There is so much to think about when you are a group fitness instructor: you create a class profile, scour iTunes for music & make sure it all makes sense. Then there is the practical side: remember your kit, your shoes, iPod, back up CDs, mic shields, every type of batteries under the sun, water bottle, beginners’ hand outs, pens etc.
You arrive at the gym and two bikes are broken and the class is fully booked, mic is not working, you find the electric fan DOA. Life happens 🙂 I am not complaining. Nobody made me do it.
But only once you start teaching the class, that’s when the REAL challenge begins. You are facing anything between 1 to 50 people. All individuals with different expectations.
We have all heard the famous: “you cannot please everyone” and it is true. Not with your musical taste, class structure etc. But I want to focus on something else today: client/participant approach.
Say what? Well, how do we refer to the people who came to take our classes, how do we come across? Are we aware of that? Do we ask for/get any feedback?
Today I had a girl in my class whom I have never seen before. She came 15min early and she was very clear and vocal: “I take 4 classes a week. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. But not on Wednesday. I cannot stand the teacher. She keeps calling me “sweetheart”! I told her my name is Georgia and I am not her sweetheart but she kept doing it!”
It can be a struggle to be friendly and approachable but not condescending. Especially if you are not sure if people didn’t hear your advice or just decided to ignore it. And if they did – was there a reason for it?
That is why trying to develop a rapport with your groups is so important. I know, I know: what about the places where you get new people every class? I make it a point to be at the studio and set up 15min before a class. If I teach on a weekend it is sometimes 30min.
This gives me the precious time to walk around, give 121 attention, get people’s attitude sussed out: are they going to be receptive or they already know it all? Will they laugh at a joke?
I also try and stay there for 10min after a class for the same reasons. And believe me, walking around the studio during the class helps too. Sometimes you keep repeating a cue: “Shoulders down. Elbows in.” but the person you are directing it to doesn’t react. But when you go by and gently tap their elbow or shoulder – they do.
I personally don’t like when people I don’t know call me honey, sweetheart, babe, whatever. I do my best to avoid it when referring to people in my classes.
I also tend to say before the start: “If you hear me say NO BOUNCING for the 15th time and you feel like you may throw your bottle at me if I say it again – I am fully aware of how many times I have repeated it. There is a reason for it: someone is still bouncing. Look around: if you can see nobody bouncing – IT IS YOU!”
I also have my feedback forms that I give to people about once a year where I ask about my catch phrases, any pet peeves etc. Then I sit down with a glass of wine and go through them andI know what needs work. The forms (even if e-mailed) often work better that face to face conversation as people won’t always tell you in your face what negative points they find in your teaching.
How do you get your feedback? How do you refer to your participants? Are you good with names? How well do you know your regulars? Do you ever meet socially outside the gym as a group? I would love to hear from you.