The Do’s And Don’ts Of Promotional Pilates Teaching

 

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.

 

Don’t over-commit

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!)

 

 

Comments (14)

Love this article! I teach (for free) Pilates with kittens at my local animal shelter because it’s a great way to support a local non-profit I believe in, it aligns with my business and personal branding, and I get free marketing from the organization. Plus it’s really fun, and I love doing it!

I love the teaching with kittens you do! If I weren’t so allergic, I’d do this in a heartbeat… Then again, there’s always Claritin! This is so on brand for you and I’m excited to see how it progresses!

This is so good, and so important for new teachers to get in their heads. Don’t
You think some of what we tolerate or agree to falls under the umbrella of “paying our dues”? I fell for that for years! And have only recently started pushing back. Not in an angry aggressive way, but by being more clear and focused regarding what I do and how I want to do it. That’s not always we’ll received, which feels like rejection, which in turn can make me question my motives, and everything can quickly spiral down from there.
Thank God you continue to speak practical wisdom into the hearts and minds of movement teachers (I’ve also seen yoga teachers give their time and teaching away).
This one is a keeper!

I completely agree! The “paying-your-dues” is a way of holding us back from being empowered to speak our needs. There is HARD work involved in building your business and practice but you can absolutely ask for what you need and decide on the paths that will more likely lead you to success and fulfillment in the long term!

Brings back a few memories for me in my career! You are the most beautiful exhausted pregnant woman btw. Performing at a high level like this is so familiar, it’s healing and validating to read this blog. Thank you for writing!

Awe, I appreciate this! xoxo

This was really helpful and amazing tips.

Thank you!

Ugh! So good and on point! Thank you for hitting the nail on the head with this article. I’m in the process of contacting local stores where potential clients may be found and planning to offer some sort of “free” event, so this was very timely. Hugs!

Fantastic! Let me know what choices work well for you in the partnerships! xo

Fantastic! Let me know what choices work well for you in the partnerships!

Hi Jenna, this Friday is International Women’s Day and about 1.5 weeks ago I was asked by a local company to come and present my offerings to their female employees. I am so grateful you posted this BLOG, very timely, thank you!

I have agreed to give two (free) short sessions à 20 min long each followed by 10 min after for Q&A. I anticipate approx 6 participants per session. Tomorrow I’ll get final numbers.

Nevertheless, despite clarifying all I can in advance, I am still wondering how I will actually “deliver” my teaching.

My purpose: to raise awareness of the necessity for self-care and how taking time out of a busy lifestyle to explore new movement possibilities, connect with the mind and breathe in the moment is liberating, calming, fulfilling etc.

My delivery: a FUN movement experience of course. In a number of positions – standing, kneeling, all fours, prone, supine…
(after hearing their pain points, concerns, issues etc)

Just a question here you could possibly help me out on:
1. in a promotional pilates class, do you actually demonstrate all movements as you teach them? I’ve developed a style where I can teach without demonstrating (but do demo when necessary) however for newbies that might be somewhat overwehlming?
2. Would you show up in your regular teaching attire (whatever that is:) These are office workers and I am not sure if I should come dressed more discreetly than usual. First impressions count, to a degree, or as the saying goes, fine feathers make fine birds…

Hi Danielle,

Love your purpose and delivery and my answers to your questions are as follows:

1. I would play it by ear, remembering to check in and see what their awareness is surrounding Pilates and movement in general. See what vocab is thereby doing a brief “Simon-says-type” warm up, maybe in standing. “Lift your right arm, bend your knees.” If they are all over the place, then more demo will be necessary. If you can relate the movements to something they might experience in their daily routine, that might help them make connections. I would say to let the group dictate your demo choices but be ready to demo so they can see what the heck a roll-up is :).
2. I would say look the part, so they can see some element of movement in your body but ere on the side of discretion. I typically wear leggings and either a tighter shirt with a sweatshirt around my waist or a looser off the shoulder shirt. Something that they can see me move, but leaves a little mystery also – I hope that makes sense?

I just got offered a promotional deal to work with a boutique hotel in Jamaica to Tina stretch class after a long mountain bike ride up tot he property. I am planning to use Pilates method but keep it more layman’s as these people do not know what Pilates is. Little by little I will take the class up a level and start to introduce more ideas about the benefits. But for now if a stretch is what they need then a stretch is what they’ll get. I feel that this is enough for where my skill is calling me at the moment

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