of marketing for MAC. “And though our staff is here to help new members with a first coaching session and getting started, it helps to have a buddy, a fellow member they can work out with for the first time, ask questions, etc.”

According to Nevins, the member ambassador program helps with MAC’s retention. “Members who feel comfortable and have a buddy system in place are three times more likely to stick to their goals,” she explained.

As to whether or not member orientation helps with reducing liability, Nevin’s agreed whole-heartedly that it did. “If a member is comfortable, happy, having fun and seeing results, all is well with the world,” she said with a smile.

Could you implement similar programs at your club? Consider offering orientations specific to your club’s amenities and programs, free of charge. The more comfortable members are, the more likely they are to stay, and familiarity with the proper use of equipment reduces their chances of injury. Make the orientations available to every member, even veterans, in case they need to become acquainted with new equipment or programs.


By Rachel Zabonick

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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