What I wish I’d known: Touring Workshop Basics

workshopcollage

One of the cool things that I see looking around social media now, is that quite a few people who I have been following for a year or two are now going out into the world of Touring themselves. Here are some of the things I wish I had known, from the beginning, of when I was teaching workshops myself. These are based on my experience, and now that I’ve mostly hung up my touring hat, I’m happy to pass this information off to those who might find it useful:

Don’t block out your calendar, or commit to a date, until you have a signed contract and a deposit. I used the deposit to confirm the studio was serious, and also to avoid going out of pocket to pay for airfare. That way, if the workshops were cancelled for any reason, I hadn’t lost money. You’re in the business of teaching. It’s not charity and you need to practice good business sense.
Ask questions about the studio. If the poles are close together, you may need to modify things and you should know before you get there. Can their sound system take an iPhone? What is the flooring like? Do they have chairs if you need them? What finish are the poles and do they rotate? How many of them spin and are you planning a spinning pole workshop?
When you’re thinking about workshop pricing, take a second to ask or research what a single class costs at the studio, or at nearby studios, and what travelling workshops they’ve hosted recently. If a class is $10, then if you charge $50, is that realistic? Are you offering 5x the benefit that they would be getting from a regular class? Because while you have expertise, and something unique, every dollar they spend on your workshops is a dollar less they can spend on their regular classes. Do you want to have a workshop 1/3 full at a high price, or packed at a lower price?
Relatedly- what are you worth? When you think about setting minimums (students per class, or number of workshops the host studio must agree to hold), think about what a weekend of your life is worth to you. I work full time and always have, so my weekends are precious; I price accordingly. That’s a choice I’ve made, but you need to ask yourself those questions.
When you write your workshop descriptions- is it clear that you are the only one in the world who could teach what you’re proposing? Is it unique to you and what you are passionate about, or is the description vague and run of the mill? There is so much saturation in the market- being great at pole isn’t a reason to teach. So think about what YOU can offer. Give specifics so that people can relate to what you’re planning and can get excited about it. Is it relatable? Accessible? What building blocks do they need? What is the theme or focus really? Can you title it in a way that is also specific and fun/sexy/etc? One of my most popular workshops from years back was “Drops, Tumbles, and OOMPH- OH MY!” In the description, I list cartwheel descents down the pole, and adding flair to your basic sit and climb by making them dynamic and spin on static.
Contracts are so, so, so, important. I’ve only ever committed to teach workshops ONCE without a contract and it was not a good experience. My contract lays out: what workshops I’m teaching, what dates and times, the split or pay scale, the timing of the deposit and the payment, and who’s paying for transportation costs, rides to/from studio, food, and accommodation. The point of a contract is primarily to make sure that ALL expectations are laid out on the table so that there can’t be disagreement, upset, or miscommunication. Think about what is important to you, as an instructor, and what would compromise your teaching experience or the student’s experience. I also lay out what happens if minimums aren’t met, what my cancellation rights are, and what happens to the studio’s deposit. I use a standard template which IS legally enforceable and I didn’t need to pay a lawyer to write this up.
Find out about the people who are registered, close to the day of. The studio owner should be able to fill you in. Where do they fall in skillset, and what is the split in a mixed levels workshop? If you do this homework, then the warmup, pacing and combos you bring can be tailored in advance with this in mind.
Put together a solid playlist. I have a huge one of a couple hundred songs that I play for class, but it’s a pretty mixed bag. If I want high energy or a super sexy dirty vibe for a workshop, I’ll go through my most recent favorites and make a special playlist that works well. I’m a hugely music motivated pole dancer and I find that especially for my freestyle or fluidity based workshops, the music is as important of an element as the verbal prompts and framework I provide.
Don’t let travel screw ups screw you up. I have had workshops totally cancelled only once because of weather, but with flight delays and traffic you almost never know. I prefer to stay overnight the night prior and start my day in the city of the studio, even if it means another night away from home and extra cost. You’re the guest instructor, and your primary responsibility is to show up on time and ready to go. With a regular job, you would be expected to make sure that you leave a buffer for your own commute, and being a polefressional means the same whenever possible. Also- imagine if weather delays your flight and keeps you from making the money that you were expecting… you don’t want to make that mistake even once!
Pack snacks. I can teach 6 workshops in a row without stopping because it fuels me, but then I drop dead. While the studio may know you need lunch and meals, often I end up needing an emergency snack on the way to the airport, or maybe I ran over on one workshop and now only have a few minutes for lunch. You need energy and you need to take care of your body!!
Always always always pack layers. I sweat like a pig and freeze easily so I’m a delicate flower. I bring thin pants, sweatpants, leg warmers, thigh high socks, a long sleeve, a hoody, a tank… you’d be surprised, some of the hottest locations have the coldest studios and if you can’t stick or get warm, you won’t be in optimal form to teach!
Everyone has different ways of teaching things. Especially around technical work, I try not to say that a student is doing something the wrong way or incorrectly or that a teacher has screwed up– I’ll try to say “for today, I’d like to you think about trying it this way,” or “Could you try doing it slightly different for me?” or “So I’m going to teach it to you guys a way that you may not have seen before or be familiar with”…
Know what blank face looks like and what it means. Usually it means, SLOW DOWN and give better breakdowns. Don’t ask people if they know how to do something intermediate, assume they are all saying YES, and then show the advanced version- for your own ass and for theirs, have them all SHOW you the intermediate version. Start with that. Often something you are used to teaching your students over and over is something other studios and students don’t work on as much. Assume nothing. Also, making sure everyone is on the same page makes sure that the fundamental skills are sound and gives students a feeling of “okay, now we’re building on something I already know how to do correctly.” It’s a built-in confidence boost!
Think about your warmup. My warmup for my intermediate and advanced students tends to build on the same movements over time, and is a lot of technical pilates and yoga. If I were to bring that exact same warmup elsewhere: blank face. Likewise, if your warmup is super fast and dancey, or whatEVER, think about how you would teach a room of strangers who have never taken class with you. It’s super discouraging when a student feels lost before class even begins.
Use the opportunity of visiting new studios to absorb! I love learning about what their levels are, how their membership works, what issues and challenges they have, what the local pole community is like. I love having conversations with studio owners in smaller towns and cities because its the best way of understanding what the pole communities in most of the country are like. I’ve also had a conversation like this with a studio owner grow into a long-form instruction opportunity based on what they wanted to help students with and what I was able to provide. Likewise, take time to connect to students- making relationships with those who appreciate you and continuing to invest in them beyond the hour or two that they spend in your workshop is a great way to build friendships that can grow and become amazing over time. There are hundreds of students that I have kept in touch with who are seriously kicking ass all the time and it makes me feel so happy that I could have been a tiny part of their learning process.