Perhaps one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of being a group fitness instructor is the all-important audition. Demonstrating your suitability and skill as an instructor to a club owner or manager (and perhaps other contending instructors) sounds easy enough—but there’s a lot of pressure wrapped up in getting audition-ready. Fortunately, there are simple steps to make the process less stressful and more successful.
Heed the insider advice here from three top group fitness managers and get ready to nail your next audition!
What You Should Know Before You Go
You can help quell nerves about an audition by investigating what to expect before you get there. For example, will you be auditioning solo or as part of a group? While solo auditions might be necessary in a pinch, they’re usually not ideal.
“Individual auditions are awkward because the instructor isn’t teaching to anyone, so his or her true personality may not actually come out,” says Joella Hopkins, vice president of group fitness at EOS Fitness, a chain of clubs across Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. “Group auditions are more like a live setting, so you can see how instructors teach to real people.” It’s most likely that you’ll be teaching to an audience of other instructors who are also auditioning.
If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask the audition organizer in advance. The more prepared you feel, the more prepared you’ll appear at the actual event. Double-check details such as location, start and end times, required music and music devices, format(s) you’ll be teaching, how long you’ll be teaching, whom you’ll be teaching to, approximate size of the group, and any other particulars that come to mind.
You can also learn more about what to expect simply by researching the facility where you hope to get hired. “Take some time to get to know the organization,” says New York City–based Michele Bastos, global group fitness manager for Crunch Fitness. “Look at the class schedule for an overall idea of programs offered.” It doesn’t hurt to also attend a live class or two, observing the club’s culture, instructors’ teaching styles and members’ attitudes. “I’ve had several candidates show up to my classes prior to auditions and introduce themselves,” says Bastos. “They get extra points for doing their homework!”
What Group Fitness Managers Look For
It goes without saying that you should turn up for any audition with everything you might need: a resumé, a demo video (if requested), music, backup music and a backup device, appropriate workout attire, a planned routine, and anything else specified by those holding the event. This sort of preparedness is important, but avoiding red flags like tardiness is pretty basic, too. Get there early! The idea, of course, is to make an exceptional impression.
Aside from assessing the more obvious criteria outlined so far, how do group fitness managers seek out stellar instructors? What’s going through the minds of managers as they observe and take notes on everyone who is teaching? Here are a few major qualities, skills and behaviors that managers look for during auditions—and how you can showcase yours more effectively.
A POSITIVE PERSONALITY: ONSTAGE AND OFF
It’s no surprise that personality tops the list. “You can see each person’s personality from the moment they walk into the room,” says Bastos.
MANAGERS WATCH WHILE YOU TEACH—AND WHEN YOU’RE INTERACTING BEFORE AND AFTER CLASS.
Be sure to make a strong (and friendly!) first impression. Hopefully, this comes naturally to you.
“Be a positive force in the room,” says Bastos. “Be nice to other instructors, staff and customers. Show support as other candidates teach, and be respectful of other formats. No face twisting while other candidates are auditioning. We notice!”
MANAGERS LOOK FOR HOW WELL YOU CONNECT WITH THE GROUP
They’ll be taking notes on your enthusiasm and eye contact, whether and how much you smile, your voice projection and body language, and more. Hopkins evaluates instructor personality based on various reflections:
- Does this applicant make people feel welcome and included?
- Is she or he approachable?
- Would I want to take this person’s class?
SMILING IS A GOOD START, BUT MANAGERS ALSO LOOK FOR AN “IT” QUALITY.
This can be difficult to define and develop, but it isn’t difficult to spot. For Linda McHugh, area group exercise manager at 24 Hour Fitness®, it’s about “lighting up the room” and providing an entertaining experience. “You can feel when the energy increases or decreases with each applicant,” says McHugh, who manages the group exercise programs at 19 club locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. “I look for the [instructor’s] ability to deliver a memorable and engaging experience.” A successful candidate should have enough confidence to take command of the room.
MOVEMENT QUALITY: TECHNIQUE AND SAFETY
Even with the best possible personality, you must also be able to move well. After all, the instructor is a role model for how to execute movements properly.
MANAGERS WANT TO SEE EXCEPTIONAL TECHNIQUE.
Hopkins looks for answers to questions like these:
- Does the applicant demonstrate the exercises safely with proper range of motion and alignment?
- Can this instructor coach participants to perform moves correctly?
- Do I feel inspired when I watch this person move?
- Do I strive to be able to move that way myself?
You should also be able to move to the musical beat if that’s required for the format you want to teach.
LONGER IN THE AUDITION “HOT SEAT.”
