Picking up a class at a club where you’ve never taught before can be daunting. How do you grow your numbers and get word around about your general awesomeness if nobody’s ever heard of you? Whether you’re brand new to teaching or a seasoned professional, follow the tips below and watch your attendance skyrocket!
1. ATTEND OTHER INSTRUCTORS' CLASSES AND ASK TO TEAM TEACH
This one is a MUST. Not only will you get to know your fellow Instructors – which opens the door to team teaching and cross promotion – but it’s a great way to get to know the members on the floor. It also enables you to see how other Instructors teach at that facility, and get a feel for members' preferred style of teaching (are they a “woohoo” crowd? Do they love shouting “hey” in BODYATTACK™? And so forth).
“Arrive early so you can talk to members,” suggests BODYPUMP™ Instructor Angela Jae Suchy. “Once you’ve established yourself and the members get to know you, they'll want to come to your class too!”
Attending other Instructors' classes helps start a conversation around shadowing/ team teaching. “After the class is finished, let the Instructor know you’ve just started teaching and would like to hear any advice they have on building a class at your specific location,” says BODYSTEP™ Instructor Lizzie Broome. “Ask if it would be okay to teach a class with them. Most likely, they'll be flattered and will take you under their wing.”
The advantages of team teaching are threefold: members get exposed to your awesomeness; you can promote your own timeslot; plus the lead Instructor may ask you to cover their class in the future. What's not to love?
2. ASK OTHER TEACHERS TO PROMOTE YOUR TIMESLOT
Once you’ve got to know the rest of the team, ask them to mention your class to their members. “I remember asking a bunch of fellow Instructors to help me out and let their participants know about a class I was teaching that historically didn’t have high attendance,” says BODYBALANCE™ Instructor Carina Smith. “The response from members was: “What? I had no idea this class was offered!” It’s great to get the word out ourselves, but you don’t see ALL the members, so recruit Instructors to help you get the word out to as many people as possible.”
It's also a great idea to connect with the personal trainers at your gym and share the benefits of the classes you teach. They may have clients for whom adding in your class can complement the sessions they're doing with the PT.
3. COVER AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
Covering classes is another must. This will expose you to members who don’t know you, plus it’s a great way to top up your earnings from teaching.
“Sub as much as you can, so that the members attending other time slots can experience your teaching,” says BODYCOMBAT™ Instructor C Lin Wu. “Be sure to advertise your regular time slot. If they like you, they’ll start showing up at your regular classes and word will spread!”
Covering classes is also a great way to help your own development. "Sometimes when you teach at the same place to the same faces, you automatically deliver the same performance," says BODYPUMP Instructor Marie Anagnostis. "But if you're in need of some reinvention for your own development and longevity – shaking up your audience can disturb your teaching in a good way. Perhaps the new people in front of you require different cues? Are motivated by different prompts? They may require different words, phrases and expressions than you're used to delivering. The bonus is that all your old jokes are new again!"
Watch Ben Main's tips to fill your classes!
4. LEARN NAMES AND FOCUS ON CONNECTION
Les Mills Ambassador Reagan Kang says his ability to connect is the reason people keep coming back to his classes. “I focus on making people feel like they’re the only person in the room. I learn names and I try to talk to everyone in the room, to make them feel connected so that the next hour is just you, me, the music and the workout. I want them to forget everything else that’s going on in their lives so we can just focus on what we're doing. Then, when they leave the class, they feel a lot better about themselves.”
Lizzie Broome agrees: “Talk to your members before class and get their name. At the end, try to address them by their name and ask them how the class went. The chance of them returning is greater when you connect with people on a first name basis. If you see them in the gym, say hi to them and ask them if you’ll see them in class that week.”
5. MAKE YOUR CLASSES FUN!
Suli Tuitaupe is a legend at Les Mills Christchurch, and he was also the recipient of the 2021 Community Instructor of the Year Award from the New Zealand Exercise Industry. Why? Because he’s all about making people feel good.
“His classes are literally a party with friends, and this is often at 6am!” confirms Les Mills International Training Director Maureen Baker.
“It has to be FUN!” says Suli. “I love connecting my members to the workout, the music, the sense of community with each other, putting a smile on their faces. I create a party atmosphere and I love themed classes, so I give each class I teach a party name: Party PUMP Tuesday, Wicked Wednesday RPM, Church of Attack Sunday. I teach Christmas classes too, to share some cheer with those who may not have anyone to share the day with.”
He continues: “It doesn’t matter if you’re a hardcore regular or a new member: my commitment is that you will be acknowledged, whether there’s one person or 111 people in the room, and I’ll aim to deliver your best workout yet. I want my members walking out feeling satisfied, buzzing and ready to face the day ahead.”
6. PROMOTE YOUR CLASSES ON SOCIAL MEDIA
When asked about the biggest benefit of social media for Instructors, Program Director Rachael Newsham is unequivocal: “Filling your classes. When you post on social, you automatically reach a wider audience and you can keep people updated with when you’re doing covers, telling them what tracks you’re going to teach… it’s a way to keep the conversation going outside of class, and helps your members feel more connected with you. And at the end of the day, we all want to feel connected.”
Learn more about how to optimize your posts on social media.
7. WHAT WILL MAKE PEOPLE WANT TO COME BACK TO YOUR CLASS?
“For most of us, our group fitness teaching is absorbed through our own experience,” says Masterclass Presenter Bevan James Eyles. “Sure, we think about our participants but it’s through our own eyes. How often do you actually think about what it’s like to be a person in your class?
- What’s it like to be a participant before your class starts?
- How do the participants experience your connection, motivation, coaching?
- How do people feel about themselves in your class?
- What do they walk away from your class thinking?
The list of questions could go on.
One of the most powerful ways to explore this way of thinking is to identify different types of people and then reflect upon their experience. For example, imagine a brand-new person who has never tried a group fitness class before; they may be a little bit insecure around exercise and may be a little overweight. What is their experience during your class? What about the person who’s a regular and has been coming for years, who is fit and confident with their level of fitness? You could even look at personality traits such as shy vs outgoing. Once you’ve identified what the ultimate experience could be for your participants, you can then determine how to create this.”
Learn more about how to create the ultimate experience for your participants.