Whether explaining how to use a new exercise tool or marketing themselves to potential clients, personal trainers who are strong communicators will be more successful and help boost the club's and their own bottom lines. By helping your staff incorporate the following tips you can help fitness professionals maximize their performance and the members' success in achieving their goals.

Listen closely

It seems obvious, but many of us spend more time thinking about what we are going to say next rather than focusing on the speaker's message. Admittedly, listening attentively can be challenging after a day filled with training sessions, but it is critical to best serve clients. Clients who feel heard and understood tend to continue with their trainer. As author Stephen Covey says in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

To become better listeners, try teaching your staff to label in their minds the speaker's main points (such as weight loss) and to ask follow-up questions. Paraphrasing when necessary ensures that the trainer clearly comprehends.

Take time to gather your thoughts

Because people generally get nervous with silence or gaps in conversation, they may babble. Teach your staff to think about what they want to communicate and organize their thoughts before speaking. When a client asks a question, it is smarter for trainers to request a minute to formulate a thoughtful answer rather than blurt out whatever first comes to mind.

Use direct, simple language

In the training business, it is easy to throw around terminology like functional strength training or gastrocnemius and assume clients understand. Embarrassed to appear dumb, some people may just nod their heads without comprehending. As educators, trainers should make it easy to learn by explaining technical terms or using different words altogether.

Make eye contact and watch body language

Again, these may seem intuitive, but in a health club setting, it is easy to get distracted and look around at all that is going on. For better listening skills and more credibility, your staff should focus on the client.

Repeat, repeat

Typically, people only listen to about one-third of what others say. Presenting a message several different ways reinforces it with repetition. For instance, trainers may talk about the importance of muscle balance during an exercise prescription and again while working opposing muscle groups during a workout session.

Ask for feedback

Trainers should explain what they are doing and the rationale so clients can become empowered. To confirm proper understanding, staffers should ask them to reiterate what they have said.

Hone presentation skills

Although many trainers will spend the bulk of their time working one-on-one, improving presentation skills is helpful for general speaking opportunities such as group lectures. Public speaking generally incites fear in most people; therefore, improvement in this area will boost confidence in overall communication skills. Trainers should take advantage of presentation skills classes at local colleges or community Toastmaster groups. Health clubs also can provide books and videotapes on communication skills or sponsor a guest speaker for their staff.

Because personal training is such an interactive profession, it is imperative that fitness professionals learn to be strong communicators for their own benefit, as well as those whom they serve.

Julie M. King, M.S., is a freelance writer, public relations consultant and certified group exercise instructor and personal trainer. She can be reached at julie.king1@attbi.com.