How a Personal Trainer Can Start a Conversation with a Stranger and Gain a New Client


Conversation Starter Ideas for Personal Trainers

Human beings are social animals and thrive on interaction and connection with others. A common “mental block” of a new personal trainer is the thought of approaching a stranger, building rapport, and then asking them if they are interested in trying your personal training services. However, for some people, starting a conversation with a stranger can be an intimidating and challenging task. It can be nerve-wracking to approach someone you don’t know and strike up a conversation. But, with a little bit of practice and the right mindset, any fitness professional can learn how to start a conversation with a stranger, and effortlessly share your health and fitness training services with them.

In this lesson, we’ll explore some tips and tricks for starting a conversation with a stranger, including where and when to strike up a conversation, how to understand if you are invading someone’s personal space, how to build rapport quickly, and how to read body language cues to know if rapport is being made.

Choose the Right Time and Place

The first step to starting a conversation with a stranger is to choose the right time and place.  Not all the best opportunities will be at a gym, fitness center, or health club. You don’t want to approach someone when they are busy or preoccupied. If someone is rushing to catch a train or engrossed in a book, they may not appreciate being interrupted. So, it’s important to pick a time and place where the person is more likely to be open to conversation.

Some examples of places where you can strike up a conversation include:

  • In a coffee shop: If you see someone sitting alone in a coffee shop, they might be more open to conversation. You can start by asking them what they are reading or what kind of coffee they ordered. If they are wearing gym clothes, you can ask where they train (as an example).
  • At a networking event: Networking events are designed for people to connect with each other, so it’s a great place to strike up a conversation. You can ask the person about their job or what brings them to the event. Know the “rules of engagement” for any networking event.  You don’t want to be “that person” who is overbearing and obnoxious. Add value and be kind.
  • In a waiting room: If you’re waiting for an appointment or at the airport, it can be a great opportunity to start a conversation with someone. You can ask them where they’re headed or what they do for a living. If the person looks stressed, it’s not the right time or place.
  • At a social gathering: Parties and other social gatherings are designed for people to interact and socialize. So, if you see someone you don’t know, you can introduce yourself and ask them about their interests or hobbies.  When you ask about them first, it’s likely they will ask about you and your interests.  You then can talk about your passion for health, fitness, wellness, or nutrition.  It’s a natural progression of the conversation.

Read the Room

Before approaching someone, it’s important to read the room and make sure that you’re not invading someone’s personal space. If someone is engrossed in their phone or book or very intent on their set, they may not want to be disturbed. So, it’s important to be mindful of the signals people are giving off and to approach them when they seem open to conversation.

Some signs that someone is open to conversation include:

  • They make eye contact with you and smile
  • They seem relaxed and open
  • They don’t appear to be in a rush
  • They are not engrossed in their phone or book
  • They are not working out so intently that you would be disrupting their flow

If someone seems closed off or uncomfortable, it’s best to respect their personal space and not approach them.

Start with a Compliment or Observation

Starting a conversation with a stranger can be as simple as offering a compliment or seeing something in your shared environment. This can be a great way to break the ice and start a conversation.

Some examples of compliments or observations you can use include:

  • “I love your shirt! Where did you get it?”
  • “How do you like that brand of sweats?  I am looking for some new gear.”
  • “That book looks really interesting. What’s it about?”
  • “I couldn’t help but notice your laptop. What kind is it?”

By starting with a compliment or observation, you’re showing the person that you’re interested in them and that you’re paying attention to your shared environment.  Make sure your compliments are not intrusive or could be misconstrued the wrong way. In general, observation is safer.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Once you’ve started the conversation, it’s important to keep it going by asking open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are questions that require more than a yes or no answer, which can help keep the conversation flowing.

Some examples of open-ended questions include:

  • “What brings you to this coffee shop today?”
  • “What other exercises do you do for that muscle group?”
  • “What do you like to do for fun?”
  • “What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done recently?”

By asking open-ended questions, you’re showing the person that you’re interested in learning more about them and their interests.

Share a Little About Yourself

While it’s important to ask the person questions, it’s also important to share a little about yourself. This can help build rapport and establish a connection between the two of you.

Some examples of things you can share include:

  • Your name and where you’re from
  • Your interests or hobbies
  • What brought you to the place where you’re having the conversation?

By sharing a little about yourself, you’re showing the person that you’re open and friendly, which can help put them at ease.

Listen and Show Interest

One of the most important things you can do when starting a conversation with a stranger is to listen and show interest in what they have to say. You can benefit by using the same active listening skills you would as a coach. By doing this, you’re showing them that you value their opinion and that you’re invested in the conversation.

Some tips for showing interest include:

  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Nodding and smiling
  • Asking follow-up questions
  • Paraphrasing what they say to show that you understand

By showing interest and actively listening, you’re also building rapport and establishing a connection with the person.

You can also benefit from the practice of mirroring and matching/pacing and leading.

Pay Attention to Body Language Cues

When starting a conversation with a stranger, it’s important to pay attention to their body language cues to see if they are engaged and interested in the conversation. Some signs that the conversation is going well include:

  • Leaning in towards you
  • Smiling and nodding
  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Mirroring your body language

On the other hand, signs that the person may not be interested or engaged include:

  • Leaning away from you
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Fidgeting or looking distracted
  • Giving short or curt answers

If you notice these cues, it’s important to respect the person’s personal space and end the conversation gracefully.

Be Respectful

Finally, it’s important to be respectful when starting a conversation with a stranger. This means respecting their personal space, their opinions, and their boundaries. If someone is not interested in continuing the conversation, it’s important to respect that and end the conversation gracefully.

Some tips for being respectful include:

  • Not interrupting the person when they’re speaking
  • Not making assumptions or judgments about the person
  • Not invading their personal space or making them feel uncomfortable

By being respectful, you’re showing the person that you value their boundaries and that you’re a trustworthy and respectful person.

Where Can You Learn More?

Starting a conversation with a stranger can be a great way to build connections and establish new relationships. By choosing the right time and place, reading the room, starting with a compliment or observation, asking open-ended questions, sharing a little about yourself, listening and showing interest, paying attention to body language cues, and being respectful, you can make the conversation flow smoothly and establish a connection with the person. With a little practice, anyone can learn how to start a conversation with a stranger and build meaningful relationships with new people.

You can dramatically improve your confidence, communication skills and understanding of body language by enrolling in the following courses at Spencer Institute:

Certified Life Strategies Coach
Certified Results Coach

Becoming a personal trainer is a rewarding career that offers the opportunity to help others achieve their fitness goals and lead healthier lives. To ensure you get hired at your favorite fitness center or gym, it’s essential to earn your NCCA-accredited NESTA Personal Fitness Trainer Certification. This certification demonstrates your knowledge and skills in designing safe and effective fitness programs for clients and is required by many of the top fitness centers and gyms.

If you have any questions about our programs or this topic, let us know! We are here to help.