COVID-19 and beyond: Working to get you back in the studio
by Sarah Shortt and adapted for Les Mills Asia Pacific
As the world grapples with the COVID-enforced “new normal”, fitness professionals worldwide continue to wonder how long it will take before the industry fully recovers? What does the future of instructing look like? Will teaching live-stream classes become a regular part of your weekly schedule – as natural as going into the club?
We know that this has been an incredibly stressful and uncertain time for you. Here are the answers to some of your burning questions, which we hope will provide clarity and reassurance on the future of instructing.
Some clubs don’t seem to be interested in allowing their Instructors to live-stream. How is Les Mills working with clubs to encourage them to facilitate this?
Lots of conversations at every level! Live-streaming is a great way to maintain member engagement until they return to the Club and it’s important that all Clubs have both online and live options to keep existing members active, and encourage new members to join.
Our team of experienced Business Partnership Managers are in continuous conversations with all of our Club Partners, supporting them towards successful reopening and relaunch with all aspects of group fitness, including live-streaming. We have online support hubs for Clubs and Instructors, with live-stream an integral part of this. Live-stream is positioned as a new product for Clubs to complement and support the “live” group ex schedule, allowing them to connect and service all of their existing membership base, with the potential to also reach many more prospective members.
We’ve provided educational webinars and Facebook Lives for both Clubs and Instructors to guide them through the technology of live-streaming, the best platforms to use, music licencing and how to build confidence in the live-stream space. All of this content continues to be available. We are also sharing “best practice and success stories” with all of our global partners when a particular Club has implemented live-streaming with great success. With the upcoming WORLD UNITED event we’ve also encouraged Clubs to offer live and live-stream classes to maximise their member engagement.
Is there a future where Instructors will teach both live classes AND live-stream?
This is already a reality for many Instructors, who are running both live-stream and live classes right now.
In terms of how we see the future of live-streaming… it’s early days and we are looking at this proposition very carefully. This means reviewing the appetite from members, Clubs and Instructors, as well as attendance levels to help make good business decisions around this for all parties. We will have a greater understanding in the coming months and will, of course, provide updates on how we will proceed.
What is the plan for future live-streaming releases?
As with our live classes, live-stream is available through licenced clubs. A live-stream class can be taught at a Club or from another location, but is required to be streamed using a closed platform which is only accessible to the club’s members and participants. These can be platforms like a closed Facebook group or Zoom. Clubs will need to have the necessary music licencing in place to live-stream. Depending on the local music licencing requirements, covers may be required in order to live-stream.
Why are you promoting LES MILLS™ On Demand when Instructors and Clubs need people in both their live classes and live-stream classes? Isn’t there a risk that it’s taking members away from the gym?
LES MILLS On Demand is one of our products that Instructors, Club Partners, Club members and consumers have been able to utilise during COVID to support physical and mental wellbeing. The aim has been to keep Clubs, their members and Instructors engaged and connected with each other to ultimately ensure these people return to their Clubs when they reopen.
While LES MILLS On Demand is a great option for our workouts to be enjoyed when there is no access to a live class, we know this does not match the connection and interaction a live-stream or live class provides and that we know our consumers enjoy so much. We also know that those who do group exercise are more likely to remain with their Club and this helps our Club Partners to build sustainable businesses, which in turn supports classes for Instructors to teach.
LES MILLS On Demand is also a way of introducing new people to group exercise. At the end of each class we have the “find a live class option” so they can then go and do their favourite classes at a Club near them once they have gained confidence in working out at home. We have actually seen that LES MILLS On Demand can drive consumers towards the gym; those who experience it are more likely to have the confidence and knowledge to move into the live class space. We very much see LES MILLS On Demand as a tool to drive more people into the studio, to experience our product at its best with the live Instructor.
Why do you have a virtual product in market when you have amazing live Instructors who need classes right now?
As with LES MILLS On Demand, the LES MILLS™ Virtual product is a tool to drive more people into the live class environment. Virtual timetables run alongside a live timetable, often utilising the studio space when it would otherwise be empty and unused. Members who have not experienced our programs before may try the workout and then build their confidence before “graduating” into the live class space. Virtual helps bring awareness of our programs to a wider audience, ultimately driving more people to the “live” studio space in our Clubs. Industry research has shown that Clubs running Virtual gain, on average, a 12 per cent increase in live class attendances.
Some clubs are cancelling Les Mills licences to cut costs. How are you helping Clubs to be able to retain licences?
We are actively working to support each of our Club Partners through a range of initiatives. Depending on the Club and its current requirements/challenges, these initiatives include reduced licencing fees and added value options such as additional or new Virtual programs and live-streaming (at no extra cost). In addition, we’ve focused on ensuring Club Partners have the right information at the right time, to support their members through lockdown and to bounce back strongly. We have been providing a range of webinars, articles and direct support covering: group exercise best practice guidelines; marketing during lockdown; rebuilding timetables; the importance of Instructors in building your community; and how to use technology to thrive.
For Clubs that have already cancelled licences, what is the plan to get more licences up and running so Instructors have classes to teach?
Our team of Business Partnership Managers will re-contact those facilities that have cancelled to review whether they would like to restart once restrictions begin to ease. We are always reviewing our local market business models and continue to evolve them based on the particular needs of a market.
You announced at Global Summit that there is a plan being put together around an Instructor licensing model. Could you share some further detail?
We’re constantly looking at how we can best support our instructor team and club partners – now more than ever. That means assessing the business model in each country and continuing to evolve based on the particular needs of each market. In a few countries around the world where there are limited fitness centres or health clubs open, there are instructor licensing trials occurring.
Will we have an Instructor licensing model in Australia or Southeast Asia the UK or US anytime soon?
Given the large number of fitness centres and health clubs that are open in the region, it is very unlikely that we will make instructor licensing available in Australia or Southeast Asia. Should this change, our club partners and instructors will be the first to know, so be sure to subscribe to receive our email updates.
You also talked about changing assessment to include an Instructor tiered system. Could you expand on this?
Similar to many development programs, such as ballet, piano, karate, we are evolving our certification system to include grades and levels based on an Instructor’s strengths in the 5 Key Elements. This will support Instructors to continue their development based on their individual needs. In addition, this system will recognise those Instructors who are further along their journey to mastery. We are still in the early stages of development, but you can be reassured that we will recognise the development you have already undertaken.
If you need support or have ideas, suggestions or questions please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org – we love hearing from you!