Staci Alden shares how clubs can rebuild consistent attendance in group fitness.
According to some sources, travel, eating out and even gym memberships are back to or surpassing pre-pandemic levels. However, I’d argue that many facilities are still experiencing challenges due to the pandemic affecting the number and consistency of participants attending classes and group training. The most prominent objectives we will address in this column to rebuild consistent attendance in group fitness settings are adjusting instructor expectations, improving facility-wide communication and refining the overall program strategy.
If finding quality talent is challenging for your facility, look back at a previous column where I share six strategies for finding group fitness talent. Once that talent is discovered and confirmed that the instructor’s character and behavior align with the mission and values, the next step is to set expectations. Finally, to help build back participation in group experiences, the instructors must understand their role as leaders, motivators and relationship builders. No longer can instructors get by without learning names or leaving the mat, bike, or stage.
Ask instructors auditioning for you to leave the front of the room and move about the studio at least twice. Hold your team accountable for saying at least 20% of participant names throughout the class. The behavior we must seek in our hiring choices and the actions we ask current instructors to take while teaching makes or breaks whether current participants will continue or new participants will return.
Alignment and Communication
Be sure to ask whoever is responsible for tours, membership sales, or new member onboarding what people are talking about, asking for or having to say about their experience. This understanding not only provides insight into what potential members are interested in, but it also can be a tremendous educational opportunity. For example, let’s say your facility does not offer pre-choreographed programs like BODYPUMP or ZUMBA, but you offer classes with similar workouts.
If you send a monthly newsletter to your clients about what’s happening, send an even more detailed message to the front desk team. For example, which classes are available to non-members? How much do non-members pay? What are the age ranges? Where exactly is the class located? How do participants sign up? Do they need to enroll for the entire series of classes or can they drop in? Does the price marketed include tax? If you’re unsure what questions the front-line team might need answers to, then ask them! I can guarantee they might have more suggestions for information than you ever would have thought of on your own.
Whatever the offering, new or old, your front-line team must be aware of and eager to talk about everything that’s happening in group classes and group sessions. Your front-line team includes every staff member of your facility, from the front desk to the facility ops team, the rest of the instructor team, and everyone in between. Post signage and reminders in the studios and hold instructors accountable for telling their classes about it after their classes.
Innovate, Execute, and Evaluate
Suppose you recognize you need to inform more instructors to prioritize their participants, and there are some communication adjustments needed among your team about all the great group classes you offer. In that case, I recommend prioritizing the first two proposals to rebuild group fitness. Then, once you’ve accomplished having a team of relationship-building instructors and clear communication, if you still believe your class schedule and annual program plan could use some work, I have some advice.
Take a look at your annual offerings and ensure you’re offering at least one of the following each year:
Ongoing: These are free or paid classes that are consistently on the schedule with few changes.
Enrollment Classes: Paid and specific programs that evolve in either intensity or complexity with a pre-determined start and end date.
Workshops: Two-plus hour specific and informative sessions to help new clients learn more before joining classes or veteran clients get a more advanced session.
Events: Large, celebratory experiences with a theme, unique venue, food, swag and entertainment.
If any of the above offerings need to be added to your annual calendar, make a conscious decision to get innovative with how you can offer them so they support one another. For example, before launching a new program, prepare a workshop or showcase it in an event to gauge interest, develop an enrollment program to build a following and launch the program.
As the legendary leadership writer and presenter Peter Drucker once said, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” Schedule time for yourself to pull and review reports of overall attendance and conversion rates to becoming a member or enrolling in additional programs and services. Meet your team to discuss how the format, marketing, or experience could be improved. Survey participants for feedback and suggestions. Getting innovative is brave and exciting, so looking at the results can sometimes be disheartening if they aren’t what you had expected. Whatever data you collect will educate you and improve the next offering.
Rebuilding group fitness starts with hiring and training instructors to teach with compassion and connection. Next, the entire facility must be up to date and eager to answer any questions as participants get curious about other offerings. Then, get strategic with unique and strategic offerings to reach new clients and appease current clients for a bright future.