Who wouldn’t want their participants to treat their class like a concert or a movie? The better the experience you can create in your group class, the more likely people are to make room in their calendar, invite their friends, and come running to your class!
The most consistently attended and popular classes are taught by instructors who provide an entertaining and exceptional experience. If a Group Fitness Class is not a great experience, it’s just another workout. If it’s just another workout, participants will put it on the back burner when work, kids, traffic, or any other life distraction get in the way.
Over the past eight years as a Group Fitness Director, I have had the pleasure and opportunity to teach and attend various formats from Barre/Yoga/Pilates, to Zumba, to CrossFit, to Kickboxing. No matter what format, length of class, the brand of equipment used, or studio space it takes place in, I’ve found these five things always make the overall experience of a class more positive and memorable.
- Set the stage for a great experience by planning your exercises, cues, and timeline: An unplanned class feels disjointed, and the instructor seems disengaged as they try to think of what to do next. Teaching with an outline of exercises and unique motivating cues portrays the instructor as poised and prepared. A planned experience ensures that even if something small goes wrong, the class remains seamless and organized.
- Eye Contact: Looking directly at your students as individuals helps them believe they have the instructor’s interest and that their presence in class is essential. When an instructor provides eye contact with their students, it unconsciously makes them seem sincere, confident, and honest.
- Say Names! Yes, it is hard to remember names, but I assure you it is worth it! Make a consistent effort to learn names and say them before, during, and after class. Your participant’s names are the most intense connection to their identity and individuality. Saying their names, will not only make them feel special but will also make you more personable with your students.
- Make the cool down a mind and body experience of its own: Instead of simply turning down the music and guiding your class through some simple stretches or lower intensity movements, give your participants something to think about. Help your students remember the experience and recognize the importance of the class they just attended:
- – Remind your students as they recover from giving themselves credit for doing something for their body.
- – Ask the class to take a moment to close their eyes and bring awareness to how their body feels after class compared to when they first walked in.
- – Thank your class for coming and share how much it means to you as the instructor to have them there.
- Tell them what the next class will provide: Afterward, show your students how prepared you are for the next class they attend. Share the theme, benefit, or focus of the next class you are teaching and personally invite them to attend. Whether the next class you teach is the next day or the next week, this will give them something to think about committing to as they exit the studio.
I hope you put these five strategies to the test in your own classes! If you’ve been teaching for a while, stay conscious of these elements as you teach your class. Without being conscious and intentional about a new habit or skill, it won’t have the same lasting effect. As hard as it is to watch ourselves, the best way to witness our own class experience is to film part of their class and watch it! I highly suggest making an effort to watch yourself teach or even just record your voice.
If you are new to teaching and feeling overwhelmed by five new things to focus on, don’t feel like you need to make these changes to your class immediately. Instead, choose one thing you could work on, or become conscious of. Over time, building self-awareness of these strategies will generate high-level habits, helping you deliver a world-class experience to ANY class.