You’ve been given an opportunity to teach a class at a local running store. They are interested in adding a “Pilates and Pancakes” fun run to their monthly community offerings. You’re psyched. You’ve worked out the sequence, modifications, progressions, and tempo of your class. This class will literally solve running problems. The footwork! The hip work! The spinal rotation! You are ready to shepherd these runners towards the promise-land of movement freedom!
You walk into the store, pep in your step and no notes in hand – you’ve GOT this and you’re ready to rock. “I’m here to teach the Pilates class!” you squeak. The clerk wearily raises his head “The whut?” “Pilates!” you say in a higher pitch to ensure that he knows that it’s about to go down for real in this establishment. “Oh, yeah – PILE-LATES. They’re in the back.” You bounce between the shoes and shorts and cast your eyes on your class. There they are, three people who came for the pancakes after the run and have no idea what you’re doing there, standing tall, with a maniacally friendly smile on your face…
I’ve taught Pilates to unsuspecting victims, ahem, students at running establishments, the floor of a maternity store, poolside in various hotels, on paddleboards, in an airplane hangar, in a wine bar, at a bridal expo, at a fashion expo and I even lugged a reformer in the back of a pickup truck through a snowstorm in Chicago to a boutique clothing store to do demos during a Saturday rush. BTW – NEVER DO THAT!!
The promotion struggle is REAL when you’re trying to get the word out about your teaching or studio. This week, I share some of my best tips for dedicating your time to endeavors that are worth your time and energy as well as pointers on the do’s and don’ts of Promotional Pilates Teaching.
I’ve never met an opportunity that I didn’t say yes to. (read: Recovering People Pleaser.) But throughout the years, I’ve realized that teaching to a venue full of people (or not full of people) who have no desire to do Pilates does not help my business whatsoever. I used to believe that I could “convert” anyone to become a Pilates lover, and there’s a part of me that still believes this, however, the business person side of me has learned that I will always yield more return with clear communication coupled with a dash of pre-qualification. Here is a list of my top do’s and don’ts for sharing your teaching to promote your practice or business.
Do review expectations with your host venue before the event.
Leave no stone unturned. Talk about the exact area where you will be teaching. See the space beforehand. Talk about price, donation or if the class will be free. Plan a timeline for marketing efforts. Who will be in charge of what? When will messaging go out? How can you both support the efforts of each other? Who will handle registrations? How can you obtain information/emails from the participants to follow up after the event? In the beginning, it can be difficult to ask for what you need, but there is a reason why green m&m’s are in the rider for Bon Jovi – the details matter. (also, if there are green m&m’s present, the band knows they are working with someone who cared enough to read the rider. BE BON JOVI!)
Do provide marketing copy and images to your host.
If you want to see a yoga pose on your class poster, then skip this step. Otherwise, provide ample copy and images for your event. Have a dropbox folder full of options that you are excited to see in print at the ready. Cater to the group that you intend to teach. Ex: If they are runners, mention something about your work with post-rehab clients or your passion for helping people be better at their sport. The more you can guide your audience towards expectations that are relevant to the services you offer, the more you will attract the clients who are waiting to learn from you.
Do partner with people and businesses that give you access to the types of clients you are excited to work with.
I’m a great pre-natal instructor. My brain loves teaching pregnant mamas, however, after my own battles with infertility, my heart doesn’t handle it well. Saying yes to every opportunity that comes your way, even if you do have the skills to meet it, is not always in alignment with where you wish to take your teaching practice. Look for venues where your ideal client might be waiting for you and teach your heart out – it will always feel better than trying to adjust your efforts simply to take the opportunity.
Don’t be afraid to walk away from an event that is out of alignment with the services you provide.
Sometimes it sounds too good to be true because it is. I’ve lugged more Pilates equipment around the Chicagoland area than I care to think about. More often than not, I’ve shown up sweaty and stressed to a venue where the hosts were surprised that I went to so much effort and were almost uncomfortable because all they did is write the class on the monthly calendar. A nasally “Thank Yeeewwww” in response to carrying 12 spine correctors 7 blocks to be featured in a clothing boutique doesn’t cut it. If I had to do it over, it would either be matwork all the way or a simple “No Thank Yeeewwww” of my own.
Pilates Teachers love their work and are willing to show up for it 500%. Be sure to be clear on the terms of your teaching. If it’s a one-time deal, have it be a short class – 45 mins – a teaser of sorts. If it’s a monthly engagement, craft and agreement for a finite amount of time. If it’s not working out for you, you’ll be happy that you have an end in sight and if it is working, you can always negotiate more time later. The worst feeling in the world is having an unpaid commitment in place indefinitely when a better or paid opportunity comes along.
Don’t fly the Pilates flag in your free classes
You might be saying “WHAT??” I’m serious. Do the best you can to find out about the people in the class and make the class about them. It’s not important that they love Pilates or know who Joe was or the order etc. It’s just not. You can get to that later. What IS important is that they equate the good feelings in their body to the services you are providing. Talk about your philosophy, the types of clients you love to work with and your overall enthusiasm for the process of learning with this work. You can always teach the history later but if you lead with it, you may miss out on some great connections.
These are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned throughout the years of promoting. Overall, I think it’s great to get your name and your business out in the general public. It’s a great test of your teaching skills and can lead you to some amazing opportunities. That said, be sure to take your worth and the value of your time as a teacher seriously. Be your own agent and teach what you know with joy and enthusiasm. Oh and always ALWAYS correct them when they say “PILE-LATES.”
Ask your questions about promo teaching in the comments and I’ll be sure to write back!
Much Love, Jenna
Images below of me teaching Paddleboard Pilates, at Athleta Chicago (which was not the boutique mentioned above) and the Modern Women Fashion Expo (I was 12 wks pregnant and exhausted, and I still lugged a chair and a ped-i-pul down there!)