By Eric Bugera
You’re having a conversation with a human. Or at least you should be.
Training clients in the real world, be it a commercial gym or private facility, is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Although it will likely never truly go away – online training has taken a huge percentage of the potential market share to a (likely) more appropriate delivery method. Spreadsheets, text messages, and maybe even the odd voice note might be the right tool in some contexts, but in person, perception is everything. In real life, your main goal is to connect with the person in front of you – their initial read will influence a massive percentage of their decision to actually work with you.
Online training is very expedient when compared to in person. The price point often dictates a large portion of this – but the less cost prohibitive online option can make the entire thing a bit transactional if you’re not careful. In-person however, the potential client is signing up to develop a multi-month to multi-year relationship with you – with the financial investment being just as substantial. When you’re going to be working closely with someone for that length of time and investing potentially tens of thousands of dollars, even at a subconscious level there are factors other than your skills on the floor at play.
A typical intake process will gather information on acute or chronic health conditions, previous training experience, injury history, goals, scheduling commitments, and more. While the online arena makes this process a neat and tidy google document (or if you’re really committed, a 30 minute call) – in person, this should last quite a bit longer than you originally anticipated. The goal is not to simply get a yes or no answer and a quick series of facts. The real aim is to crack the external shell of the human in front of you. Getting to know the person behind the goals to better fuel your ability to connect and create an environment for success.
One word answers are the enemy. Pointed, easily rebuked questions serve nearly no purpose. Their goal will obviously be fitness in any of its possible forms and you should be fully capable of producing a program that delivers that. Truly, the goal of an intake interview is less about the specific answers and more about understanding the motivations behind them. Have a conversation – learn about the person, shape the discussion around fitness but know that any fitness related details are secondary to how the person thinks and feels. The more you’re able to have them organically open up about their needs, goals, and thought processes on the matter, the more likely they will select you to be the one to help them.
A good intake interview accomplishes the goal of learning the pertinent information required to train the individual – but that’s the easy part. Those details could be acquired via email without ever meeting the person face to face. Truly the value in an intake interview is the social meshing of you and your prospective client. Discovering who they are, what their personality is, and how you can connect with them in a genuine way goes dramatically further in accomplishing their goals than some simple yes / no dialog.