microphoneBy Team ICG® Master Trainer Jim Karanas 

More than anything else, members attend our classes for someone to work them out, to train them.  My primary evaluation of a class is always whether I got a workout.  I tell new instructors all the time to keep that in mind:  with just the mindset of the typical class attendee, you”™ll give a satisfactory performance.

With that said, we all know that a class can be so much more.  When you approach class design and instructor performance as a form of public speaking, which they are, you may recognize the level of artistry to which teaching can be raised.  The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs gives an idea of how some people prepare(d) for a public address.

Public speaking is an art.  So is teaching an indoor-cycling class.  Regard it as an art, no matter what your level of instruction, and you”™ll be on a better path.

In public speaking, there are five basic elements, often expressed as, "Who is saying what to whom using what medium with what effects?"  Does that sound familiar?

If we study the volumes that have been written about how to become a confident, compelling public speaker, the impact on our class presentation will be epic.

I”™ve been involved with some form of public speaking since the 1980s, when I first joined Toastmasters.  I was teaching aerobics then but didn”™t draw a parallel between the two activities until much later in life.  The following are a few speaking strategies to consider that parallel the Art of Teaching Indoor Cycling.

Plan Your Communication Appropriately

This goes beyond planning your workout and is completely separate from preparing your music or video playlist.  Structure what you”™re going to say during class.  Apart from workout cues, which messages are you going to deliver?  Exercise science?  Training philosophy?  Bicycle facts?  Don”™t just deliver these randomly.  Plan how and when you”™ll introduce this part of your presentation.  Public speakers frequently use a tool called the 7 C”™s of Communication:  Be Clear, Concise, Concrete, Correct, Coherent, Complete and Courteous.  There are variations on the 7 C”™s that also include Credible and Creative.

Let”™s say you”™re teaching an endurance class and want to discuss the benefits of aerobic conditioning.  I recently listened to an instructor do this.  She spewed all the information during the first 10 minutes of class (not concise).  She constantly talked over lyrics (not courteous).  She was only about 75% correct in what she said and left out certain elements that could have connected the dots (not complete).  She was clear in what she said.  She also said it with authority (concrete) but rambled, not presenting the info in an organized fashion (not coherent).

Still, it was much more than many instructors take the time to do.

I was engaged and got a good workout.  Clearly, this instructor understood the value of messaging during classes.  It might have been the first time she presented it.  She only needs to work a bit more on her presentation of this information to improve her overall communication.


Practice makes perfect.  You probably won”™t say something well the first time you say it (the example above).  To practice, you must seek opportunities to speak in front of others.  Repeat the same messaging in different classes you teach; don”™t forget about it after you”™ve said it.  Before that, however, you must practice it plenty of times alone.  As you practice, keep tweaking and re-tweaking your words until they flow smoothly and easily.  You will often see me speaking out loud while driving.

Engage Your Audience

When you speak, try to engage your audience. This makes you feel less isolated and keeps everyone involved with your message.  Force yourself to slow down by breathing deeply.  Don't be afraid to gather your thoughts.  Pauses are an important part of conversation and make you sound confident, natural, and authentic.  Look at the students while you”™re speaking and make eye contact.  Speak to them directly.

I mentioned above that the instructor spoke over lyrics.  I”™m surprised at how many instructors speak over vocals in a song.  I feel this is discourteous to the class because it”™s confusing to listen to, but could even be considered discourteous to the artist.  Learn your music so you can speak effectively in the interstices between the vocals — or insert an instrumental song when you want to deliver your message.  This point was covered in my previous post on cueing.

Next week, we”™ll discuss the importance of posture on the bike (body language in public speaking) and the use of various media (audio, video and voice tonality) to enhance your classes even more.

John's note: We're highlighting some of Jim Karana's past articles this week.   

Jim Karanas
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