The world of kids activities, parties and family entertainment has changed with Covid-19.
Now is the time to embrace the power of technology and think outside the box by adapting to new ways of delivering your regular classes. Times of struggle tend to be when we see the most forward-thinking and ingenuity in business, just think Airbnb came from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis! Your business families are also at a point where they are looking for ways to incorporate their children’s activities into their new way of life at home and while they transition back to normal. They are looking to you to guide them and the best way to do that is going online with pre-recorded videos, live streaming and live interactive classes.
Are Online Classes Going to Work for your Business & You?
Getting classes & activities online as a new way of delivering your services may feel overwhelming initially. I’m sure like everyone there have been huge changes for you in recent times but there are many positives to going online and it can be easier than you think. By taking your activities & parties online you are expanding your potential business to anywhere in the world. You are no longer limited to certain locations or limited by class size. Even though you are be feeling a little forced to make the changes now there is the potential to grow your business even more than before
But, you do need to think and decide if going online is what you actually want to do. Going online might not be the right option for everyone or going online right now might not be the best time for you.
We’ve never been in a situation like this before and every family and the level of commitment required won’t be the same for each business. So, it’s important for you to do what is right for you.
The next step is to then come up with a plan and set some goals. This preparation phase is really important. Don’t skip over it thinking you need to keep up with others. Take some time to think about how your offering will work online, what would it look like? Would parents want to continue paying for that service? Do you have the equipment required to go online? How will sound work? Lighting? How will your partner and family cope with you making this transition?
The next biggest question… which video platform to use?
There are few options available but the biggest considerations should be:
1. Safety – children need to be kept safe from predators and families need to know if you will be recording the classes/parties and what will happen with that information.
2. Accessibility – will families be able to access it, download it and use it easily.
3. User Friendly – not all families are confident technology users and they will need simple and clear instructions.
There are a few options available such as Google hangouts, Facebook Live, Skype & Zoom. At present Zoom appears to be one of the most commonly used platforms that deliver consistent and stable results. Families are likely to be familiar with this platform too for work purposes.
Zoom is probably the most popular choice at the moment and offers a free account but does have a limited time period of 40min for multiple people watching (if it is just two of you, there is no time limit so you can hold unlimited 1 to 1 meetings). So, if you plan for your classes to run for over 40min, you will need to upgrade to the Basic pro Zoom Account. It’s approximately $25 per month and worth it for the peace of mind if there’s a chance of your class running overtime. You can see the packages here.
One of the best parts of Zoom is that you can record the session. This can be either in their (cloud – additional charges) or straight to your computer. You can then share this video via YouTube, Vimeo or DropBox, etc.
Any of your students can log into Zoom via ta phone, iPad or computer. It is very user friendly. The quality of the vision and audio will be dependent on your internet connection so keep this in mind when choosing where to film your content.
There are many aspects to learning different parts of Zoom and their website provides a range of informational training videos where you can learn everything you need to know and Zoom keep them updated. Ensure you have the latest version of Zoom, you should get a prompt to update your account when an update is available.
There have been security concerns with Zoom but it is important to remember that there is a security risk with everything that you do. Even when you were running face to face classes.
These steps increase your Zoom security:
1. Ensure you use a password to access the class/party
2. Use the waiting room function so you need to give people permission to access the class/party
3. Save recordings to your computer rather than the cloud so you have full control of the content
10 Steps to Getting Online
1) Practice Makes Perfect (well close enough!)
Online classes will be new for everyone and the plus side is that it gives you time to make mistakes as your community will be expecting there to be some teething problems.
If video is a new concept for your business, introduce it slowly to them to assign them coming on board and embracing the new concept. There’s so much change and uncertainty going on that preparing people as much possible will be greatly appreciated. This is a great way to build excitement first, so they know what to expect.
Once you are all set up and have practised, you are ready to send it out to the world.
- Take some time to practice with a family member/partner first
- If you have a team of coaches/teachers/entertainers practice with them as well
- Think about if the time of your classes/parties and think about how this will work when online. 30 minutes seems to work well with younger children’s attention spans with 45 -1 hour for older children might be a possibility.