“Candidates must present the ability to perform good-quality movement when teaching and when participating as a ‘student’ in others’ auditions,” says Bastos. “Unfortunately, this is an area where instructors are underdelivering in auditions. They should be able to coach proficiently but also perform foundational movements—such as squat, lunge and plank—with proper form and technique.”
CUING SKILLS: CLARITY AND RESPONSIVENESS
Movement quality is key, but there’s a distinction between moving well and teaching well. The ability (or inability) to demonstrate high-level teaching skills can make or break an audition. “Modeling good technique [alone] is not going to cut it,” says McHugh. “I have seen plenty of instructors [who] have so much education and are great technical experts, but they cannot get more than three to five participants in their class. Instructors need to engage, relate, create community and entertain in order to develop class participation.”
MANAGERS LOOK FOR EXCEPTIONAL CUING.
To demonstrate teaching skills, Hopkins expects candidates to be able to cue in advance and in time with the music, providing multiple options for various fitness levels. In each audition, she asks herself:
- Does this applicant give the right initial cues to ensure proper setup so participants know exactly what to do?
- Does he or she clearly explain expectations to participants?
- As participants progress, can the instructor use more emotional cues to help them get better results?
- Are the cues easy for participants to follow?
MANAGERS LOOK AT HOW YOU CUE OTHERS.
One way to ensure your skills shine in an audition is through repeated practice. “Practice beforehand—and practice some more,” says Hopkins.
And remember to inspire participants! “In general,” says McHugh, “instructors spend way too much time on nailing their choreography, and they let the rest of what makes an instructor great go out the window. An instructor needs to know how to make the time in a group fitness class fly by!”
MANAGERS LOOK FOR COMPETENCY OVER COMPLEXITY.
Complexity isn’t necessarily a sign of competence. Keep it simple. “The routine should be easy to execute, be easy to follow, and offer a variety of level options, including exercise regressions and progressions,” says Bastos.
What to Do When You’re Done with the Audition
AUDITIONS ARE OPPORTUNITIES. Be proud of yourself for participating, regardless of outcome. Consider auditions a worthwhile networking and educational endeavor.
MANAGERS LOOK FOR INSTRUCTORS WHO ALSO WANT TO LEARN. “Go into the audition viewing it as a great learning experience,” says McHugh. “Take all the feedback you are given, whether or not you are hired, and use it as golden nuggets that will help you get better.” Don’t be shy about asking for additional pointers. “It shows you are open to getting better and want to grow as an instructor,” says Hopkins. “We would rather have a ‘diamond in the rough’ on our team over a ‘know-it-all’ who doesn’t take feedback.”
MANAGERS APPRECIATE GRATITUDE AND PROFESSIONAL COURTESY. After the audition, send a follow-up email or card. “Thank the person auditioning you, and let them know how much you’d love to work with them and be given a chance,” says Hopkins. A lot of people skip this step, so it’ll help you stand out. “The ‘thank-you’ email after the audition process might be one of the most important steps to follow,” says Bastos. “Let the hiring manager know that you appreciated the opportunity.”
Group fitness managers are always looking for new talent. Use the audition-ready tips in this article to wow them with your presentation and personality!
Excel at Auditions With AFAA’s Practical Way Module
Want even more audition advice? AFAA’s Practical Way module takes you through the development and delivery of a group fitness workout you can teach with confidence. You’ll be guided on how to film yourself teaching and then constructively evaluate your own performance (or ask a mentor to evaluate you) based on various teaching aspects, such as class structure and flow, cuing, exercise technique, body language and presentation, voice, and communication. Learn to apply all these concepts so you excel at performing an actual workout in an audition or live class. The Practical Way module is available with all AFAA Group Fitness Instructor packages.
Before the Audition: On Practicing . . . and Being Imperfect
To make sure you are ready to shine in an audition, practice over and over beforehand. “Script your cues and do the workout many times,” says Joella Hopkins, vice president of group fitness at EOS Fitness®, a chain of clubs across Southern California, Arizona and Nevada.
If you don’t have a regular class somewhere, teach to friends and family so you get good at giving common-sense cues, managing various levels and putting together sequences that flow. “The more you practice in front of others, the more comfortable you’ll be,” says Hopkins.
Just avoid pressuring yourself to deliver a perfect performance on the big day. Believe it or not, messing up could work in your favor—depending on your reaction. “Everybody makes mistakes,” Hopkins says. “Many times I watch to see how someone will handle making a mistake.”
Having the confidence to move on gracefully from a mistake is key: It demonstrates that you have both the competency to lead a group and the professionalism to stay focused under any circumstances. It shows you can operate well even when things go awry.