By Aileen Sheron, Special AFS Contributor
Most of us have been to conferences and seen presenters on the convention circuit. Have you ever thought that you may want to break into that aspect of the industry, but did not know how to get the process started? In this article, I will help you get the ball rolling, give you some insight and pointers, and assist you in determining if you have what it takes.
The Benefits (why you should take the leap)
If you are willing to do the work, there are many great reasons to launch your presenting career. It can increase your exposure and brand awareness. It allows you to help others by providing knowledge and expertise. Through the process of developing your own programming, you will enhance your skills and experience personal growth. You will be able to meet other presenters, be recognized as an innovator, and make vital business connections. Lastly, you could be coming up with the next big trend.
Early on in my career, I found that instructors would take my classes to get ideas and learn new material. Since these instructors clearly found value in my original content, I looked for ways to monetize what they were getting for free. That was the initial push for me to start developing workshops for other instructors and trainers. Although I had no following, I worked out deals to present at clubs, resorts, and facilities. Initially, I did it for trade, but those bookings quickly developed into paid gigs. I applied to conferences a dozen times, getting rejection after rejection, but continued to be persistent, and eventually started presenting many different workshops at major shows all over. Once you get into a few events, do a great job and start getting noticed, the process and acceptance to other events becomes easier.
In 2003, after researching, teaching and testing Myofascial Release techniques over a period of four years, I decided to launch this program for instructor training. Although I had created it for my personal needs, I knew that it would be a game changer! I talked a major conference into letting me present one session. I had to bring in my own equipment and offered to do it for no fee. I was convinced that there was a huge need in the industry and that it was the right time for this type of format. I taught one of the first Myofascial Release sessions for fitness instructors at this conference, delivering the information, exercises, and approach that I had created and tested. It was very well received, and the rest is history!
Developing Your Concept - Brainstorm
- The area(s) of fitness I am MOST passionate about is (are) _________.
- Although important, there is little information available about _________.
- This program would really benefit _________ (group of people). It should target a viable audience.
- I am very knowledgeable on the topic(s) of _________.
- I wish there were a _________ (insert product/service) in the fitness industry.
- This program would be so much better if only it had _________ (benefit or function).
Once you have a few ideas to work on, it is time to do some research. Go online and search for information about your idea(s). Google everything! Check individual terms and grouped words. Search YouTube, as well. Soon enough, you will know if there is science to back your concept, and whether or not there is already someone else promoting similar content with existing programs. Start writing down basic theories and create outlines with everything you want to present, including practical drills and choreography. This will serve as a template and guide you in the development of your program. The process of creating a cohesive concept, with identifiable parameters and guidelines, will give you the building blocks you need to be able to write and deliver your information in a logical and organized manner.
Become an Expert
Research your information to the absolute best of your ability. Build a reputable bibliography. If you’re offering new, untested ideas, run your program by a test group, and see if test results are consistent. Document all the information gathered and use charts, scientific data, proprietary language, if possible, and known industry terms. Be prepared to answer any and all questions. Add testimonials, photos, and video content to your arsenal of promotional material. Nothing can take the place of real people, stories, and results.
I am the queen of ideas, and I can’t tell you how many of my concepts have ended up in the hands of other people/companies. It is not for a lack of protecting myself, but it is just the way of business these days. Although you may not find it worth it, you should protect your intellectual property (IP)! Check into trademarks and domain names, diligently. For patents and trademarks, uspto.gov is a great resource, and GoDaddy.com is useful for domain searches. Before discussing your idea with anyone, sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). You can find many templates online that will work for you. The more you can do to keep from having your material or idea hijacked, the better!
Develop a great PowerPoint presentation. Demonstrate your content to a small, friendly audience, get feedback, and make adjustments. Practice, refine, and then practice your presentation again until it is second nature and your timing is impeccable. You will want to be well rehearsed in advance of doing it in front of a professional group. Video yourself doing the presentation and continue to hone your skills. You might find that you have annoying speech habits that need fixing before you go on the road, and it is better to find out early. It is also a great way to make sure that you get through all your material within the allotted time. Nothing is worse than having to skip over material that you meticulously prepared, because you ran out of time.
Apply to Provide Continuing Education Credits
Providing CECs/CEUs can help get you on the bill. Start by applying to the organization that has already certified you. You will need to submit all content, outlines, etc. for approval as a continuing education provider. You will also need to know how long the session will be. Although not all professionals look at CECs as a prerequisite when choosing a workshop, having your content reviewed and approved by a leading organization will give it more legitimacy. There are fees to establish CECs for your program(s) and annual fees to continue as a provider, so you will want to consider those costs. Charging for your workshops is standard in the industry, and you can make up those fees quickly.
Demonstrate your content to a small, friendly audience, get feedback, and make adjustments. Practice, refine, and then practice your presentation again until it is second nature and your timing is impeccable.
Get a Gig
Usually, applying to conferences can be done online. They will ask for a variety of information. You should have a current resume and high-resolution headshot. They may also request a video of your presentation. There are other ways to work at a conference without teaching your own class as the headliner. You can try to get accepted for convention work as a team presenter for an established brand.
Big fitness events aren’t the only way to get a foot in the door. Try booking your workshops at health fairs, corporate facilities, fitness expos, or community events. Payment will be different with every entity you contact. The best advice I can give you is to research the going presenting rate and know your value, but be flexible. You may even consider working for free at the beginning.
I will warn you, if you choose to start presenting to your peers, you will need to be a little thick skinned. You may find that people can be a bit harsh! But nothing is more gratifying than to present to other professionals and being able to relay information that you are passionate about. Creating your own proprietary workshops and lectures can really catapult your brand and get you more recognition. Even more importantly, it is an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of those who understand, respect, and benefit from the information that you share. Good luck!
Aileen Sheron is President of Good Natured Products Inc. and the inventor of the patented OmniBall®. She has been an innovator and fitness entrepreneur since 1979 and has trained thousands of instructors. A top IDEA presenter for 27 years, Aileen specializes in equipment-based resistance programming, choreography, myofascial release, and much more! She writes for fitness publications and has starred in several high profile exercise videos, including the Positive Pre- and Postanal series for the makers of Similac baby formula. Her Weight Watchers Low Impact Aerobics Workout was rated #1 by Consumer Reports. She consults on product and program development for some of the biggest names in fitness and posts weekly on social media. You can find her at www.aileensheron.com. Aileen is also an AFS Educator for the Association of Fitness Studios.