As we all move into lockdown mode and practice social distancing, I’ve seen a number of friends and acquaintances post about plans to move fitness, dance or other classes online. There are lots of solutions for this kind of setup but I’m going to write what I know and outline some easy ways to do this on WordPress.com and some video platforms that I’m familiar with.
Things to Consider
To start off, there are some questions you may want to consider because some options may be better than others for your situation.
Do you plan to charge for the class or make it free for all with a donation based option?
Would you prefer to have everyone’s video visible to all participants or only your video while viewers are able to interact through comments?
How tech savvy is your audience?
Is this something you’d like to set up as a stopgap until we can resume life as usual or do you want to use this as an opportunity to build out a permanent online class offering?
Build Your Own Website
In all of the above cases, I’m a big proponent of building your own website. Why set things up on a proprietary platform like Facebook that has obscure rules for promoting and organizing your content when you can control it yourself and be sure that you fully own all of your content? Obviously social media has a place when it comes to promoting your classes but, in my opinion, these should always point people back to your website.
That way if someone remembers you had a class planned but none of the details, they aren’t sifting through hundreds of Facebook posts trying to find the one where you mentioned it. They can go straight to your site and find the information. It will also make things seamless if you ever find that a new social media platform is where you need to be. Just start posting on the new platform promoting your website and you won’t have to move any of the static information.
Depending on if you see this as a temporary venture or a long term project, you can start with a free website on WordPress.com to get the basics listed.
I know that creating a website seems daunting to many and I’m not going to go into the details on how to create your site because there are already many tutorials and videos available for help. Just know that it doesn’t have to be perfect on day one and it’s easier than you think. 😉
Make Video Recordings of Your Efforts
Before I get started on recommendations here, I have to say please please please record your live classes. Some of them may easily translate into a prerecorded course offering but it may also just be helpful for you to look back on and determine what could have been done better or differently for future classes. You don’t have to use the video later but you can’t use it unless you make the recording.
Some video services will have this built in but for others you may want to set up a player on your computer to capture the screen as you go. Quicktime is native to Apple computers and works great for recording a screencast.
BIG Disclaimer: If your video is going to display attendees or people other than yourself, please get their permission before recording them!
Choose a Video Platform
The best options are going to vary widely depending on your answers to the earlier questions. Because I’m seeing a lot of discussion on live offerings right now, I’m only going to discuss those in this post.
It’s fairly easy to use and familiar to your users so this is a go-to for many. If you want charge for access to the class, it may not be the best option but you can set up a donation request on the feed so it may be a good choice for pay-what-you-can content. I haven’t tried this but found this article on how to setup a donation button on your Facebook live feed.
A big pro is that your friends and followers will see that you’re sharing a live video even if they missed the announcements about the class. However, you won’t be able to view your participants’ videos and it may be difficult or impossible to read their comments on your screen while you teach or perform.
If you want to limit a Facebook Live video to a group of people, you can cast a video in a Facebook Group. I haven’t participated in one of these and found some threads that indicate it may have issues but it’s definitely an option worth considering if you want to stick to Facebook.
I’m less familiar with YouTube live but there are some how-to’s here. These will be more widely available to potential followers who haven’t met you before but if you have a built-in following that may be less appealing. While YouTube has built in donation options, that appears to only be available for non-profits as of writing this post.
Zoom is a great option for video conferencing that I use regularly at work. It requires that you download their app either to your computer or mobile device. These apps are easily available on their website or app stores but having to download software may present a barrier to less tech savvy participants.
Zoom has a great feature that will allow each person to choose if they view the main speaker or everyone in attendance in a Brady Bunch style grid. If you want to be able to see your participants, this can be quite helpful. As the host, you can also mute participants if they aren’t aware that their audio is causing an interruption.
Zoom is a better option for classes that you want to keep limited to a specific group of people. People will not wind up in the class unless they have access to the unique URL. It also has a built in recording function so you can easily capture the session (and it displays a notification so everyone on the call will know they are being recorded).
I’ve seen other recommendations which are either not my preference or I just don’t know enough about them to make a suggestion. Twitch.tv is made for live streaming and is best known for streaming people playing video games. I think it would be kind of amazing to see people start using it for fitness classes more often. I’m not a fan of Google Hangouts so I’ll acknowledge that’s an option and leave it at that. 😉
There are loads of options available for taking payments or donations and your setup may depend on what you think your attendees will feel most comfortable using as well as whether you want a longer term solution.
If you are looking for something temporary, or need a way to start taking payments immediately, you can just list your Venmo, Paypal or other payment system information and accept donations. A more built out system might involve a membership site that has automated recurring payments, allowing access to video content and live streaming information. I’d recommend starting out simple and with something that can sit on your website so you don’t have to promote the payment information again and again (your time is better spent teaching or performing!).
WordPress.com has a built in option called Simple Payments. You can link this to your Paypal account to collect one-time donations or payments for individual classes. You will need to then send your video link or other information to participants. There is also a Recurring Payments option (available only on paid plans). I’ll be honest, I don’t have experience with how the latter works but I want to send out the information I do have in this post as soon as possible so I’ll be sharing more information about that later on.
Questions or other suggestions? Feel free to share in the comments!