How to Move Your Classes or Programs Online: Tips for Small Businesses
What a year this week has been… You’re truckin’ along doing your thing—but oh wait, the universe has a different plan. Time to rework…everything? This is all really hard, especially if your livelihood relies on in-person interactions or you don’t have an online aspect to your business. And it’s likely hard in ways we can’t even know or see. If you’re reeling, feeling uncertain, and don’t know where to start, hopefully it’s slightly comforting to know you’re not alone.
It’s also been incredible to witness the nimble, creative ways small businesses have responded and adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. To name one inspiring example out of likely millions:
Practical Martial Arts, run by husband-and-wife duo Mike and Karen Valentine, is a dojo in California, which like many regions around the world, is in a shelter-in-place zone. It’s been in business 27 years, teaching boxing, kickboxing, Brazilian Jui Jitsu, and self-defense, with a side of life lessons to hundreds of students of all ages. On Saturday, March 14 the school closed its doors at the recommendation of the CDC and state officials in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. By Monday the shelter-in-place order went into effect. Tuesday, the family-run operation took to their basement for their very first livestream class on Facebook. By Wednesday the teachers posted 9 videos to the dojo’s social media pages to keep their students engaged and working toward their next belt. And by Thursday, they had upgraded their operation a tad, with the help of a couple volunteers, and successfully hosted four live classes of 25 gleeful students each via online conferencing platform Zoom. (Also while homeschooling their kids and managing their younger son’s nightly seizures—now that is black belt levels of agility!)
“Self defense is about adapting and anticipating your opponent’s next move. And that’s what we’re trying to do,” owner, black belt, and now social media rockstar Karen Valentine said. “It’s empowering in a time that feels so unsettled and so uncertain.” A week ago Practical Martial Arts didn’t have a video strategy or an online conferencing platform, the couple was terrified about what this meant for their beloved business, their customers, and their employees. But in a couple days they were able to pivot. And you can, too.
If you’re looking to offer online versions of your in-person business or are simply looking to connect online while we ride this out, read on for tips and resources to help you go virtual, too.
Pick a Streaming or Meeting Platform
You’ll need to decide if you want your online yoga class, workout, or study group to be private or discoverable to folks on social media. There are lots of apps and tools for meeting online or streaming videos to platforms, each with their own unique set of features. Here are the apps our community is using most often.
- Zoom: The preferred platform for small businesses. Best if you want to host a large number of participants for webinars and video conferencing. Note that Zoom is Hippa compliant, making it the preferred option for health professionals. However, note that your region may have regulations in place around how mental health professionals can practice teletherapy.
- Google Meet: A good option for those who want to use other applications in tandem to video conferencing. It’s integrated into many of Google products and allows you to take advantage of your G Suite subscription at no additional cost.
- Re.Stream: Perfect for the business or individuals who want views, but is ok with a lack of privacy, this app allows you to stream across 30 social networks at once!
- Adobe Connect: Adobe is offering a free 90-day trial in light of current events. Adobe Connect is an enterprise solution that allow employees to join meetings, virtual conferences, and trainings from their homes, where they can continue to be productive and socially engaged. Government agencies, school districts, or any company dealing with sensitive information have also found Adobe Connect to be helpful thanks to its extensive security measures. Learn more on the Adobe Blog.
- Houseparty: A web and mobile app that allows you to see everyone’s face at once and even play games together. Perfect for playgroups, supervised kid entertainment, and connecting with friends and family.
- Teachable: Has everything you need to create, host and sell an online course. It handles everything from the concept all the way to the payment process.
Set Up a Process for Collecting Payments
If you don’t already have an online payment system, consider asking clients to pay via Paypal, Stripe or Venmo. Upon receipt, send them a link to where they can logon to join the conference call or virtual hangout. You could also set up a Patreon account to monetize your content offerings on an ongoing basis.
Payment Apps to Consider
- Paypal: One of the more widely known and trusted platforms in the ecommerce industry. Many of your clients will already have their own account. It does not however require sign in for payment.
- Stripe: Offers a globally integrated payment gateway. Stripe becomes most necessary when you are ready to set up payment renewal, whereas the other two do not offer this option.
- Venmo: Venmo has made a name for itself for being easy to use and give you quick access to your funds all on mobile. The main thing to note is that Venmo is only available for your clients in the US.
