Online connection has become familiar to us since 2020, with everything from your Doctor’s appointment to the Oscars hosted online. And the changes in the wellness industry have been immense, with a swift move online becoming a survival tactic for many businesses.
Whether you read our article on How To Bring Your Students Online and jumped on the online bandwagon right away, or you waited a while to see what would happen, if you are teaching online in some capacity it is important to get it right. From internet connections to camera angles, excitable pets and the etiquette (and legality) of playing music, we have all seen and experienced a lot – but there is always more to learn.
And yes, your clients want to see YOU more than anything else, but you also want to be sure that what they get is actually the best version of your class in terms of quality, sound, lighting, audio and replay.
So let’s take a step back to review all we have learned about creating the perfect online experience for your viewers, whether you are in your own home or in a studio setting.
How to Teach Online
Teaching online is quite different to in-person and we talked a little about that in Tips for Teaching Online. Things to consider include whether your participants’ videos should be on – in fact, your insurance likely requires that they are.
And as the modifications and hands-on adjustments of our pre-COVID classes aren’t possible, there tends to be more demonstration of poses and so learning to monitor the small squares of your client’s videos, and offer them adjustments, becomes a whole new skillset.
It is also important to try and cultivate connection in your online class, from you to your participants, and from them to one another. Just like an in-person experience, you want your students to feel seen and supported, even if you are not in the same physical space. It can take time and practice to make this a natural process, and the best way to practice is to attend other classes and notice how instructors interact and make you feel connected and supported.
Create the Best Audio for Your Budget
There has been a lot of exploration and discussion about equipment that you might want or need to invest in. In A Filmmaker’s Guide to a Great Online Class, with Kristi Adams, we discovered that the most important element of teaching a movement class online is sound. Kristi’s rationale for this is that your clients will not always have their eyes on the camera, but they will always be listening to your voice. Solid point, right?
With this in mind, if you have the money to invest a little more in only one piece of equipment, make it your microphone. Our article on different types of microphones should help you decide which one, but just in case you want the quick answer, Kristi recommends the Rode Wireless Go as a versatile, reasonably-priced wireless microphone with good sound.
Setting Up the Camera Shot
Now to the visuals – yes a good camera is important, but you might not need to buy a shiny new one. The camera on a cell phone can be sufficient, and can be improved with these tips:
- Cell phone cameras should always be on the regular face-forward mode (as opposed to turning to face you) as the regular mode has a higher quality lens.
- You can buy fairly cheap apps that help to improve your shot and video quality.
- A lens-widening device can be a great addition for a phone, there are even add-ons that can follow your movement.
However, if you did want to up your camera game and invest in a new lens, we took a look at the best webcam for online teaching in this article, by comparing cameras that would meet the needs of online teaching.
Lighting Your Space
Any image is greatly improved with good lighting. We are so lucky that professional photographer and OfferingTree user Kristi Adams shared a ton of great information on lighting your online classes in this article. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t need to be expensive or a stand-alone soft lighting system to work really well!
Did you know that wearing a busy pattern will make the camera work harder to see you? This can also affect your streaming quality in a live class! So don’t forget to check what you are wearing and try to contrast with your background. Try as much as possible to wear solid colours, and if in doubt how good your shot looks, ask a friend to check it out and give you some feedback.
To Mute or Not To Mute?
Keeping participants muted is often essential in a larger group due to audio feedback and background noises. But this doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with your clients. Let them know the etiquette for communicating with you during class – should it be in the chat? Can they un-mute to speak or will that disturb the session too much? Be sure to let people know how to contact you if they need to.
Encouraging conversation at the beginning and ending of an online class can be a great way to foster connection with each person and create some community too. We share a few tips on how to create an in-person experience in this article.
Playing Music and Instruments
Creating an ambience in your class online is somewhat challenging. No heated room, no mood lighting, and no easy-to-play (and fully-licensed) studio music. Playing music (how to play it and whether you legally can and should) is covered in lots of detail in our article Playing Music in Online Classes. Be aware that music can sound different to every client depending on their device, settings and whether they are using headphones. If you are not absolutely convinced that playing music will enhance the experience of your class, then don’t play it.
If you don’t use music, perhaps draw attention to the sounds around clients in their own environment and draw the focus inward to themselves a little more without the distraction of music.
And using musical instruments can also be tricky for your audio, especially with singing bowls. Our article dives into why and which microphone works really well with singing bowls. It can often be better to pre-record classes with instruments as this means the streaming quality is solid in the replay. Again, if in doubt, ask a friend to help out!
Perfect The Technology
There are a number of things you can do to Perfect the tech in your online classes, starting with being sure that your internet bandwidth is reliable and not being shared by anyone in your house when you live-stream. If someone else is using your internet connection at the same time as you for something like streaming on video games, it can really impact the video and audio quality of your class. Taking a few steps to ensure your internet connection is solely being used by you and that you connect to it via ethernet rather than wireless will go a long way in mitigating unexpected outages.
In terms of video conferencing software, it is a little known fact that Zoom is not the only option out there. Yes, it’s the most well-known option, but there are other video conferencing software available that might work for you. We gathered together our top 5 choices on video conferencing software in this article to help you decide if you are using an option that works best for your business, and your budget.
Video conferencing has limitations because ultimately it was not created for movement classes, but for stationary people having discussions and sharing screens. The good news is that production is underway on video softwares that are more focused on serving movement-based classes. We will update this article when they hit the market. Or if you know of one already, you can leave a comment below so we can check it out!
Expect the Unexpected
Teaching online is not without its surprises. Whether that is an unexpected interruption on your part (your technology suddenly shutting down or a cat or dog fight starting inside of your shot!) or something unexpected happening in your participant’s home, being able to fly by the seat of your pants is a skill that online teaching has gifted us!
There are so many floating parts in an online class, and quite a few possibilities for error. But your clients do not expect a perfect experience free of human issues; what they need is connection – with you and your offerings. So if and when things do go wrong, remember to stay calm, go with your instinctive response and try to show grace towards yourself.
Your OfferingTree site has all the features you need to kick-start your online business – online store, scheduling, Zoom integration, memberships, on-demand content, you name it, we either already provide it or are preparing to add it in! We work with our users to find out what they need and we add it to our roadmap of upcoming features. If you would like to learn more, you can schedule a demo of the OfferingTree site here, or email your questions to our team at [email protected]. We would love to see you there!