How to create a winning audition – a guest blog by Carrie Hill

Many moons ago in my first year as a Group Exercise Instructor, I was asked to cover a Zumba class at a local health club. I said yes as I was still fairly new to the industry and was keen to cover wherever I could in the event it led to permanent classes and the opportunity to earn more money. Then came the dreaded ‘we just need you to audition first’.  I freaked out.  I cancelled on them.  I can’t remember the excuse I gave but I knew I couldn’t face an ‘audition’.

Auditions are common practise with most operators, and completely necessary as I would later find out when I went on to work at that same health club. The reason it’s so necessary? The person in charge of the group exercise programming – the Group Exercise Manager, Group Exercise Coordinator, Fitness Manager – are responsible for ensuring they are offering their members the absolute best experience in every group exercise class and part of that is discovering new talent, including classes covered by ‘cover instructors’.  Firstly, they need to make sure you are who you say you are and you have the energy to match the class. Secondly, the audition is where occasionally something magical happens . . . an iconic instructor emerges who they know will rock their timetable!

If you’ve come into fitness from a dance or musical theatre background you will probably be used to auditions and they are no biggie for you. If you’ve never had to audition for anything before, even the word itself can be frightening, as it was for me.

It was another 18 months before I finally built up the courage to go back and complete that audition. I’m not going to say it was amazing, some of the members who attended loved my tracks, some most certainly did not (which they were eager to tell me at the end of the class!). However, I auditioned in a live class along with the regular instructor, who was fantastically supportive and gave me so much encouragement, I came away more confident than when I walked in.

There are a few things I wish I had known beforehand which I learnt when I did more auditions and then when auditioning other instructors in my role as Group Exercise Manager across two health clubs. Yes, one of those health clubs was the one I bailed on! Funny how things turn out isn’t it?

To help ease any pre-audition nerves, preparation is essential. I would recommend you research the answers to the following questions before you attend –

  • What is the audition for? Is it a permanent class? Or are they looking to add new instructors onto their cover list?
  • Is your audition part of a live class with members or is it off timetable with members of staff (acting as members). It might even be an Open Day of auditions where other instructors have been invited along.
  • Are they expecting you to deliver the whole class or a section (ie 2-4 tracks of a class).
  • Are you required to wear a head mic for the audition? If so, remember your mic belt and mic sponge cover. They might not have these readily available for instructor use.
  • Do you need to bring along your own auxiliary cable, head mic, batteries for head mic?

Once you know the above, armed with my five tops tips  below, you’ll be ready to smash that audition –

1.  Do your research

Scope out the health club/leisure centre as much as you can beforehand and plan your journey in advance of audition day to ensure you arrive on time. Check online to see what their current group exercise programme looks like. The size of the timetable and the number of classes they have usually reflects the size of the membership base. Is it a member-only establishment or do they allow drop in/PAYG options for participants?

The type of classes offered often indicates the demographics of members. Do they offer signature/own branded classes? If so, what are they? Finding out what else they offer gives you more to chat about at the audition, they might offer something you have thought about training in but haven’t got round to yet.

2.  Plan and Practise

Whether you are teaching a choreographed class like Les Mills or a freestyle class like Pilates, planning and practising is key. For freestyle classes make sure your class plan is clear and demonstrates your creativity and originality.  For any class style, ensure your technique and body alignment is spot on and you offer modifications just like you would during one of your regular classes.

Don’t forget to prep your playlist and bring a back-up in the event of any tech issues. The class should flow seamlessly without any stop/start interruptions. Once you start the music, you shouldn’t need to go back to the stereo until the end of the class (unless you need to adjust the sound level). Ensure your playlist matches the length of the class, with an extra cooldown track at the end to create a chilled atmosphere whilst members pack equipment away or roll up their mats. This also allows time for members to approach you.

3.  Connection

If you are auditioning during a live class, engage with members before, during and after the class. The connection between instructor and class member starts as soon as you walk into the studio (sometimes even outside the studio if you are waiting for the previous class to finish). Your smile and warm manner will have a lasting effect, so bring your energy and enthusiasm to the audition.

Your coaching during the class should be motivating, interactive and clear, ask the class how they are feeling after a section. They might not reply but ask anyway. Even at an audition, get into the habit of always asking for feedback from members. Remember your safety and verbal cues, don’t forget to offer progressions and regressions just as you would your regular class. The most common feedback I have given to instructors after an audition is that I didn’t hear any modifications offered. We always do it during our regular classes, it’s engrained in our training, however when nervous its usually the first thing to leave our brain.

4.  Remember your voice

Our voice is our biggest tool in group exercise, but audition nerves can knock us off centre, and we either speak more quietly than usual or we talk at a rapid nervous pace, forgetting to take a breath. If you are using a head mic you have never used before, test it out on arrival. All microphones are different, some are more sensitive than others. Battling tech issues is not something you want to do during your audition.

Remember your voice sets the tone of the class, it offers encouragement, provides focus, and can create intensity or a sense of calm, depending on the stage of the class or the type of class you are teaching. Your vocal contrast is important, they want to hear a variety of projections, pitch and tone.

5.  Be authentically you

I know it sounds like an obvious one, but it’s key to a successful audition. The person auditioning you will be looking for how natural you are when leading the class. It’s OK to feel nervous, they will factor in nerves when assessing your audition. Auditions are nerve-racking even for the most experienced instructor. What they want to see is your personality shining through during the audition – it’s your biggest selling point.

Final thought

An exceptional audition can lead to more work and permanent classes. I’ve given instructors permanent classes off the back of an amazing audition. I even had members beg me to ‘get that instructor on the timetable’ after auditions. So, give your audition the planning and prep time it deserves – just like you would one of your regular classes – which will allow you to walk in the room with confidence and inspire them with your infectious energy.