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Shelby Saylor shares four tips to joining the virtual community and how to prepare your team to take the leap. 

For years, many recreation professionals have known creating a digital experience, both in their facilities as well as online, would be a necessity. We get wrapped up in the day to day of operations with the goal of innovating into the space and next thing you know days, months and years pass by and it takes a global pandemic to thrust you into action.

Virtual may come in the form of live and on-demand group exercise classes, virtual personal training, health coaching, support groups and more. Below are four tips to assist you in getting your virtual community off the ground and running:

Build Your Virtual Community Transition Team

With adults having endless side hustles, you may find you have hidden talent right under your nose. Maybe a weekend warrior who does videography for weddings, a group exercise instructor with a performing arts background or an esports commentator who loves technology. Chances are you have people already in place who can help you get your virtual experience off the ground. If you don’t have any hidden gems on your team, that’s okay. All you really need is an idea, good cell phone and solid WiFi.

Have Your Virtual Technology Tools in Place

Outside of making the decision to transition into the virtual world this is going to be the most important aspect, in the beginning at least. You will need something with at least a 1080p camera (the iPhone 6 and up for example) and a strong WiFi connection. If you plan on live streaming your programming, you’ll need a minimum upload speed of 7.4 Mbps for a quality video. I’d recommend doing a quick speed test by googling “internet speed test” to see what your upload speed is. If it falls below 7.0 Mbps then it may be time to upgrade your internet.

Cast the Right Virtual Community Leaders

Remember potentially finding a group exercise instructor who has a performing arts background? Now is when you need them. One of the biggest differentiators between amateur and professional among those in the virtual fitness space is the quality of talent. When training employees to be on air talent, it’s important you train them as you would an actor or actress. Exaggerated body movements, constant dialogue, clear enunciation, likable personality and facial expressions are all going to take your video from mediocre to magnificent.

Take Virtual Baby Steps

The best thing you can do when you make the leap is just that, make the leap. Just start and take baby steps. The reality is no matter how much planning you do, it will never be perfect out the gate. Get started and set a goal to do one thing each week to improve the quality of the product you are putting out there through tiny iterations. Apple didn’t stop with the iPod did they? Pretty soon people will be asking you how you did it and not the other way around.


Now that you have the basics it’s time to put hesitancy to rest and get started. As you grow your offerings you can then upgrade equipment, improve technical skills, streamline your brand and create a much more holistic experience for your members. Until then, it’s time to get to work.

Shelby Saylor

Shelby Saylor is an experienced YMCA leader and wellness advocate with over 11 years of experience in the health and fitness industry. With a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology and years of experience as a group exercise instructor, personal trainer, business development consultant, nonprofit and for-profit manager, she is dedicated to developing those in her network to help move the fitness industry forward. After transitioning from her role as the executive director of Healthy Living for The YMCA of Greater Houston, she joined the Les Mills US team as the YMCA national customer experience manager where she gets to work with improving retention, member engagement and so much more with over 900 YMCAs in the US. Want to connect? Follow Shelby on LinkedIn!

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