Become a “Conference Commando”

I just came back from attending the National Strength and Conditioning Association‘s annual conference. On my return, people ask, “How was the conference?” Hmmn? Let’s talk about what I actually get out of attending a live conference or clinic (Live offers so much more than online).

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Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, has written about being a “Conference Commando” or, going into a conference with a definite battle plan to get the most out of the conference.

So, what should you get out of a live conference or clinic?

Learn from the sessions. Naturally, the conference sessions are what most people think of when attending an event. This is where a lot of up-to-date information can be found and you should absolutely make sure that the program fits your learning needs.

Choose your presenters. The speakers are another thing to consider. A bad presenter can make it challenging to learn even if the material they are presenting is good. (Attending a session by Tudor Bompa, “the father of sports periodization” comes to mind. I’m sure it was great information, but he put me to sleep and I honestly missed most of what he said.)

Connect with your presenters. Now, beyond those first couple obvious reasons, you should also attend live events to connect with presenters that you liked and that inspired you. Stay after the session to ask further questions or just introduce yourself and thank them for what they just shared. Most presenters really appreciate hearing that and may strike up a conversation with you. Ask if you could email them an additional question or two and if they agree, you now have a new, trusted resource for information. If you nurture that relationship, you may also find yourself with a mentor who can help guide you in your career.

Connect with manufacturers. Most conferences and many clinics will have an exhibit hall or trade show. Here you can see and try new equipment, sample supplements (I often live on trade show protein bars. LOL), and connect with the manufacturers or distributors. Ask them questions about their products. See if they are right for you and/or your business. They will often have conference discounts too, if you’re interested.

Connect with other attendees. I find networking with peers one of my favorite things about attending live events. Discussions between the scheduled sessions about the topics presented, training modalities, business issues, and just getting to know other like-minded people can be so rewarding. Take contact information, connect on social media, stay in touch. Fellow attendees can also turn out to be mentors, general sounding boards, and, as I’ve found to be often the case, lifelong friends.

The key to becoming a “conference commando”, however, is to plan ahead. Go to the conference with a plan. What sessions will you take? What presenters do you want to meet? What products do you want to check out. Finally, plan on where and when you can connect with your peers. Then, execute that plan and come home with far more than just what can be learned online.

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Should You Be Selling Sessions, Packages, Memberships or Programs? 

As you begin your business or as you reevaluate your business model, you may wonder what the best way is to present and sell your personal training. In the old days (I can say that because I’ve been personal training since the dawn of time.) personal training was sold as a single session or in small to medium sized packages that were increasingly discounted the more you bought. The idea behind selling discounted packages was that the client would see the savings in the larger packages, purchase those and would be committed for a longer period of time. Since then, a number of problems and potential solutions have come to light.

pricesProblem #1: Larger packages, even with their discounts, could run thousands of dollars. This could put them out of reach for those that really needed the financial discount.

Solution #1: I know some clubs that sold nothing less than a 24 session package, but they offered a payment plan for the amount. This made it accessible to those who couldn’t afford the larger sum up front and got that commitment for a longer period of time.

Problem #2: Personal trainers saw the discounting of packages as a discounting of the value of their service.

Solution #2: Choose one, consistent session price and offer bigger packages as a convenience and/or a commitment, not a money saver. This is not a very popular model as many feel it can lead to clients paying session by session and the fear is that the more often the client has to make a financial decision, the more opportunities they have to decide it isn’t worth it. We happen to offer the pay-as-you-go/session by session because a) it doesn’t devalue by discounting the sessions, b) is an easy financial commitment for more people, and c) I believe that if the skill, the service, and the results are there, the client would have no reason stop. (i.e. I had one client that paid session by session, 6 times/wk for 12 years)

Problem #3: With any session by session package, clients can be inconsistent. This leaves the personal trainer and/or club with an ever fluctuating, unpredictable income.

Solution #3: Clubs and studios are now offering “memberships” (monthly agreements) that are generally priced with a session/wk assumption. (i.e. Members pay $x/month for 2 personal training sessions/wk) What makes this more predictable is that it is a monthly fee that is most often set up as an automatic charge to the member’s credit card or bank account. There is the potential for a secondary problem in that if a client needs to cancel and you allow them to make it up, you can build a backlog of sessions that the trainer will “owe” the client. I knew one trainer that, because the member had a difficult time making up the sessions, ended up owing her client over 30 sessions. One way to handle this would be to allow the client to make up the session within a week or it would be otherwise be forfeited.

Problem #4: Finally, there are clients that only want to commit for a certain amount of time and want the maximum results for that time. This means they have to know the expected outcome, be held accountable, and maybe need more than just the exercise sessions to get those results.

8-week-fat-loss-program-for-busy-people-lose-weight-tone-up-build-lean-muscleSolution #4: The idea of creating goal specific small group programs (such as a preseason sports prep i.e. golf conditioning, a specific health concern focus i.e. healthy back program, or bundled offerings i.e. 2 small group training sessions + 1 nutritional coaching session each week), that have a defined start and end date can be a great alternative to other offerings. This could be a 4 week, 8 wk, 12 wk, etc. Do pre and post program assessments to gather data and then use that in setting program expectations, “In this program, the average participant achieved ….” This also assures the income, because clients sign up for the program, not individual sessions. I think the addition of various programs will be the biggest change in our industry in the near future.

These are not all of the issues and they are certainly not all of the possible solutions, but they are some of the most prevalent concerns. This post is meant to be food for thought. There is no wrong answer if your choice is working for you.