Today I’m going to teach you a very practical marketing skill that I love and use regularly in my own business: teaching a free or low-cost intro class that gives people a taste of you and your offering so they can’t wait to work with you.
And get ready – it’s a long post, but it will walk you through all the steps you need to design a really rocking class.
If you have something interesting to teach and you enjoy teaching (or you’re willing to push yourself a bit and put your gifts out there, nudge-nudge), this is one of the easiest ways to get new clients.
What’s unique about what I’ll show you here is that it’s a nature-based model for teaching and learning. It will give you the confidence to deliver an effective class, and have your students feel deeply held in a strong, interactive, inspiring container… that feels totally natural, and not awkward.
There are two main problems that we’re going to try and circumvent here:
- Many of you have something to teach but you don’t necessarily have facilitation experience or a format to follow. This means that even if you have amazing brilliance and wisdom, people can get lost or bored, and worse yet, if you don’t have a plan for how to help people take the next step, you’ve lost a huge opportunity to actually get new clients after teaching your class.
- The other problem is that there is a lot of noise out there – and a heckuvalotta “free webinars.” And many of them are super low on content and super high on pushy, annoying selling. That’s not what we’re going for here.
What we are going for is you sharing your gifts with people in an inspiring way so that no hard sell is needed, giving people an distinct invitation to go deeper and apply what they’ve learned by working with you, and offering people a ton of value whether they end up working with you or not.
Some Logistics Before We Start
- You can do this live, on the phone, or via webinar. The format is similar for all, but here I’ll walk you through teaching a LIVE two-hour course, and then I’ll give you some simple tweaks at the end if you want to take it online.
- I’m not giving exact timing for each stage because it can vary, but for a two-hour live class, assume the BLOSSOM stage is one hour, and all the other stages together are one hour.
Choosing a Topic for Your Class
Your class needs to give people a taste of your work and make them excited to learn more. It should be designed directly to solve a problem or need that your specific target audience has. So, if you’re not clear on your niche and your target audience’s biggest challenges, it will be hard to pick what your class is about.
You can either teach an overview of your whole process, or you can choose one simple part of your work to teach them about that naturally leads to your other work.
For example, I teach a class called “Tune into Nature to Grow a Business You Love.” It gives an overview of my entire philosophy of business, the 3 Principles of a Natural Business, and the 8 Stages of the Natural Business Cycle. It answers my clients’ yearning for a clear structure for how business works that also feels natural and easeful. I could also teach a class, for example, about helping people find their niche naturally. This would be a great taste of what I do that leads to many other things I teach about, and it helps people solve a specific problem I know they have.
Just remember, you want the people who show up at your class to be your ideal clients, because you are going to invite them to work with you at the end of the class. It has to flow.
Finally, you only need ONE CLASS! I teach the same class over and over again. Of course I refine and tweak it over time, and it changes and gets better. But there is no reason to reinvent the wheel here. That takes more time for you and confuses your message. Keep it simple!
A Nature-Based Model for Learning
You can see a picture of the Natural Business Cycle above (and if you’re curious about it, just go here on my website).
The Natural Business Cycle is based on an incredibly inspiring model created by Jon Young called the 8 Shields Model that I’ve studied and implemented for years in a variety of contexts. What I’m teaching you today is also based on this model. (If you’re intrigued about learning how to build healthy, earth-based culture and community by teaching people how to reconnect to nature using this model, I highly encourage you to check out the 8 Shields Institute).
This model basically posits that there is a natural learning process that tracks the natural cycles.So here we go! You can literally lay your class out according to the eight stages outlined below.
There’s a spot at the end of each stage for you to fill in the blanks and prepare YOUR class.
Stage 1: SEED
This is the very beginning. And SEEDS are magical, right? So much potential! So we begin with a moment of gratitude, a blessing, a moment of silence, a deep breath, or a simple “Welcome and thank you for being here!” (depending on the vibe of your work and the tone you want to set).
After saying thanks, it’s the perfect time to set an intention for your class. Again, this can feel very spiritual, or it can be super practical. The point is that while we are in the place of the SEED, or pre-birth, we set the tone for the entire class. Here’s what I say in the SEED stage of the class that I often teach:
My intention for our time together is that we take time out for the next two hours from this sped-up world to slow down, take a deep breath, and remember that we humans are actually of the earth! We ARE nature, and everything natural has a cycle, including our businesses.
If you like, this is also a good time to state your vision, the why behind your work, or the stand you are taking with your work.
- What is the opening moment going to be like for your class?
- What’s your intention for this class?
