We asked WCS MEN to tell us what would get them into class. You might be surprised what they had to say! Teachers and promoters: you’re going to love me – be sure to read to the end.
It’s global phenomenon: most West Coast Swing scenes in the world struggle to attract men to try WCS in the first place, then struggle again to keep them training. How can we increase the involvement and engagement of men in WCS activities?
To gather intel, I submitted a post on the Facebook group, Westie Discussion of Day, asking for MEN to answer only, about what initially motivated them to try WCS and what motivates them (or de-motivates them) to engage in classes/parties/privates/workshops.
The responses were honest, generous, and useful! In fact, this was SO useful, I decided to break it up in to two parts:
Thank you to everyone who contributed. In fact, many men offered suggestions of their own accord, which I also included. I sorted through them all and noticed themes emerging. I could have paraphrased them, but I chose not to because I felt their direct quotes communicated their intention better, allowing readers to get a better understanding of how these men feel.
After each set below, I contribute my two cents, add a few links to relevant articles, and mix in some comments from my resident expert male, Myles, his retired dance teacher dad Ian Munroe, and our veteran Champion friend, Demetre Souliotes.
FYI, there’s a TON of suggestions in here that apply to any new dancer, not just the men.
In fact, I’ve also included a cool free bonus resource at the end of this article, that will help answer a lot of your questions about how to market to your community.
Why am I “giving away all these secrets”?
1. The whole dance world would benefit from attracting more dancers. More dancers = bigger community = more abundance for everyone involved!
2. You might not know this about me, but in my pre-dance career as a competitive swimming coach, I was responsible for the recruitment and engagement of all of the swimmers and their families for whatever program, clinic, swim meet, or training camp I wanted them to attend. So I’ve had a lifetime (and training) in marketing sports & leisure.
3. The teachers that we train are in the business of attracting new dancers, so we go above and beyond to support them both in how to do it effectively and efficiently, and in how to use Swing Literacy methods to guarantee they keep coming back and improving consistently.
4. This article is only to vocalize the needs and concerns of male Westies. Yes, solutions are available! If you’d like to know exactly how to creating marketing strategies and programming that serves their needs and concerns, be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to discover how.
- The roles of leader or follower are irrelevant in this article, as is gender identity. I specifically was interested in men’s responses, but I did not preclude or filter out any responders. I did not specify roles, so responders were free to describe their experience from either role.
- Coach’s Corner does not endorse the comments made by the responders – they do not reflect the position of Coach’s Corner.
- This data is imperfect! Of course this is a small sample set of men, and all are English-speaking. My purpose was not to collect accurate data: my purpose was to get a basket-full of suggestions from men willing to contribute to solving this global dilemma. I encourage all dance teachers and event promoters to pay attention and analyze for themselves what these men had to say.
Here are the 5 questions I asked the men:
1. What first attracted you to learn WCS? (answered in Part 1, along with their offered advice)
2. What inspired you to get more intentional in your learning? (Part 2)
3. What is holding you back from taking more classes/workshops/privates? (Part 2)
4. What marketing messages backfire on you/ offend you? (Part 2)
5. What would make a difference for you now? What would inspire you now to study more? (Part 2)
What inspired you to get more intentional in your learning?
- All motivations are valid. Your motivation set is not going to be precisely the same as your friends’. Teachers and promoters need to recognize that their students’ motivations are varied, and not necessarily the same as their own.
- Notice how many comments are directed at “Support” and “Growth”, as opposed to “Competition”. Some are motivated by the competition results, but more are motivated by the improvement results and challenge experiences, regardless of competition.
What is holding you back from taking more classes/workshops/privates?
“Time & Money”
“Not seeing results”
“Feeling discouraged by others”
“No pressure to improve to be popular”
“Lack of qualified teachers”
There is some truth to the notion that men feel less pressure to improve because they are always in demand even if they have weak skills. But this is an excuse. In order to engage the men, attention needs to be focused on creating a supportive, motivating environment and producing results. These are the two guaranteed products of the Swing Literacy Teacher Development Program.
What marketing messages backfire on you?
“Bait and Switch”
“Credit for novelty instead of skill”
“Sloppy marketing and business operations”
“Overly fluffy messaging”
Coach’s Corner comments
There were a lot of passionate comments against using women to attract men to dance classes. Just in case you didn’t get the message loud and clear: Using women to try to attract men to dance classes = bad idea and it makes you look bad.
I think this also applies to leader-begging: When the class registration numbers are so imbalanced that you need to recruit more leaders, it always makes me itch when the messages I see are desperate, like “Look at all these lonely followers that need more men to partner with!”. Ugh.
In case this isn’t obvious, it’s sexist. Start promoting more in advance, be more intentional in listing the benefits for the leaders, cap your numbers if necessary, and simply announce when the followers’ side is full. If the leaders don’t show up, change your lesson/series plan to fit who actually shows up.
Before you publish each piece of marketing content, get a proofreading opinion from multiple genders, not only to catch potential faux-pas, but also to learn more about how your messages are received.
What would make a difference for you now? What would inspire you now to study more? ?
“More Improved Social Aspect”
- Tell the men exactly what they are going to get/learn/benefit from the upcoming class/workshop/private. The women can figure it out. The men need it itemized in a table of actionables. Even though you will be teaching technical and artistic content, it doesn’t work to describe things the men can’t appreciate yet. Describe the tangible things they can relate to and want, but deliver the intangibles that they need.
- Focus on getting the men to enrol, and the women will show up regardless.
Men’s advice about how to market to Westie men
- I think the key to retain men is to make it fun and playful, gradually upping the level and/or adapt to what’s most beneficial for the group.
- Communication, be supportive, perhaps overly in the begining – by putting in effort/energy into making the leaders feel good they are more likely to reflect it back.
- Make lessons conveniently timed, located, and value for money.
- Link them to a social events or competition.
- Privates can be difficult, simply because not everyone believes in spending way too much money on a one hour training session. Workshops will work only when they feel welcomed, which can be working when there’s already a family-like community present.
- Even though the majority of classes are pattern focused, give the men something to challenge themselves with, be it musicality or mixing patterns up on the fly, we love that!
(Got any ideas or suggestions to add? Please add your own in the comments below!)
Your marketing messages should be different for each demographic you are marketing to. The benefits and features you advertise to attract a not-yet-dancer should be customized and completely different from those you use to engage and motivate existing dancers.
Attracting dancers is a totally different ball game from retaining dancers. Student retention and engagement is the #1 concern of teachers we talk to – so know you’re not alone! Everyone wants to know how to keep students on a path to progress.
Students need to continually have their needs met in order to stay hooked. The early stages are critical for developing a growth mindset and community-minded attitude. They need to be explicitly shown the correlation of how their learning directly influences their enjoyment, and there is a magic formula that ensures this.