We may have all of the tools to create an incredible Spinning® class, but we need to communicate that experience to our students. Learn the how’s, when’s and what’s of communication in class!
Our cues are just like the chemical structures that make up our universe: they are made of individual atoms that seem so small on their own, but when they are combined, they can create something incredible and powerful, even explosive! The combination of how, when and what your communication is used can transform a great class into an amazing one.
Did you know that overall communication is only 7% verbal? According to Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, the other 93% of our communication is non-verbal. Our tone makes up 38% of our messages, while our body language makes up a whopping 55%.
As Spinning® instructors, we also have other communication challenges to deal with like being heard over the music, correctly positioning the microphone, and trying to lead and inspire while riding the bike.
Although some instructors seem to have these skills down, the fine balance of communicating and being understood can be far more challenging than many of us realize.
Below is a list of considerations when cueing in class. These suggestions go beyond just the mere words of what is said because, as we mentioned, only 7% is actually verbal.
Tone – How Do You Say It?
Tone is created with the emotion and intention that is behind what you are saying. Consider these questions:
- Do you sound authentic?
- Does the tone of you words match the message you want to convey and the response you want to evoke?
- Does your tone change throughout the ride, or does it stay the same?
Altering the inflection in your voice can be extremely powerful. Creating softness and tonal changes creates that same sense of urgency, calmness and emotion just like your music does. There are many ways to stir emotion in people instead of overwhelming them with the volume of your music or voice. A soothing, stirring or driving tone, which speaks to their intellect rather than barking cues can have a far greater and longer lasting effect.
The easiest way to practice tone is to speak through the microphone to your class in your most natural, conversational manner, one that you would use in a face-to-face conversation with someone. Use tones that are realistic and true to who you are, but that also fit into the right context. For example, when welcoming a new student to class, you would use a warm, friendly tone to greet the person. Use a more commanding and forceful tone to prepare students for a challenging sprint ahead, while a soft, gentle tone is appropriate when recovering after a high-intensity hill.
It is vital however that people can understand you over the music. Be sure you can be understood not just heard. Start class by asking “Can you understand me?” instead of “Can you hear me?” The students should have no problem hearing you on the microphone, so make sure you are enunciating properly.
Timing – When Do You Say It?
Timing is everything. You must plan when to use your voice over the course of your playlist. Speaking when there are no lyrics, listening to your music and finding the moments when it is perfect for you to magically appear when there are pauses or breaks. Just before a surge, after an attack, between a chorus and a verse. Music has its own language, and it is a great skilled to work with it rather than try to talk about it.
And intently listening to the lyrics of the songs you choose ensures a connection to the message of your ride. Let the music speak so you don’t have to, as if the lyrics were written especially for that moment. These are the goosebump moments when everything syncs up seamlessly.
Body Language – What Is Your Body Saying?
Over the course of your ride, where are you looking? Are you smiling? Does your face match what you say? Do you make eye contact with your riders? How much do you look down and not at anybody at all? These are questions to ask yourself when leading a class.
It’s helpful to record yourself teaching to evaluate your body language and ensure your body language reflects your words. Not only does it provide moments of silence so that students can absorb your verbal cue, but it also rests your vocal cords.
If you ask students to push super hard, does your face say “work”? Instructors many not need to push themselves as hard as the class; however, the impression of our effort needs to be in alignment with your motivating words. Using less resistance but keeping your leg speed in line with what you are cueing offers a helpful impression for students. Remember that the example you set on stage can speak way louder than the words you say.
- Say what you mean: Have a clear goal for students to follow when you plan out your cues
- Plan your motivational cues like you would your physical cues: Being prepared will give you a far more varied vocabulary rather than relying on your go to words.
- Use words people understand but also with references that are cycling-specific, including definitions to show authenticity and understanding of what you are teaching.
- Avoid repeating the same word hundreds of times (i.e. “Okay,” “Good,” “Great work,” “Come on”)
- Have an extensive library of words that encourage, support, empower, uplift, sooth, calm, excite. There are a lot great suggestions in Becoming a Rockstar Instructor certification.
- Choosing what you say carefully to deliver the relevant message and then giving people the time to listen, absorb, think and apply.
- Sometimes less is more. We do not need to be speaking/cueing constantly; we need to trust that our riders have exactly what they need to get the job done.
- Deliver the instruction, give the cue for the physical effort, the mental focus and give them the space and time to apply it without the constant chatter that is not necessary.
How Do You Want Students To Feel?
Oftentimes, we get so caught up in the little details that we forget the essence of our ride and how we want students to feel when they get off the bike. Consider what effect physically, emotionally and mentally you want to have over them, then use all the tools you have available to create it.
Check in with your profile and your cuing plan and be sure the final result of your class through the combination of all these “chemical structures” gives you the perfect balance for an outstanding ride for all to enjoy.