10 Steps to Success as a Workshop Presenter
Author: Alisa Wyatt, NCPT, PMA Board of Directors
Teaching workshops to your peers can be an exhilarating next step in your Pilates career, but it takes some preparation. If presenting is high on your list of #goals, read on to find out what skills you’ll need to build and 10 steps you can take to hone them!
First of all, check out some of the things that great presenters have in common. Do any of these apply to you?
- A large following amongst enthusiasts & in the Pilates community
- More than 8 years teaching experience
- An engaging speaking presence & confidence in front of an audience
- Experience teaching group workout classes
- Experience in front of large audiences / public speaking / performing
- Experience as a teacher trainer for Pilates or other modality
- Experience presenting on video or audio formats
- Knowledge of what aspiring and seasoned teachers alike need to enhance their skills - specialized expertise in a niche market, e.g. “Pilates & Pregnancy” or “Working with Seniors,” etc...
- Ability to teach in more than one language (a bonus for anyone who wants to teach internationally but not necessary)
- Savvy knowledge of social media and promotion
If you don’t have the above skills yet, here are 10 steps to develop them:
Get very comfortable teaching groups.
Teach group workout classes until you can do them in your sleep and you have a following of people who come especially for you. You’ll know you’ve got this skill down when you have dedicated groupies who tell you you’re their favorite teacher (tip: ask them for a testimonial!). The key skills you’re developing here are confidence in front of an audience and the ability to keep your students engaged by watching how they respond to your content and being able to adjust accordingly on the fly.
If you’ve already got this step down, the next level is teaching other Pilates teachers, both one-on-one and in groups. Why is this important? Because teaching your peers can be extremely nerve-wracking! Get used to the pressure in a more forgiving format and you’ll thank yourself later when you’re standing in front of a room of 25-100 Pilates pros for the first time.
How to start? Here are some ideas...
• Create a special “Teachers Class” at your studio
• Offer a discounted rate to other teachers for private lessons
• Ask if you can teach mat class to students in a Pilates training program
• Offer to teach a mat class before or after a workshop
• Apply to teach mat at the PMA or another conference
Build your audience.
This step is easy if you’re already working on teaching groups. Since email is the most effective way for you to promote your future workshops, begin with an email list sign up. Bring it to your group classes and mention during class that if anyone wants to be notified of what you’re up to, they can join your email list. If you have your own clients, add them to the list (with permission of course). If you’re using social media, start posting about your upcoming classes, openings and your thoughts on Pilates. If it all feels overwhelming, just focus on 1 thing at a time—gathering email addresses for example.
Go to workshops.
Make notes for yourself about what you love that the presenter did. What worked for you? When it comes time to create your own workshops, please be careful not to copy anyone else’s content, workshop title or description, but don’t be afraid to emulate someone else’s speaking style or workshop format.
Answer the question: What do I have to share with other teachers that's special?
Do you have specialized extra training or experience with particular client types or an allied modality? Business knowledge? Expertise in working with first time clients or groups? Did you train with a first generation teacher or learn from someone whose teaching influenced you strongly? Do your clients love your way of connecting with them on a personal level or your sense of touch? Are you great at selling new clients on Pilates or managing a successful studio? Get feedback from peers that you work with as to what makes you unique.
Choose a topic that resonates with your audience and is unique.
For instance, you’ve been teaching lots of privates and classes to other instructors right? So by now, you should be familiar with areas they get stuck on in their own practice. Think about what you’re feeling passionate about and then ask your peers if that topic resonates with them. Avoid general topics like ‘The Wunda Chair’ which can be fine for a well-known presenter who people will come to see no matter what the topic is, but can fall flat if you’re new.
Plan your workshop down to 15 minute increments and create a handout for attendees.
Have you ever attended a workshop and felt like the teacher just phoned it in? Most likely they thought they knew their topic so well they didn’t need a plan. Wrong! Write a handout for your participants and keep your own notes for every stage of the workshop. Your preparation will be appreciated by all who attend and by your host.
A workshop is not a lecture.
Yes, you’ve probably been to workshops where there wasn’t room for everyone to move and you still enjoyed them. But the best Pilates workshops are those in which your participants get to experience your content by feeling and doing it. As a rule, try not to talk at your audience for longer than 20 minutes at a time. They should be doing / teaching Pilates or watching you teach an example of what you want them to try and then doing it themselves. If you have a short amount of time, all the more reason to throw out your PowerPoint and use your time for experiential learning.
Keep them engaged.
If you have a loyal following of clients, you are already doing this and just have to transfer this skill to a large group. How?
- Smile! Use eye contact with your participants.
- Use names. When you take a volunteer, ask his/her name and use it while teaching. Extra points if you refer to him/her again later by name.
- Pay attention to your group. If you notice energy flagging, do some group movement or if it’s been more than an hour, give a short break. As noted above, try not to lecture for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
Be ready to promote.
It’s as much your responsibility to fill your workshop as your host’s. You’ll need to promote via your email list, your social media channels, flyers at your mat classes and telling your peers. Don’t be afraid to give something away as a taste of what people will learn during your workshop, for example, post a video on your social media of you teaching an exercise they will learn.
Before you teach your workshop, try it out on your spouse, your Pilates bestie, your mom... Better yet, gather a group of buddies and try it out on them. The whole thing. You’ll get an idea for where you have gaps in information or where you tend to blank out or get off track.
Have fun and good luck!
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