Copyright 2006 Donna Gunter
I first became acquainted with teleclasses back in 1997 when I stumbled across the coaching community. At the time, I lived in small town in western Massachusetts, and professional development opportunities were few and far between without a drive to Albany, NY, or to Springfield or Boston, MA.
With teleclasses, I thought I’d hit the personal development motherload. I could simply dial a teleconference bridgeline from the comfort of my own home and be connected with 10-150 other people around the globe, who were all gathered on a call to learn more about a particular topic. Moreover, in many cases the class was free or low-cost, and I didn’t have to get dressed, drive anywhere, find and pay for parking, nor stay overnight, all of which I would have to do if it were an in-person seminar or conference. What could be simpler?
So, what is a teleclass, anyway? A teleclass is a conference call in which everyone on the line can hear and speak with everyone else. You and between 10-500 other registrants call a regular phone number (will typically be a long-distance number where your regular long distance rates apply) at your designated time and you are welcomed by the host, or teleclass leader. Teleclasses have been compared to a grad school discussion — some lecture, some questions, some discussion. As a participant, it’s easy to listen in and either absorb or engage in the discussion.
Fast forward to the present, and I’ve come a long way since then in my teleclass education. I’ve now conducted tons of teleclasses on a variety of subjects, and currently have a group coaching program in progress that’s conducted solely over a teleconference bridgeline. More and more corporations and larger businesses are using the teleconference concept to conduct virtual meetings with far-flung employees around the globe or to provide training to those same people.
Teleclasses are a great way for people to get a “taste” of what you have to offer without any great expenditure. Many self-employed service professionals use free teleclasses as a marketing tool so that participants can get to know them, or as an introduction to a fee-based course/program that they’re selling. Instead of dealing with the hassles entailed in putting on a live event, such as finding a venue, arranging for parking, setting up catering and AV needs, and promoting the event, you can provide nearly an identical experience with much less trouble and much less up-front cost.
So, what topic should your teleclass cover? Here are 3 great resources where you can get some teleclass ideas: Teleclass.com, TeleclassInternational.com, and Seminar Announcer.com.
Teleclass.com and Teleclassinternational.com both offer teleclass leader training. Once you’ve completed the training, you’re able to list your teleclass on their website and in their email newsletter for a small fee. SeminarAnnouncer.com permits you to list your event at no cost, and no special training is required to list your event.
Once you’ve got a topic in mind, now comes the design of the teleclass. If you’ve never had to plan out a program, determining how much content to offer versus how much discussion can be tricky, or just figuring out in what order to present your information can be a bit overwhelming Here’s a list of 20 questions you can use to help you design your teleclass, as provided in the newsletter, Today’s Coach: http://www.todayscoach.com/2003/021003.html
How do you find a bridgeline for the teleclass? I get my bridgeline free of charge at http://www.freeaudioconferencing.com. One feature that is VERY important to have on your bridgeline is the ability to mute all participants. I’ve been on too many calls when someone brings alot of static or a big echo to the call. As the leader, you can mute the other callers and eliminate this background noise, if your bridgeline has this feature, and just unmute the participants when you want to open the floor for questions. The ability to do this will eliminate many headaches for you and your participants.
Now that you’ve built it (the teleclass), will they come? You may have to do a bit of education with your target market to let them know about the concept of teleclasses, as it’s not a term that’s familiar to everyone. Then, you’ll need to promote your event just like you might do a live event–send out press releases, buy advertising (as appropriate), sent notices out to your email newsletter or list, have friends and colleagues notify everyone on their lists, have it listed at one of the teleclass announcement sites listed above, or post it on discussion lists as appropriate.
If you haven’t listed your class with either Teleclass.com and Teleclassinternational.com, both of whom will provide registration for teleclasses, you’ll want have some mechanism on your website for taking course registrations. I use my shopping cart for this function, and you can sign up for a 30-day free trial of that service here: http://www.kickstartcart.com/app/?pr=31&id=59401 Free video tutorials on how to use this shopping cart can be found here: http://www.shoppingcarttraining.com/
I strongly encourage you to record all the teleclasses that you conduct so that you can leverage them in different ways: have them available for free on your website, convert them to MP3’s and sell the MP3 file or access to that, convert them to a package of CD’s and offer those for sale, or send them out as a podcast.
Teleconferences are a very inexpensive way to expand your market reach throughout the world. Pick a subject, invite your contacts, and get started today!