Andrea Metcalf by Andrea Metcalf

As group fitness instructors, we run into our classes, turn on the personality, pump up the music and motivate our participants to move. It doesn’t matter if the class is focused on cycling, yoga, strength or fusion, you have to gear up to be “on stage.” After all, each class really is a performance. 

There are, however, a few things that can ruin a class and have people sneaking out the back door or, worse yet, skipping your class altogether. Here are three things you need to keep in mind to keep participants coming back.

1. Presence: The Curtain Opens

Presence: The Curtain Opens

Every time you walk in front of a crowd, you take on a responsibility to lead and inspire. Your participants expect you to be there for them—ready to roll, teach, educate and push. You have chosen to lead and have the microphone—don’t disappoint them. Their first impression of you may be your last. To help make ensure a great experience for everyone, here’s a quick checklist for creating a “rockstar” presence for any fitness class:

  • Always arrive at least five to 10 minutes early—or even 15 minutes early so you can talk with participants while the previous class is finishing up. This will give you a jump on getting to know their names.
  • Have your music preset with playlists ready and make sure you use the “do not disturb” or “airplane mode” to avoid having interruptions in class. It’s also a good idea to poll your participants on what they like to hear during class.
  • There is nothing worse than running out of equipment, so plan accordingly. If you don’t have enough equipment for each participant, pick one or two items and change midway through class to avoid equipment set-up delays.
  • Welcome everyone to class, introduce yourself and tell them the name of the class and what to expect.
  • Don’t forget to smile. Smiling changes the mood and helps your audience get to know you.

BOTTOM LINE: Never arrive late or unprepared.

2. Performance: Bring Participants Into Your World

Performance: Bring Participants Into Your World

Now that you’ve set the stage, it’s time to bring participants into your world of fun, great music, a variety of effective moves and engagement. In addition to using good cuing and building logical progressions, your participants need to feel as if they are an integral part of the experience. Smiles, eye contact and personal attention is key for a great performance. Here’s your during-class checklist:

  • If you were to map out your every move during class, the final product should look like a scribble pad touching every corner more than once. A great instructor does not lead from the front—they move around class to engage with each participant. Although moving around the floor and teaching facing away from the mirror may be difficult for some formats, such as indoor cycling, do your best to connect with each person. This will bring more energy and enthusiasm to your classes.
  • Properly planning your progressions and adding a variety of levels for movements are integral to good instruction. Participants have varying abilities, so demonstrating multiple ways to execute each exercise is key to making each person feel as though the class was developed for them. Encourage participants to choose proper form over higher intensity by explaining that more challenging movements don’t always produce better or faster results.
  • The best way to make people feel more comfortable is to get to know them. Make the effort to know your participants’ names and at least a little bit of information that is unique to each individual.

BOTTOM LINE: Don’t forget that your participants are your number-one priority.

3. Boomerang: Keep Participants Coming Back

The end of class is just as important as the beginning and middle. How you leave the participants at the end of the session is what they will remember the most. Here are few reminders of what the best instructors do at the end of class:

  • The energy level during a class is much like a song playing—it can start softly and build until it finishes strong. This is what you should focus on doing for your group fitness classes. Energy needs to crescendo and then lower as you near the end of class.
  • The end of the class is another opportunity to introduce yourself and share your knowledge. Giving a thought for the day or fit tip may be a signature you can develop to help brand yourself in and out of the gym. Remember to reconnect with your students. Ask names and thank them for coming, but don’t forget to ask them to come back. Help them make the personal commitment to “See you again next week!” or to “Try this class tomorrow with another instructor to round out your training for the week.”  Remember, people will often forget what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

BOTTOM LINE: Don’t forget to always invite participants to come back for more.