Was it just me, or did that last Instructor never make eye contact with you, either?
Amy and I were both participating at a teach-back assessment a few months ago, for Life Time's new Evolution Signature Indoor Cycling format. There was a handful of Instructors trying out and we all assumed the role as a “participant”, while we waited our turn on the Instructor bike.
It wasn't only you John, was Amy's response. That guy looked everywhere but directly at me… At first it was a little weird – his focus kept switching from the floor > ceiling and then at alternating walls on either side of the room. After a while I felt kind of dismissed, by how he seemed to purposefully avoid directly looking at me 🙁
Amy and I discussed our experiences with the guy, in the car on our way home. We both felt like he had all the right words = technically he sounded like he knew what he should be saying. But he had ZERO connection with his riders. Now I know this was probably an extreme example, but;
How effective are you at making eye contact with your riders?
If I came to your class, would you look at me?
Would I see you making eye contact with others in a meaningful way?
Take a moment and reflect back on your last class. How many people do you remember connecting with?
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Johnny G is a master at connecting with his audience of riders. Watch this short segment of him presenting. Pay particular attention to how he scans the faces in the room.
Make connections the objective of your class
I've featured presentation coach Alexa Fischer here in the past because she is a master communicator. She has a new blog post that expands on the video below, where she explains:
For me, winning over your audience has nothing to do with seeing everyone in their birthday suits. It has everything to do with making a genuine connection, in the exact same way you would when you meet a new friend in a cafe. In today’s video, I share my surefire strategies for keeping my audience engaged.
As the late, great Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
The same is true for when you are on stage.
Click here to see Alexa's other video > and by all means, join her email list. She's sending out good stuff every week that I find very helpful.
Look up here at Me… not the video!
If you frequently play video in your classes, you're probably creating a connection problem with your participants. They are focused on the big screens, not you. For some of your members that will be OK for you to be an unseen narrator, while they watch what's happening on the video.
But many riders won't. They need you to make them feel important, if only for an instant, where you connect and flash them a quick smile or some other acknowledgment.
Random thought: does it make sense to whiten your teeth? Would your smile be more impactful, especially to those riding way in the back, if it was whiter/brighter?
So how do you get people to pay attention, so you can connect with them, when you're playing a video?
Check your lighting.
Maybe it was because I was a little self conscience, but early in my teaching career I wouldn't turn on the stage spotlights. I normally kept the studio lights down low. But over time (and watching other Instructors teach in the same room) I learned that I retained people's attention longer, if they could see me clearly. Having two focal points in the room, #1 the screen(s) and #2 YOU, should help direct your riders attention.
Make a change
Did you see how Johnny G maintained the room's attention, by asking them to sit up? How about suggesting in your next class, “this is a good time for a water break / toweling off.” Then watch what happens. Catch people following your lead and reaffirm those who do with a nod or a tip of your water bottle.
It's very natural for people to turn toward the person asking a question. Why? I think we instinctively do this to try and gather more information. I feel open ended questions (can't be a Yes/No response) work best. If you really want to get eyes up on you, ask a question that references something that needs to been seen to be understood and then point/demonstrate without giving any additional cues until you have their eyes-forward. Maybe something like; is your pedal stroke smooth like this? Then demonstrate the action while scanning the faces of the room for recognition.
Bring up the room lights
If you have a really dark studio, bring up the room lights for the cool down. It's here when you can really try to connect with each rider – or – try and develop a surrogate; have everyone turn, face each other and congratulate their neighbor!
John is a member on the AFS (Association of Fitness Studios) Advisory Council.
Holding certifications from; Schwinn, Heart Zones, Team ICG and Life Time Fitness, John's held regularly scheduled cycling classes between 1998 and 2015 when he moved to Florida.
When the weather permits, you'll find him riding and leading outdoor groups by himself or with his Tandem partner (wife) Amy.
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