There was an interesting question asked at one of the Facebook groups; 

If you were to tell a New Instructor to master one thing as an Indoor cycling instructor . What would it be ?

There were a plenty of great responses that included; learn musicality, cuing, be prepared, be yourself, project confidence/control your class (very important) and other suggestions that focused on education. All important for sure. Mine was short - Smile. Pretty simplistic I'll agree - but when you consider that your ability to connect with the riders in your class is crucial for building and maintaining a full class, regularly smiling at people can really add to your overall presentation.

My response was directed at a long running frustration I have. Over hundreds of classes I've taken or observed, I've seen very few smiling Instructors. Lot's of serious Instructors. Instructors who scowl, grimace and a few who look bored... but not many who offer a genuine smile. Sure you'll find pictures of smiling Instructors posted on Facebook or instagram > they're smiling because that's the natural response most people have when having their picture taken. On the count of three I want everyone to Smile. One, Two, Three...

You can make me feel good [wlm_private 'PRO-Platinum|PRO-Monthly|PRO-Gratis|PRO-Seasonal|Platinum-trial|Monthly-trial|PRO-Military|30-Days-of-PRO|90 Day PRO|Stages-Instructor|Schwinn-Instructor|Instructor-Bonus|28 Day Challenge']

I like it when someone smiles at me. Do you? Dumb question, of course you and everyone else I know enjoys a smile. A warm/real smile communicates an enormous amount of goodwill, acceptance and affirmation between two people. Who can forget a smile from someone of great importance? Maybe it was a crush you had in highschool. When he/she smiled at you it validated you as important to someone else. Or maybe you received a smile from a person in authority that said "well done" and boosted your self confidence in a way words never could?

Why so serious?

I do tend to see Instructors with super serious faces. You know, that stern face that conveys concern as they scan across the room. Realising many of us take our role as that of a concerned watchdog, I get how it's important to be watchful of everyone.

I few years back Cycling Fusion ran a contest to find great Instructors. There were quite a few videos submitted, each demonstrating different/unique Instructor styles. Watch a few minutes of the video below to see if you have the same reaction I had > Keith's "persona" is very intense - nothing wrong with that. Can you see how his class presentation could be improved if he just smiled occasionally?  

Consider for a moment you're a participant. Better yet, you are a brand new rider - this is your very first class. So there you are, riding along and feeling pretty good about your success so far. Then you happen to raise your head and see the Instructor looking directly at you with a super serious face...

Why is she looking at me like that? Crap. Am I doing something wrong? I mustn't be pedaling right... are my hand in the wrong place? Sit up straighter... yeah that's it, I need to sit up straighter. Oh good, she's looking at someone else now. She can tell I'm not very good at this... 

The goal is to mask your concern/focus/intensity with a friendly & inviting smile.  

Pick someone to smile at, using your eyes

In this article about eye contact, I described an Instructor who looked at everything in the studio, but never at me. Or it at least felt that way. He would get close to looking at me; above my head, to the left, right and at the floor. Never once did he make eye contact with me... and it was kind of creepy.

Notice in the video where Kevin looks while he's teaching? Straight ahead and somewhat down, at a place just in front of him, right? It doesn't appear to me that he's looking directly at the riders... and he's certainly not making eye contact with anyone. How do I know that? Because most people's expression will change when they connect with another person who's across the room. There are riders facing him, but I don't see any reaction that shows he's connecting with any of them.

What to do? 

We've encouraged Instructors to record the audio of their classes. So they can hear exactly what their class hears.

  • Are my cues clear?
  • Am I talking over and/or competing with the lyrics?
  • Do I talk too much?
  • Not enough?
  • What tone do I use?
  • Does it communicate energy and various emotions - or am I monotone, without any vocal inflection?

Listening to your class presentation can identify any issues/weaknesses. Just like improving your fitness (if you can measure it... you can improve it) being aware of small things that detract from your presentation is the launching pad for improving your presentation skills.

Moving beyond audio, I'm thinking your class presentation could be improved if you were to film yourself. Then you'd see;

  • Am I smiling?
  • What's my expression when I'm not smiling?
  • Am I making eye contact?
  • Does my face show a reaction of connecting with others?
  • Do I scan the room? Or focus in just one place?

It doesn't need to be anything fancy - only you will be watching this. Most phones have excellent video capabilities. You could probably craft a simple stand using a chair and a folded up towel. Get there early, set up you camera, turn it on and then hopefully you'll forget it's running - remember everyone smiles when they know they're being filmed. You want a candid video of the real/natural you.

Important note: try to resist the natural self-criticism that comes from watching yourself in a video. You're only looking for signs of connecting with riders and projecting positive vibes. Unless the class you teach is filled with experienced cyclists, your participants aren't nit-picking how you're ride the bike.  

Let me know what you see. [/wlm_private]


Originally posted 2015-05-11 11:22:00.


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