Has your program director been hinting that your participation numbers are down? It can be frustrating and challenging to keep your regular participants engaged while trying to recruit new fans. If you’re like a lot of instructors, you’ve probably gone from not having anyone to teach to maybe even having to turn people away due to lack of space! There are many things you can do to keep the participants you have, capture new ones and keep people exercising with you, year after year.
The following six suggestions are easy to implement (and you may already be doing some of them).
1. Keep the Music Relevant
Everyone knows that music is the cornerstone of a good class. Playlists are your calling card, and they can make or break an experience. One pitfall that instructors fall into is playing only songs that they love. This is an easy, avoidable trap. Naturally, we want to work out to music we like, but remember that this is not your workout. Let participants choose the music. In fact, actively ask for their advice—because this is their class, and they will work harder if they’re doing it while listening to music that they choose. Here are some tips:
- As a starting point, determine the average age and demographic of your classes. If your dance class is filled with women who are in their 20s, it’s probably not a good idea to play tunes from the 1980s.
- Do a survey! Ask participants what their favorite songs are, and encourage them to share their own playlists.
- Many clients love throw┬¡back songs. If your class has a wide range of ages, play mashups (remixed songs that blend tracks from different songs into one).
- Ask fellow instructors what they’re playing and what has been working for them.
See also: The Group Fitness Trifecta
2. Cross-Promote With Other Fitness Instructors
You are part of a team, so don’t be overly competitive with your teammates. Work with other instructors in your facility to get the word out about your services and show participants that you’re working together to bring awareness to different classes. Give members options that they might not have considered. For example, if you teach HIIT, you could mention that your colleague teaches yoga the next morning and that yoga would be a good choice for active recovery after HIIT; information like this gives members an opportunity to stretch and be mindful, and it demonstrates that you have their best interests in mind.
3. Leverage Social Media
Social media is an easy way for you to share information about activities in and around your fitness community, but don’t do it with your personal profile. Instead, create a business page on Facebook, and use it to promote your certifications and the classes you currently teach. Once you have a following, ask people to leave reviews about your classes on your business page.
Keep your posts engaging and motivating! The last thing you want your followers to see are complaints or negative posts. Here are just a few ways I have attracted followers through strategic posting:
- Ask participants how your class makes them feel. For example, were they better able to tune in and be mindful of their bodies?
- Ask members what they want to work on during the next class.
- Choose a fitness topic of the month, and pin it to the top of your social media page.
- Start a participant-of-the-month program, or stimulate a positive health-related discussion.
I’ve also discovered that posting videos of upcoming workouts and routines gets participants excited, and the videos can show them what to expect for the next class. I am frequently asked to post an example so they can practice on their own. Take that extra step! Potential clients will notice and spread the word.
4. Reward Your Fitness Class Regulars
Aren’t regular attendees the best? Don’t take them for granted. Instead, think about how to reward them. Set aside some money—it doesn’t have to be a large amount—for purchasing or creating small thank-you tokens. I have picked up small gifts or healthy treats at the dollar store. Purchase inexpensive note cards or other thoughtful items. Giving them out at the end of a group fitness session can be quite impactful.
These little gratitude gifts genuinely show your appreciation. They’re a great way to keep relationships strong and continue to build rapport. Also, make a note to listen to what people share in class! Two of my participants got engaged at the same time, and I gave each of them a gift card they weren’t expecting. It made their day!
See also: How to Keep Attendees in Class
5. Run a Raffle
What if you have a larger following, and spending money on each individual is cost-prohibitive? Do a raffle instead. This is a fun way to get your participants engaged and to grow your classes. For example, have your clients follow three simple guidelines:
- Like your fitness page on Facebook and/or Instagram.
- Share your page on their social media.
- Leave a review of your page.
Give your participants a set time to complete the challenge: for example, 3 days. For the raffle, pick items that class members would enjoy, such as a free class—or a week or month of free classes. Be sure that your supervisor is on board with this. Other potential raffle prizes are water bottles, mats, a gym bag or a towel. At the next class, notify the winner, and be sure the prize is available. (Take note if some participants don’t have social media accounts. If this is the case, you can conduct a raffle in person and have participants simply drop their names in a bin after class.)
6. Go on a Field Trip
Take an evening off! If raffles aren’t your thing, get your group out for the evening. This doesn’t have to be a big event that takes up a lot of time. I recently got one of my classes together for a themed paint night, where we all attempted to create the same piece of art. I also brought healthy snacks for everyone. The great thing about this activity: During classes, the same groups of people all stand with each other in the same parts of the room. At an outside event like this, participants can get to know everyone else and create new bonds. I have found that those who connect with other participants feel more excited and motivated to come to class.
Additional Engagement Tips: Go the Extra Mile!
- Change up the class choreography/flow each week.
- Focus on a specific muscle group (create a theme).
- Recognize (call out) individual participants when you notice how hard they are working.
- Keep motivation high with music and cuing.
- Develop your own accountability system so that you can show participants you are invested in their progress.
REGULARS: THE ORIGINAL INFLUENCERS
Pay special attention to your regulars, and let them know you appreciate them. These participants will share their positive experiences and motivate others. This may also help spread the word about your classes. Word of mouth is still the best form of advertising. There is a reason why your regulars keep coming back. Encourage them to spread the word.
Fitness Class Members First
The bottom line is that you want to keep people excited about you and your class. There are so many ways to do this. For example, encourage participants to come up to the front of the class to help you lead, or step away from the front of the class and walk around the room. Both of these help build confidence and encourage attendees to break out of their comfort zones. Remember that this is their time—think outside the box to create a fun workout environment.
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