- For your first Zoom session, it might be just on saying hello, talking about how the classes or party will work and allowing them a chance to get their technology and space/party area right too.
- Then go for it! Things will inevitably go wrong or not quite as you planned it. You can’t control all the children in their home environments. Having an additional team member or assistant available to take care of the technical side, answering questions, muting children who have figured out they can unmute themselves etc.
2) Create a Home Workspace for Filming
- As mentioned have two people involved in managing the live session (one to be the teacher and taking the class and a second to manage the chat group, other communication that might come through and also the wifi).
- Think about the background/backdrop as your children and families will see this and it’s kind of intriguing to see what is in the background. You can consider having a media wall or pull up banners in the background which is good for branding.
- When filming/going live have a sign on your front door so you aren’t interrupted and put your phone on silent.
- Also, think about the space the child will have available to be able to follow along. Adaption might need to be made to ensure the child’s ability to participate and their safety.
3) Equipment You May Need
Secure and strong internet; this is a very important one. Good internet ensures that streaming is smooth and avoids slagging.
Recording Device; options include your phone or laptop/computer. A phone does make it hard to see all the children at the one time and would be the least effective way of filming if you want to make it interactive. It is possible to connect your device to your TV with a HDMI cable and this will give you a very large screen to watch while you teach/perform.
A tripod; these are an inexpensive item but if you can’t wait or don’t have the funds, you can use what you have around the house.
Microphone; If you are close to your computer for recording, you may not need a microphone. Otherwise, a lapel microphone can be an option. The sound quality will take some time to get right. Some people have found that playing the music through laptop speakers does not work well and for best results have used a separate speaker.
Props/Equipment; Try to stick to things that families would have at home.
Parents will need to consent to online classes and you will need to talk to your insurance provider to receive guidance on whether your policy will cover you for online classes.
You must inform parents/students if you intend on recording the sessions and how you intend to use those recordings. You may require to have consent forms giving permission for you to use recordings of children for advertising purposes. We have a recorded video interview with industry-specific Q&As with a lawyer which can be purchased. Details here.
5) How To Market Your Online Classes & Parties
You should be making regular updates to your websites that you are going online, continue doing social posts, continue sending emails and text messages (if that’s how you usually communicate with your parents).
Parent will be stressed, overwhelmed and emotionally drained so marketing need to be simple, clear and concisse on where and what they need to do to access your services.
It’s likely you won’t have any images of online classes so you will need to create some with your own children or ask friends with children to pose for some photos.
What’s On 4 Kids are offering free 90 day listings with online categories for classes/activities and personalised videos/virtual parties for party entertainers. You can list your business here.
6) Terms & Conditions
It’s important to revise your existing terms & conditions and make adjustments when moving to an online class or party offering. You maybe need to add a disclaimer to your terms and conditions.
Also, talk with your insurance provider about getting classes & activities online. We have a recorded video with industry-specific Q&As with a lawyer which can be purchased. Details here.
7) Class Structure
Now is the time you can review the length of your classes and class structure. You might need to consolidate some classes if numbers have dropped.
An option could be to record yourself running the classes and that can become a program that that could be delivered as a pre-recorded option in the future.
9) What Should you Be Charging?
This will be an individual decision and based on the economic situation of your location, industry and the families that you provide services for. Some business owners feel they are justified in charging the same fees, others feel more comfortable in offering a small discount. Something to consider is instead offering extra value ie allowing siblings to be part of the price too.
Please do not offer too much for free as it will undervalue what you do and is not sustainable long term.
10) Transition Back into Real Life Classes
We have interviewed two groups of business owners who have provided their thoughts and experiences with going online. One was a group of kids activity providers and the other were kids party entertainers and family entertainers.
If you do choose to take your business online make sure to remember that this current situation is only temporary. Assess all the information above and make the best decision for your business whether that is moving online now or taking some time out until this current situation has passed. Whatever you choose we wish you the best and we at What’s on 4 Kids are here to support you in any way we can.
We spoke with some business owners in the industry in early march 2020 and you can hear what they had to say here:
Join the Kid’s Activity & Party Industry Business Network private Facebook group for support and advice.