Three Minutes to Make a First impression

Jackie Cohen Maniscalco had one of those 3-minute large group auditions we wrote about recently at a major chain club. In fact, Jackie’s request in the ICA Facebook group is what inspired me to write the article. (We later followed that up with an auditioning series by Izabela Ruprick that you can find here.) Jackie had an interesting experience at her audition and agreed to share it with you all. You know, in case you might ever experience one like it where you actually get less than 3 minutes to show what you know!

Here is her story…

I was so excited! I landed an audition with a new large club in our area. Every instructor I knew wanted to try out. I read through the prerequisites and then my eyes did a double take.

How long do I have to audition?

3 minutes. Just teach as though you are in the middle of class (i.e., no warm-up). We are looking at a “window” of you teaching. Imagine a member walking past the studio, checking it out. Be prepared! Use your 3 minutes to engage the group, make an impression, and HAVE FUN!

3 minutes?!

I hadn’t auditioned for an instructor position in nine years. How would I make an impression in 180 seconds? I posted my question to the ICA Facebook group and received a lot of helpful advice, which I gratefully took!

In the days leading up to the audition, I felt prepared thanks to ICA. Nervous, but prepared.

When I arrived at the venue the night of the audition, there were dozens of instructors. The auditions were running behind schedule. While we watched dance and other group exercise formats audition first, cycle still hadn’t started. Though I had been rehearsing my monologue silently in my head the entire time, I realized it wasn’t going to work. People seemed tired. The judges looked tired. My fellow hopeful cycle instructors were sitting on the floor holding up the wall a bit; we all wished we had known the auditions would run this long. We were hungry, and many of us had to work the next day. It was almost 9 p.m. and we’d been there for 3 hours.

I needed to change my plan quickly because I was going to be up next.

Only one cycle instructor had auditioned but really did nothing to sell himself, in my opinion. He just yelled “up” and “down” for 3 minutes; there was very little enthusiasm and little to no cueing. When it was my turn, I looked around the room and I felt very little energy.

So I knew it was up to me to get everyone excited. As I was putting the headset on and cueing my music, I said, “My name is Jackie. I’ve been teaching cycle for about 9 years. Most of my classes are at 5:45 am, so I’m usually asleep by this time. IS ANYONE AWAKE?”

I started my music and got on the bike. (What I didn’t know until later was that they had already started the 3-minute timer when I took the mic.)

“In my class, there are two opportunities for easy effort, the warm-up and the cool-down.”

I paused, allowing the strong beat of the music to be heard. Then I asked the room, “How many opportunities for easy effort in my class?”

“Two!” yelled a judge from the back of the room. Good…the judges were engaged now.

I then gave a little more information about my style, including that I teach based on safety and real riding. “If you don’t do it outside, you don’t do it my class.”

I started my interval drill—the plan was to perform 30 seconds of each of movement, increasing in difficulty:

30-second seated flat (explaining the cadence range)
30-second standing flat (explaining the position change)
30-second seated climb (indicating to add a little resistance)
30-second standing climb (indicating to add a little more resistance)
30-second sprint (emphasizing the need for explosive power)

However, I only got mid-way through the seated climb when they told me I had less than a minute left!

I wrapped up quickly, explaining, “And then we’d finish the interval with a high-intensity sprint effort, followed by recovery.” No, it was not really as I had planned it.

I received a callback for an interview following that extremely short audition and ultimately I was offered (and accepted) the position.

While my gut reaction was that 3 minutes was not nearly enough time to “show one’s stuff,” after watching many other instructors audition, I realized it actually is enough time to make a first impression. Yes, you absolutely should have a plan and be prepared. Thanks to ICA I was fully prepared for a short audition. However, the advice I want to pass on to you is to be prepared to revise that plan!

As instructors in front of our classes, we’re always ready to respond rapidly when something unexpected happens: A new rider comes unclipped. The music stops. The mic’s not working. The lights go out (it’s happened!). Think of the audition as just another class—albeit a potentially more stressful one because you want to land the position. If isn’t going as you meticulously planned, quickly respond just like you would in your regular class and finish strong. Make it memorable. For me, that meant smiling, injecting a little humor (“I did mention I teach before the sun comes up, right?”) and being authentic. Those watching will get a sense of how you coach, which is more meaningful than what you demonstrate on the bike.

Don’t let a well-thought-out profile mask your personality or energy—these are important parts of YOU and can ultimately set you apart.

7 Responses to “Three Minutes to Make a First impression”

  1. Melanie Massie says:

    Thank you very helpful article.

  2. MichaelFerber says:

    Good article however u overlooked 2 important factors. Looks and Time slot. While your program may be great and your presentation even better you are also being judged on your appearance and what time slot they are looking for.
    I have been a rider and subbed for over 20 years. Look around at the others competing and u understand what I mean. A rejection notice will never comment on your age or looks. See law suit. They have most probably decided on your status before u ever got on the bike.
    Just my observation after attending many demos and classes over the years and being able to honestly project the winners. It also helps if you can coach another class such as Zumba or Silver sneakers etc.

    • Jacqueline Maniscalco says:

      Michael, as a participant going through the audition process I wasn’t thinking about these in the moment. Thanks for sharing your experience and observations.

  3. NicholeArthur says:

    Perfect timing to come accross this article. What song would you use. I am doing a 3 min audition!!! I think thats a great idea to go through all those positions. Thanks!

    • Jacqueline Maniscalco says:

      Nichole,
      I didn’t worry too much about riding to the beat/matching rpm to bpm in the short audition. I selected a ~ 6 min song that:
      – I was very familiar with,
      – had changes in energy,
      – contained no-lyric moments so I wasn’t talking over the music.
      For me, that song was a remix of “Love is Gone” by David Guetta (there are several). I know Jennifer likely has some suggestions, including separate songs for recovery. Hope that helps, let us know how it goes!

  4. Sara Z says:

    I’ve known Jackie for a long time and her professionalism, heart, and energy have been the hallmark of her style. I had no doubt she would blow them away!

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