- Why do you do this work? Why is it important?
Stage 2: ROOTS
Now that everyone has arrived and is present, there is the formal orientation or introduction to the class. It’s more logistical in nature than the SEED stage. People like knowing what’s going to happen, and you want to tell them early on so they know what to expect. This helps them feel ROOTED and ready to grow and learn.
So here, you’re going to let them know you understand why they’re here by identifying some of the issues or challenges they might be showing up with. Then you’ll tell them what they’re going to learn in the class and how you aim to help them solve those problems.
Then, you can give them the brief agenda for the class: “After this introduction, we’ll do a warm-up exercise, then I’ll teach you about X, Y, Z, then we’ll have small group discussions, a Q and A session, and then at the very end I’ll let you know how you can work with me if you’d like to.”
Then you’ll introduce yourself. Tell your story… how does your experience relate to the content you are teaching them today? Use your introduction as a teaching moment. People want to get to know you, and this is your chance. Take a few minutes for this.
Then, if you’re in a live class and there aren’t too many people, I recommend going around the room and having each person introduce themselves and telling one small piece of info about themselves (there will be more time for people to get acquainted in the next stage).
Finally, tell people any logistics they need to know about: the bathroom is down the hall, etc.
- What types of challenges might your students be experiencing if they showed up at your class today?
- What do you aim for them to learn today that will help with those challenges?
- What’s your brief agenda for the class?
- What’s your personal story?
- What’s the intro question for your students?
- Any logistics to tell them about?
Stage 3: SPROUT
It’s icebreaker time. The SPROUT is full of energy, and this is the moment to take advantage of the excitement in the room and get people interested in learning… about themselves, each other, and the subject matter.
You could do any number of activities here, from movement games to a simple sharing circle, but I’ll give you one activity that combines physical movement (great for getting people energized), getting to know the people in the room, and helping people hone in on their own intention for being there so they get the most out of the class.
Here’s how it works:
- Have everyone stand up and wander around the room. If you’re feeling it, you can ask them to act in a particular way. For example, I’ll have people pick their favorite season or animal and walk around the room in that style. It’s goofy and loosens people up.
- After a few moments, say “stop” and have people stand in front of the person closest to them (so they make pairs).
- Tell them to ask their partner the following question and then switch. Give them each one minute to speak, and time them (tell them when to switch partners): What’s your name and what drew you here tonight?
- Then have them walk around again as another animal or season (or whatever!) and have them stop in front of a new person and ask a new question: What’s your name and what do you hope to get out of the class this evening?
- Do this one more time and ask a third question. I’ll let you choose this one. Make it something specific to why they’re here for your particular class.
- Round everyone up and have them sit down again.
- What ice-breaker will you do?
- If you do the one above, what are your three questions?
Stage 4: BLOSSOM
Ok, here’s the part you’ve been waiting for. The part you thought was the whole class, but really it’s just this one part: the actual content of the class! Here you get to BLOSSOM and really share your beautiful gifts. This stage of the cycle parallels the heat of summer and the mid-day sun… you’ll put out a lot of good energy in this stage.
Of course, this IS an important stage, but it’s important to note that this is just ONE aspect of the class, and all those other parts are really important to having everyone feel held in a natural, holistic process.
So how do we give over the content in the most effective way?
First, you need to give people the context and framework for what you’re teaching. Don’t assume they know what’s in your head. Even if it seems basic to you, start at the beginning and give an overview of what you’re teaching before diving into the details. Make sure they understand why it’s so important too. If you’ve done this already in the SEED and SPROUT stages, great. No need to belabor it.
Now, I want you to choose three (ish) things you want people to learn in the class. It might be, “Three Uncommon Ways to Heal Anxiety Naturally,” or “Three Mistakes People Make When Choosing a Niche.” (PS – This can also be the title of your class!). Map out the whole class, thinking in headlines, bullet points, and simple visual models. And I totally didn’t believe this when I was first started teaching, but if you can group your teachings into threes, people are much more likely to remember them. Further sub-divide each point into threes as well if possible.
A really tight way to deliver each of your teaching points is to first outline the problem, then the solution you are offering through your approach, and finally, the outcome they can expect if they do it.
Here are three pitfalls to watch out for:
- Rushing and running out of time. Know that if your class is two hours long, the BLOSSOM stage will be an hour or less. And it will go fast. Which leads to…
- Teaching too much (less is more). Teachers always try to cram way too much into that hour. Your students get oversaturated more quickly than you think, so it’s best to keep it simple. After you make a first draft, go back through and cut it down. What is essential to teach them? Cut out anything that’s not. Ask a friend if you need help with this.
