Periodically, I will supplement my income by teaching introductory classes. Not quite a seminar, these are one-day events; short classes that skim the surface of a subject that will hopefully generate some interest in full-time learning.
Chose a market that normally wouldn’t come in contact with your school. How about a nearby business district? Or office parks? Is there a major employer nearby? State agencies? Universities? I once had a student draft a letter and we sent this letter to doctor’s offices, law firms and clinics, and ended up doing intro classes for them, one class was in a conference room in the law firm and another at a real estate company. (Great idea too, realty agent are often alone with strangers in unoccupied homes, and often at night) You get the idea.
Also consider not holding the class at your school. I have done them at hotel meeting rooms, community centers, fitness centers, even in restaurants. Last year, we booked one at–get this–a Pizzeria for school teachers! I’ve even done them in churches and mosques. I think the school is a little intimidating for some people, and neutral, yet non-traditional grounds can be disarming for non-martial artists.
The idea is that we want to convince people to consider martial arts practice for things other than just putting on pajamas and getting belts. I teach mostly adults, so we focus on street self defense and fitness. However, I have taught tournament style sparring for schools that do not compete, and fitness for overweight kids (one of my best programs). One summer, I even did “Body-Building for Kids”! It was an 8 week program that promised introductory bodybuilding for preadolescent boys, and it was hit. One of those boys is now an adult in my sparring class. These classes need not have a martial arts theme, but they all introduce students to the benefits of martial arts practice. Be creative!
Treat the classes as special events and promote the heck out of them. Look at it as a small investment or business venture. You can send press releases to local media, like neighborhood newspapers and magazines, local fitness publications, and “calendar of events” with your local newspapers and magazines. You might even consider sending a press release to local TV and radio stations. Then, post flyers in nearby businesses–eateries, convenience stores, libraries, grocery stores… Put flyers on cars, on doors in apartment complexes, houses, put announcements on Craigslist. Set one date and focus on that one-time event.
Plan your class well. I know most of you have plenty of experience, but this is one time you don’t want to shoot from the hip and wing. Save that stuff for your regular students. The Intro class is really a live Infomercial. Although the attendees have paid a fee to be there, you are still trying to “sell” them the idea of furthering their martial education with you. Make sure your subject matter isn’t too deep; what you are really doing is not so much trying to teach them like you would in a normal class. In this class you are merely introducing them to the subject matter.
Speaking of which, consider the following, and see if you can come up with some interesting topics:
- How to Lose 50 Pounds in 6 Months, in YOUR Living Room
- The One-Day Anti Mugging Course
- How to Stop a Car-Jacking
- Kid’s Self-Defense Against Dogs
- How to Help Your Child End Bullying
- Develop a Killer Handshake in 30 Days
- Stop an Armed Attacker with Your Bare Hands (and this ain’t a disarming class… more on this subject in another article!)
- Turn Your Man-Boobs into Pecs by Next Summer (j/k)
Okay, don’t beat me up for that last one. 😉 I was just trying to make the point that all of us martial arts teachers are sitting on a mountain of knowledge beyond just weapons disarms and empty handed defense. Trust me, each of you could take any high school nerd for 6 months and turn him into a kid that would never be bullied again. Don’t you agree? How much do you think his mom would pay to make sure that this happens? Well, instead of a 3 minute phone conversation when she calls your Yellow Pages ad, imagine if you had the mom, the boy, and 10 other moms and boys in a room, for 2 hours, and they paid for you to tell them why he should join? It’s powerful stuff.
Now, turn off the laptop, and go to the men’s library/thinktank/the “potty”, and do some brainstorming. Your martial arts can be used for more than just kicking someone’s booty. You can get engaged couples looking good and ready for their wedding day. You can help 40-year old divorcees lose weight and get back in dating shape. I hope I don’t have to mention how a nice, fit body can replace a Viagra prescription. (Let me tell you, it’s a great closer when trying to sign up adult males to your martial arts class.) How about promising to arm college-bound girls against date-rape and unwanted advances? I think anyone with daughters would want their kids learning to protect themselves when preparing to leave the nest.
Just do us all a favor and skip certifying them when they come down. It is what it is: a one-day introductory course in blah, blah, blach (you fill in the blank). On top of that, it introduces you to potential new students, and gets them to consider martial arts when they normally would have looked in a completely different direction. You make a few extra bucks, and you now have a full hour or two to demonstrate and experience the reasons why they should join your school.
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