Developing Your Online Classroom: Zoom Classes

You knew it was coming! It’s time to grab online education by the horns and direct your energy to connecting with your customers in what might be a new way for you and your team. Enter the Zoom class. The Art Dog team has turned some of our focus to Zoom presentations: from our experience with our Art Dog Live series to e-courses we have attended with the goal of creating a more engaging online presence. We spoke with Scott Stevenson from Advantage Sales Marketing who recently held his first Zoom class, and we agree the learning curve can feel steep at first, but is quick, painless and even a little fun. Here are some lessons we’ve learned and a handful of tips from the experts. And, as always, the comment section is at the ready for your questions or other advice, too!

Investing in The Long Game with Virtual Experiences

Online classes are not a short term solution: virtual product education and outreach is a crucial evolution for those of us in the creative materials industry. Hosting a class online allows retailers and vendors to connect with end-users anywhere in the world. Online classes will also help you maintain relationships with customers, build loyalty and create a sense of community, so they come to you when they’re ready to purchase.

Scott anticipates offering these classes for years to come, even when in-person classes may resume. We asked Scott about the time investment involved for an independent rep to put something like this together. “This is the small thing that I can do to help,” he said. “We have a very small industry. For me, it’s been very distressing sitting on the sidelines and waiting for things to get better [for my friends and retailers]…I just got tired of waiting around and decided I needed to do something.” 

Preparing For Class

For his first online event with Allard’s Art Supplies in Fresno, Scott provided class kits which included a handmade Daniel Smith Dot Card, Fabriano watercolor paper, a Princeton brush, a color chart and an envelope stuffed with all the literature needed for the event. Scott provided these kits for free in exchange for the store advertising the event and getting sign-ups for the class. 

Allard’s secured over twenty registrants and then distributed the kits via curbside pickup. The majority of the advertising for this class was by email; the demographics for Daniel Smith are in the 55+ range and e-mail is the most appropriate form of advertising for this age range. 

We recommend a month’s advance notice of these e-courses for customers, with a call to action to register. Make sure to send registration reminder e-blasts every 6-9 days until the week before the class at which time kits should be available for curbside pickup or BOPIS. Before the class, provide your students with a list of resources on utilizing the platform your class will be held on (Google/Zoom/Facebook Live, etc.) 

Setting Up Your Virtual Classroom

Whether you are used to teaching or not, with virtual presentations it can be strange looking at your own face instead of a group of eager listeners! Scott’s experience was “wonky” at first: he had to get used to the idea of pushing on through without looking for reactions as he normally would during an in-person class. 

Here are some key tips:

Practice a few times. If you are planning to share your screen, go through this process with a co-worker or friend. To get used to seeing yourself, try practicing in front of the mirror. You can always have a post-it or sheet of paper handy to block the screen if it’s too disconcerting staring at your own face!

Set up your work surface. When your camera is facing down at your work surface, it will be difficult to tell what your participants are seeing. Tape off the area of your workspace that falls within the camera frame so you know where your participants can see, and more importantly, where they can’t, so you can store the odds and ends you might need to grab quickly out of sight.

Attend as the host on one device, and as a participant on another. Set up your attendees on one screen so you can ensure they are following along, and have another monitor that shows just what your attendees are seeing (i.e. your face and workspace). 

You will need two ways to call into Zoom with video, like a phone or a tablet and a laptop or desktop with a camera. If you have a newer phone with a high quality camera, it is easy to use as your main camera by attaching it to a phone stand or gooseneck clamp.

Scott noted it was difficult to have to keep turning his head to see attendees with his set up. He recommends putting all monitors within a forward facing sightline. If you plan to record the class, practice recording ahead of time, and consider recording as both an attendee and host.

It’s Show Time! Make A Checklist

  • Connect to an ethernet connection if possible. Using WiFi while hosting an online event can mean freezing, delay or even disconnection!
  • Check your sound. Check your microphone, if you have headphones with a microphone, make sure your hair isn’t scratching the microphone. Take off loud jewelry and limit any other unnecessary sounds. Silence your phone and ask that your participants do the same!
  • Check your lighting. Being home is relatable, so don’t shy away from setting up in your kitchen/backyard, etc. Find a place with good natural light. And ensure you have enough light on both your face and your work surface. If there is a light source behind you, it can obscure your visibility as your camera reacts to movement and refocuses towards the light. 
  • Include a team member. Make sure you have someone on hand to do an overview of your store, what sales you have running, and how they relate to the presentation. At the end of the class, have a list available of all tools used and their pricing. Have a way for attendees to place orders at the end of the class by having a staff member on video, or by offering a call-back service if you have a high demand for orders. 

Additional Reflections: Audience Demographics & Vendor Partnerships

Align your follow-up marketing vehicle with the demographic for your class. If you have a big millennial pull, head to Instagram! Daniel Smith has a more mature demographic of followers, for whom technology might be challenging. This crowd does not instinctively use a calendaring system like Outlook/Gmail, so multiple email reminders is a good idea.

One of the major benefits of Zoom classes from the vendor perspective? Co-branding! Vendors can get involved with stores to help promote new products or capture a new type of audience. 

Scott intentionally adds lots of value to his class kits, including lots of paint, free brush and paper. This paid off and made both the brand and the store look good. Both the store manager and the vendor should provide their email address to attendees in follow up email for any additional questions.

Interested in hosting a class like this with Scott? Please reach out to him at scott@advantagesalesmarketing.com to discuss availability!

Have you had experience hosting Zoom classes? We’d love to hear about it! Send us an email at ArtDogBlog@MacPhersonArt.com!

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