- Worrying about perfection and memorizing. The most important thing is that you to show up as YOU, feeling as relaxed and natural as possible. This is way more important than the perfect words. And this goes for the whole class, not just this section.
- What is the context, framework or philosophy behind what you’re teaching?
- What three things do you want to make sure people learn during this class?
- What is the overview or outline of your class?
- Fill in all your bulleted teaching points (remember the rule of threes).
- For each main teaching point, can you name the problem people are facing, how your approach could help them, and what could happen for them if they do it?
- Time it, and then cut some out (it will take longer to teach in person than practicing alone).
Stage 5: POLLINATE
Whew, that was a lot! Now it’s time for the POLLINATION stage, the moment of conception. In the cycle, it’s actually a pause, a time to let our bodies catch up to our brains and soak up all the wisdom you’ve just imparted, so we can start to integrate it. So what does this look like in practice?
In a daylong class or a retreat, it’s a physical break: time for a walk, going to the bathroom, a meal or snack and conversation. During a short class like this one, I simply have people stand up and take a stretch break, or take a few intentional deep breaths as I say, “Well, that was a lot of information, let’s take a few deep breaths and let that all sink in!”
We need time to slow down and start to integrate and embody our learning. Give people a moment for this. The rest of the cycle will focus on further integration of the learning.
- How will you hold this pause for integration in your class?
- What can you do for yourself at this moment to make sure you take a pause (hint, it’s a great time to take a sip of tea and take a deep breath!)?
Stage 6: FRUIT
It’s time now to for people to gather together and harvest the FRUITS of their labors. Basically, you’ll divide people into small groups so they can explore how to apply what they’ve learned to their own lives. And people LOVE this part… connecting and sharing and talking about themselves? What fun! And, it’s where the real learning happens. I like to take about 15 minutes for this section (longer if possible).
On a logistical level, you need to hold this tightly. Make sure you have a timer and a sound-making device (or a loud voice), and don’t be shy to walk around the room and let people know when it’s time for the next person to speak. Everyone needs a turn, and you need to facilitate this.
Below are my favorite questions to ask to help carry the work forward (but you can also come up with ones that are specific to what you’re teaching).
Three Good Questions to Ask:
- What lit you up about what you just learned? (or, what’s an epiphany you had about your own life/business?)
- What’s something you might change about how you’ve been doing things after this class?
- What’s a first action step you will commit to taking after this class?
- What two to three questions will you ask people in order help them apply what you’ve taught to their own lives?
- What supplies do you need to bring to facilitate this stage?
Stage 7: NOURISH
In the NOURISH stage, you as the teacher get to draw out lessons from your students experiences to help them more deeply embody the learning for themselves. Just like a fruit nourishes our bodies or the soil, knowledge and wisdom nourish our minds and souls.
On a practical level, it’s time to share lessons from their small groups with the whole class and for the Q and A session.
So first, ask a few people to briefly share a little fruit, or lesson, from their small group discussions. Don’t skip this part! It is so inspiring for everyone in the class to hear what people are actually gaining from your class. And it sells your work BIG TIME (without you saying a thing) when people in the class get to hear everyone’s amazing epiphanies. Feel free to augment these learnings by responding or adding to them.
Then it’s time for Q and A:
Three tips for a lively Q and A session that doesn’t get out of hand:
- Ask everyone to take a moment and write down a question they have. Let them know how much time there is for Q and A, and manage their expectations by asking them to come up with a concise question so that everyone can have a chance if they want it. (Then, if someone is rambling on and on, it’s easier to interrupt them and ask them to keep it short).
- Try to make each person’s question relevant to the whole group by spotting lessons, creating teaching moments around them, and showing people how one person’s issue or challenge may actually be relevant to others. (If someone has a very specific or logistical question that will take a long time to answer and isn’t very relevant to others, invite them to come up talk to you after class).
- Stick to time. Q and A sessions have the potential to get really boring. Ten or 15 minutes is generally enough in a two-hour class. If there are many more questions, stay late and talk to people AFTER you make your offer and close the class in the next stage.
- Think about what people might come back from their small groups with and practice responding to some of their discoveries.
- Think about questions that people might ask in the Q and A session and practice responding to these questions.
Stage 8: DORMANCY
We’re coming to the end of the class, the DORMANCY stage – a place of resting in the fertile soil that’s been created during this process.
This stage is not only about rest, it’s also about giving the space and the opportunity for new inspiration to come in. It’s the perfect time to let people know how they can work with you going forward.
