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UK Coaching Participation Team
Rapport Building and Communicating

Creating a Welcoming Environment

Creating a welcoming environment is just as important as the coaching and meaningful activities delivered for people to take part in. These tips will help coaches in creating an environment that works for people.

It’s not just what you do, but how you do it that can make the difference and keep your participants coming back week after week.

Creating a warm, friendly and welcoming coaching environment includes your body language, the tone and style of your coaching, and all of the communications that surround your session, including online.

Part of being welcoming means remembering the ‘human factor’ and making people feel good about themselves and your session.

Remember, people are likely to tell others about a bad experience at your coaching session compared to if they have had a good experience. So the aim is to create a buzz and a real welcoming feel about your sessions that helps keep people coming back for more.

Great tips for helping you to create welcoming sessions that are warm, friendly and inviting for new people to take part:

  • Make a good first impression – make eye contact, say hello and smile, use people’s names and have open body language.
  • Making eye contact with people every time you see them helps people feel connected and acknowledged. Don’t feel the need to look at just their eyes but their whole face too. Try not to make too much eye contact that can come across as staring and a little confrontational.


Use your body posture and the movement of your body to show you are paying attention. Examples include:

  • nodding is good to show you understand, especially if you don’t want to interrupt what people are telling you

  • turn your whole body to whoever is talking to you

  • open hand gestures are more gracious and a softer way to point to a person or object

  • consider how to positively use personal space; aim to talk to people when they are in the ‘personal’ zone:

    • Intimate is 0–2 feet or arm’s length. Used for family and close friends. Getting too close can be threatening and embarrassing for people

    • Personal is 2–4 feet. A good range for developing good relationships with your people

    • Social is 4 or more feet. Be cautious of having people too far away from you too often as it can put them outside their comfort zone when developing a coaching relationship as part of a welcoming environment.

  • A welcoming environment starts when someone sees you, not when you see them. Be aware of what you are doing when people might be arriving. Look out for anyone who looks unfamiliar with the venue or people, they are probably new!
  • Look like the person in control of the session. Research shows that women and girls like to know that a coach is organised and in control of the session. The impression of how organised you are as a coach starts from the very first impression you make.
  • Your facial expression as a coach tells people how you are feeling. Avoid letting your stressful day show and try to keep a relaxed facial expression. You are always able to choose how you respond to your day and what’s happening in your session. Ask yourself throughout the session: ‘What is my attitude and how am I feeling right now? Is it helping the people have a great experience? Is it helping me create a welcoming environment?’
  • Do something extra that meets an unstated need. Have you done something special, over and above the usual or memorable for any of the people who attend your session?
  • Provide a warm farewell. Let people know you are looking forward to seeing them again and, if possible, make it personal to each person. It is important that the end of your session doesn’t become a low point in the session. Aim for having everyone finishing on a positive, meaningful or memorable moment.

Creating the right atmosphere for sessions to keep everyone taking part happy and coming back is a big challenge for coaches. People want to attend sessions that make them feel welcomed, valued and important. Coaches who are able to create this atmosphere in their session will, alongside excellent coaching, be more likely to see people valuing the session and keep coming back.

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Related Resources

  • Behaviour Change: Understanding Motivations

  • How to Coach People New To Your Session

  • How to Create an Inclusive Environment


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UK Coaching Participation Team