Session booking is an invaluable capability for small or exclusive programs that require limiting the volume of individuals on the mat, or for an academy that depends in large part on private lessons, or who run a lot of seminars and workshops.

But there are also “hidden” reasons why booking is a great procedure to implement at your martial arts school or gym that show that it can be useful for any gym or martial arts school. In this article, we’ll discuss what those are, how to properly implement a booking process, and then how to maximize it.

“Hidden” Benefits of Session Booking

Increase Turnout Rate

You might think the extra fiction of attending a class would hurt class attendance, but that’s not necessarily true. “Micro-commitments” is a consumer psychology concept leveraged by successful marketers and salesmen, and there’s science behind it, too. When students have to make the effort to book a class, they are making a tiny commitment toward that class.

These micro-commitments are not just toward the sessions that students book; by extension, they are making those commitments towards your school. So this not only helps keep class full, it helps to strengthen retention overall. And because class attendance is the single most important factor for student improvement, it can boost overall learning as well.

Measure Session Popularity & Student Engagement

It’s much easier to predict session attendance if you can see who has already booked the sessions for a day or for the week. Tracking booking frequency over time is therefore a good way to gauge which sessions days and times throughout the week are the most popular with students.

But there’s a cool technique to help you understand the overall engagement level of your students, too. Take the booking numbers and compare them against the actual attendance of those sessions. The “show up” rate will tell you roughly how motivated your students are to show up. High showup rates indicate high engagement; low showup rates indicate low engagement, and might mean you need to make some important changes to your session quality and/or scheduling times.

Individualize Instruction

Personalized instruction and coaching is always a winner with members. Session booking affords instructors the benefit of knowing who is likely to be in class ahead of time. This, in turn, allows for notes made in previous sessions to help guide the lesson plan of the upcoming session on an individual-by-individual basis by knowing ahead of time who will be present. It also allows instructors with more experience with specific students to help other instructors understand any special needs and perhaps how to manage them in the most productive way.

This practice becomes particularly important when you have different instructors teaching classes throughout the week who might not be as immediately familiar with a students’ needs or progress. And this becomes even more important when instructors do not keep their own detailed notes at home or on their person when they show up to teach class.

The thing that makes this work is session booking software with a CRM-like note-taking system integrated with it. At Martial Arts on Rails, our staff management system allows the manager as well as instructors to put notes into the system that are easily accessible from the record of each student who has booked a session for staff to review.

Simplify Lead Development: Booking for Free & Paid Trials

Most martial arts schools don’t have as many time slots and as much mat space as they want. While they need to keep a constant stream of leads coming through the door to stay open, it still can be disruptive to regular classes to try and integrate them into class. It also creates more time deficit for staff to manage a prospective new student while also managing the chaos of regular class time.

Whether you offer free or paid trials, booking software allows you to set designated time slots where new people are expected to attend and then let visitors choose which time works for them. This is much easier than going back and forth on the phone, offering time slots and seeing if the prospect is able to make it. And if you offer paid trials, a good booking system can handle all that for you, too, instead of balancing numbers and input over the phone.

We offer a powerful booking system as part of our Martial Arts on Rails subscription. Because it’s integrated with fully-featured gym management software, our booking feature can also manage paid bookings.

How to Implement a Booking Process

Implementing a booking process for your student body can seem daunting. The process of setting one up isn’t terribly hard if you have good software; the hardest part is committing to the process and sticking with it.

So as you follow remember the most important step, follow through:

  1. Find and set up booking software. We provide session booking as a feature as part of our school management system.
  2. Explain to students ahead of time how to use the software. Provide both written and video references, if possible. If you want to go the extra mile, call a zoom meeting once or twice to show everyone live and get feedback directly as members follow along with your instruction.
  3. Remind students through email and/or SMS, citing documentation to remind them how to use the software on-demand.
  4. Stick to your booking process launch date, and launch it.
  5. Have someone available to support students through the transition process for the first 2-3 weeks.

You should expect complaints and hangups at first. Changing the processes followed by your martial arts school is never easy; but like any skill, it takes time to change, and the outcomes are much better than before.

Optimize Your Booking Process

There’s a few things you can do to take a simple booking process and make it into an attendance, retention, and engagement promoting machine.

  • Give members an easy way to book sessions
  • Send email and/or text reminders of a booking
  • Require active members to book sessions to attend class
  • Implement an “auto-checkin” feature

Not all booking systems can help you do these things because they aren’t integrated with your member management and marketing software. We pride ourselves in offering all those features fully integrated with our booking feature, allowing you to keep classes full without creating more work for yourself to send out reminders or remind students that they can’t book certain classes. 

In fact, our member portal also affords your students an easy way to book sessions and the settings on the backend allow you to control when they can book and which classes are available for them to book.

Lastly, our automatic check-in feature is a powerful way to ensure that students who have booked sessions ahead of time do not have to worry about checking in for attendance. This helps make your record keeping more accurate and streamline the in-session experience of your members. If the class is cancelled, we’ll automatically notify booked members by email.

Conclusion

A booking process is good for more than just controlling class sizes. Here as several underrated benefits of using one:

  • It can optimize class attendance
  • Bolster retention (perhaps even learning)
  • Help you provide a more personal experience to your members
  • Help you measure what classes are doing well or poorly
  • Streamline your lead development flow

Capitalizing on these benefits is as simple as teaching your students how to use your attendance software, reminding them when it goes into effect, sticking to a transition date, and supporting them through it. While simple, it’s not easy, and you have to resist the urge to turn back due to inevitable friction caused by a new process in the school.

Once your booking system is in effect, you can maximize it by simplifying the booking process, sending booking reminders through email or SMS, and by controlling which classes different types of members can book. Underpinning all this is the choice of powerful, integrated booking software, which we offer here at Martial Arts on Rails.

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Published by Josh Peacock

Josh is a lifelong martial arts fanatic, taekwondo 4th dan, BJJ player, writer, and marketer. In addition to helping martial arts school owners market their gyms more effectively, he also holds an M.Ed. in teaching & learning and has a passion for improving martial arts instruction.

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