- Patreon: Designed specifically to make it easier for artists and creators to get paid. It’s a crowdfunded membership based platform.
Get the Word Out
Another important part of the success of your move online is to get your customers on board! Make sure you’re the communicating the when, where, and how–and even the why! This is a great time to rally your most devoted customers and provide a service of connection. People need to move, interact, and connect more than ever before. Tap to the designs below to remix the free Adobe Spark templates below and blast the word out on social media, via text, email, or on your website.
You also may need to update your website with instructions on how to join. Here’s how one Bay Area yoga studio, Aura Kundalini, responded to the shelter in place order on their class schedule website.
Set Your Virtual Stage
Sensei Mike of Practical Martial Arts teaching in his empty dojo-turned-virtual classroom.
All you really need is a laptop, computer, or smartphone and wifi connection to post videos online or meet virtually. But if you’re running a business or looking to maximize the experience, here are a few things to consider to set the stage.
- A tripod is great, but a stack of books or a coffee table will do. Do a test run to frame your shot to make sure your head isn’t cut off. Pro-Tip: if you’re moving around, mark up your space with electrical tape to remind yourself what is the safe zone. Play around with moving around and getting close to the camera to keep your audience engaged and feeling like they’re there with you.
- Hook up your laptop or computer to a bigger monitor (a TV will work too!), so you can have two views going: one of you and one of your students. This will help you make sure you’re staying in the frame throughout the session.
- Good lighting can set the scene. An easy, quick tip is to ensure that you are not situated with a window or light directly behind you, unless you’re going for the mysterious shadow look. It’s best to have light coming at you from behind the camera to light up your beautiful face. No natural light? Use what you can. You could consider softening harsh fluorescent lighting by covering it with sheer fabric. Simple household items like tinfoil or white paper allow you to bounce lighting like the pros do in the movies.
- Sound can be tricky, especially if you live in a city or apartment building. Do your best to position yourself away from the street-facing windows and use a smaller room that does not echo. Michael Franti chose his bathroom for his live virtual concert because the acoustics were the best. Most of the time, your computer’s built-in audio will be sufficient, but you might consider investing in a USB microphone, which range from $40-$100 online. Just plug it in and you’re good to go. Pro-Tip: Update the settings on Zoom so that you, as the host, are always highlighted. You can also mute others so your students don’t hear each other’s background noise but can still hear you. You can always change this mid-stream if you want to facilitate interaction between students.
- Backdrop is not one to forget. Maybe you want to reveal your Backstreet Boys poster to your audience, or maybe you want to keep that to yourself. It’s really a vibe call. There are even virtual backgrounds you can activate on streaming services like the face filters on Instagram or green screen backgrounds on Zoom. Check out how some folks have spiced up their conference calls with fun backgrounds:
This Youtube video covers easy hacks to begin filming at home, from lighting to framing:
Bonus! Don’t Forget to Record the Virtual Class to Promote Later
You could potentially earn more income by offering the recording to those who couldn’t make the live hangout. Simply hit record on your meeting, or use your preferred screen recording technology. This allows your customers flexibility and gives you the potential to build a passive revenue stream. Consider offering different price structures for your live and recorded classes if your clients are considering tightening their budgets.
Examples, Inspiration, and More Resources
- Relevant Speed, owned by Jean Christopherson, helped Practical Martial Arts get online and integrate Zoom into their process. Her site has loads of helpful information and she’s even donating her time to consult with businesses like PMA.
- This document puts everything into lamens terms and shows you which virtual fitness classes are available in your area. It breaks down the cost, and the platform that will be used for each of the choices.
- Mindbody has something for everyone. They now have shown an increase of their classes being offered virtually. Just put in your city and virtual classes, and the options list out with all the pricing.
- Amie Tollefsrud is a standout example for the techniques listed above. She has mastered going virtual so much so that she teaches others in the wellness space how to do it successfully. She offers free tutorials, full online classes, and special features including podcasts and coaching. To top it all off her videos always look terrific, even in times when she was traveling and did not have all the gear necessary.
- The Cut gives a first-hand look at how COVID-19 affected one woman’s therapy session. Therapists are now having to go virtual to support the needs of their patients. Restrictions are in place for therapists if they want to offer services remotely and may need certain certifications to do so.
Do you have more tips or resources to share? Did we miss something crucial? Let us know on social @adobespark. #adobespark