Five Things I Learned About Facilitation From My Spinning Instructor
In 2014 I fell in love with spinning. I straddled the Schwinn for the first time on June 1st. A year later, I am a believer. I am not a church-goer, but the place where I spin, Reve, has become my religion, and my favorite instructor, Carolyn, is my pastor.
After a few sessions with her, it dawned on me why I am so enamored with her teaching style. I recognized techniques she uses that are equally important in skillful facilitation.
Carolyn begins every class with high energy – and she sustains that energy all the way to the end. A skillful facilitator must have a high level of energy in order to raise the energy of the participants (especially in a 6:00am class!)
Carolyn asks us to close our eyes and set our intention for our ride before it starts – establishing an individual mantra if you will. Beginning a session with a quick check-in and asking participants to think about what they’d like the outcome to be – or how they’d like to feel at the end of the session – brings focus to the task at hand.
FOCUS ON THE PARTICIPANTS:
She constantly checks the pulse of the room, reminding us what the tempo is, (1, 2, 1, 2) and ensuring we are keeping up. A skillful facilitator regularly reads the room to see if someone is checked out or struggling with a concept.
CONNECT PARTICIPANTS TO EACH OTHER:
Carolyn invites us, when our energy might be at its lowest, to send our energy out to help each other. This technique is key to establishing an atmosphere of support and camaraderie.
Inviting participants to take the focus off of themselves and to instead turn it on someone else allows for stronger interpersonal connections.
BE CONSISTENT AND CLEAR:
Carolyn uses the same language in each class to give us instructions. Whether it is, “1/4 turn to the left” or “two whole turns to the right” she uses phrases that are simple, direct and clear. Whether you are asking participants to break into small groups or to finish a task in 3 minutes, being specific, clear and consistent makes it easier for them to focus on their discussions (the content) and not worry about the process.
Carolyn’s classes are almost always full, often with a waiting list. Whether she knows it or not, she has an ability to create an evangelist out of a non-believer. Now, that is powerful facilitation!
Image Credit: Instructor/trainer Carolyn Williams holds a towel over her head and sings along to a song as she leads a 6 a.m. spin class at Rêve Cycling Studio in Portland. Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer (Portland Press Herald)