Why do most people dread attending meetings? It’s largely because meetings can be poorly organized and not thought out well. Many people perceive them to be time wasters that detract from getting more important work done. However, carefully planned and orchestrated meetings can create a culture for success and teach your team the skills they need to excel in their positions.

Getting Them There

We have an extremely high attendance at our staff meetings, and many other directors envy our participation and inquire how we make it happen. From our perspective, this takes just a few simple actions. First, we schedule our meetings a year in advance and distribute the dates to our team so they can schedule the meetings into their day planners. This way, if they are planning a vacation and are flexible with dates, they can work around our team meetings. Our company meetings are once per month for 2 hours.

Second, our meetings are mandatory for all team members. However, our philosophy is that if the meetings are mandatory, we pay our team for its time. We have instituted a meeting wage, which is just minimum wage, and it enables us to at least compensate our staff for the time. In the event someone can’t make it to the meeting, the individual is still responsible for meeting with us or his direct supervisor to review all the information that was delivered. Our team seems to take the approach that since everyone knows they are required to meet either way, they might as well attend the team meeting and enjoy the company of their peers. Last, one of the most important steps we take to ensure that staff attends our meetings is to provide food. We spend anywhere from $70 to $120 to provide yummy snacks at each meeting. It’s amazing how food goes a long way in motivating our meeting attendance!

Have an Agenda

In order to make the best use of a meeting, it is important to plan ahead, be organized and know how you will spend the allocated time. Creating an agenda to help everyone stay focused ensures the meeting stays on track. At each meeting, we try to include the following topics:

Social Time. During the first 5–10 minutes of each meeting, we encourage people to mingle, chat and share what’s happening in their lives with the rest of the team (e.g., “I’m training for a marathon”; “I’m graduating next week”; “I’m pregnant”; “It’s my twelfth anniversary”; etc). You would think that when people work 30-plus hours together a week they would know everything about each other, but that’s not the case. Trainers are focused on clients during work hours and often don’t get any quality time to spend with their co-workers. This interaction helps build team camaraderie, develop great friendships and reduce trainer turnover. When trainers like each other, they think twice about leaving the job, because it means leaving behind the multiple friendships they’ve forged at work.

Passion & Purpose. We also allocate a few minutes to read any cards, e-mails or letters that clients have recently sent us bragging about one of our trainers, listing all the results they’ve achieved since working with us or saying how we’ve helped to change their life. We find it extremely valuable to regularly remind our team why we’re here and why we do what we do. When we are all reminded of this vision, it makes it easier to come to work and give it everything we’ve got.

Customer Service. The personal training industry is a customer service–based industry, and any business that grasps this and practices it regularly will succeed. We ensure our team understands that the customer is the boss, and that the team must have a drop-everything-for-the-client attitude. At meetings, we spend time discussing how we can all pay attention to the little details that set us apart from other fitness facilities. We brainstorm on customer service initiatives we can implement. We may have someone read an article or a book on customer service and then summarize it for the group.

Sales. As business owners, we know how important it is to be financially viable and successful. With that in mind, we allocate time to role-play phone calls and facility tours to help our staff overcome objections from clients that are hindering them from getting started with us and achieving their goals. Most people don’t enjoy role-playing but recognize how valuable it is. And if you can improve in this kind of awkward, unnatural environment, imagine how good you’ll be in person.

“In the Know.” Many employees at various companies complain that they feel they are out of the loop. They don’t know what’s going on and are often blind-sided by client questions. The worst response to hear from a staff member is “I don’t know. I just work here.” So we always spend time making sure everyone on our team knows what’s going on and what’s coming up. We’ll review upcoming promotions and seminars, staff and client incentives and events, travel schedules, etc. This open communication is critical to ensure you have a team that takes full ownership over the day-to-day operations and success of events, incentives and your business in general.

Break Off

The above meeting components are critical for all members of our team. Once we’ve covered these general areas, we’ll often split into various departments and cover issues specific to that department. For example, the trainers and group fitness instructors might split up, and someone might present some new exercises using an innovative fitness product. The CSRs might split off and discuss some scheduling or computer issues, or they might role-play how to deal with an upset client.

We’ll often finish the meeting by watching a fun, inspirational video or just thanking people for their time and their willingness to make it to the meetings to help us solidify as a team.

Meetings are a worthwhile time and financial investment necessary for the success of our business and our fabulous team environment, which we believe is second to none. It costs us about $16 per person, totaling $640 in payroll costs per meeting (we have 40 team members between our two locations) and about $150 in food, not to mention our own personal time. But, if we weren’t convinced our meetings didn’t benefit all people involved—including our customers—we wouldn’t do it.