And make no mistake: this is actually the most important part of your class (if you truly want to get more clients through teaching it). So pay close attention to the steps you need to take here to make sure that the people you are meant to work with have the opportunity to do so.
How to Make an Effective Invitation to Work With You:
- I open this stage with a statement something like this: I covered a lot of content on this call, and I know that actually implementing it is a whole other story. And the reality is that for most people, actually implementing all this stuff is unlikely without support. And yet with support, it can make things so much more (your outcome here). And THAT is why I do (your type of program) with people.
- If you are offering one-on-one work or a group program that requires a consultation to join, the simplest invitation is to sign people up for a free consultation right now, so that’s what we’ll focus on here.
- First tell them the benefits they will get out of the consultation itself (not the whole program!), how and why it’s helpful for people. Think outcomes. Even though it’s free doesn’t mean they’ll take the time to do it.
- Then tell them the details about how they sign up for it (you’ll be sending around a sign-up sheet, see below).
- You don’t need to tell them all the details of your program offering during the class if they are going to have a free consult with you anyways.
- If you are offering a course or something else that they can purchase on the spot or via your website (without a consultation), you’ll need more time to explain all the benefits of it and then the details and logistics. This is a slightly different strategy and will need to be a topic of another blog post!
- Now, pass around a physical sign-up form for your free consultation. I actually put dates and times right on there and have people put their name, email and phone number in a time slot (and after the class, follow up with each person to confirm via email!).
- Bonus tip: If for some crazy reason you don’t already have everyone’s email address from when they signed up for the class, make sure you get them at the end of the class. Many people will NOT sign up for free consultations, but you will still be able to add them to your email list so they can get to know you through your newsletters over time and reach out to you when they are ready (this is how you grow your tribe!).
- What is your opening statement for this stage (feel free to lift mine)?
- What are you inviting people into at the end of your class? If it’s a free consultation, what is the program or package you are offering in that consultation?
- What benefits do people get out of your free consultation?
- How do people sign up for your free consultation?
- What forms do you need to create to pass around during this time?
- What is your follow-up plan for people who sign up for free consults? What about for people who don’t sign up for free consults?
And . . . Back to the Beginning!
I told you it’s a cycle. Here we have another ceremonial SEED at the moment of transition: a simple and brief “thank you for being here” (or a mind-altering closing meditation, whatever works for your business).
And now you’ve planted the SEED with your students for their next evolution around the wheel.
And finally, tweaks for taking your class to the phone or online:
- First, you don’t need to do a “webinar,” per se, especially if you are intimidated by the technology. Start with a regular old conference call line. Easy and free!
- Phone and online classes are better at 60-75 minutes. Engagement is much harder when people are alone with their computers and not in a room with other people.
- Skip the icebreaker in SPROUT, but do announce people’s names as they arrive if you have that ability tech-wise. In place of the icebreaker, I simply use an energizing statement: “Alright everyone, you ready to dive in? I’m excited to start!”
- I teach the BLOSSOM stage all the way through with no Q and A if I’m online and hold all questions until the Q and A section. Q and A throughout a call can feel disjointed (it can live too, and it’s important to maintain a balance of you teaching, but also not ignoring important questions).
- One way to add some interactivity on a call is to give people 15-20 seconds to journal or think about a question you ask. So at least they are interacting with the material, even if they’re not interacting with another person.
- The POLLINATION moment can literally be a deep breath together to let the information sink in.
- When you are doing anything interactive on a call or online, you want to tightly facilitate it. Some technology helps a lot with this! I use technology where people can raise their hands with their keypads and I call on them, or they can type in questions. I love MaestroConference as far as phone technology goes.
- During your offer, on the call, direct people to your consult application page or scheduling tool and encourage them to sign up right now for a free session with you. You can let them know you have XX spots this week for consultations to give it a little urgency.
- Do the Q and A after you make the offer. This is because many people will drop off the call as soon as you’re done teaching and not stick around for Q and A. You want them to hear the offer, and then they can stick around and ask questions if they have them.
I hope this post was helpful!
It’s such a joy to teach and learn in this model, and I’ve found it very effective in my business as well.
Julie Wolk is a business coach committed to helping purposeful entrepreneurs slow down and tune into nature and themselves to find the clarity, strategy and systems to grow profitable businesses they truly love and enjoy! For 15 years she’s guided talented visionaries to manifest the success and impact they desire. People love her down-to-earth approach and that she takes into account the uniqueness of each person she works with. Find out more about Julie and her work here: juliewolkcoaching.com