August 19, 2015 43 comments

How to Create + Host Online Workshops (or Live Classes) for Free

by Regina

How to create and host online workshops for free
Five months ago I set off on a quest to find and create a more personal online learning experience for live events than what I was doing back then. Previously, if I wanted to give free trainings online, I created a simple Google+ Hangout On Air and invited people to RSVP on that page. Like the one below from April 2015 about my 10 favorite ways to monetize as in infopreneur:

Becoming an Infopreneur Webinar

Here’s the problem with that. You have no real way of capturing valuable information from the people who attend (like, say, their email address, name, and type of business/need) and the built-in chat feature is less than awesome–when you compare it to the super interactive way Periscope or other online chats operate. The “no email” issue began to be huge for me because I like to send homework (PDFs) before live events to help people get the full value out of the workshop.

No bueno. But I did many live events online like this before I knew better. You can check them out on my workshops page.

Let’s move on to V2 (version 2).
If I wanted to deliver paid workshops online (live or pre-recorded), I used to create a Google+ Community that only paid participants could access, then I’d upload videos at a set schedule and hang around all day answering questions live. This was the model I started using about 5 months ago. I thought I’d arrived at a perfect solution.

This is how I used to do paid workshops online. Now I have a much better way to host live classes for free.

Whereas this model was more chatty and personal, it lacked organization and I soon found out that Google+ was not everyone’s favorite tool for community interactions. Booooooo.

So I started in on V3 of my quest. I began doing what most people do for their short webinars . . . integrate a Google+ Hangout On Air with LeadPages (a software that I truly love–you can see my bro and I using it below) or use Webinar Ninja (another very useful piece of software that’s simple to use for quick webinars). I can create signup pages, thank you pages, and live video pages with an embedded chat. Note: I’m still using both of these tools for shorter trainings–and for ones I don’t charge for.

A screenshot from a LeadPages webinar
P.S. Even though that might look like my brother Lemuel, I’m supposed to tell you that’s actually a guy named Len. P.P.S. Len is just a different persona my brother adopts during workshops to illustrate a point.

But, here’s the problem with these models for longer workshops like the one I’m doing next week on self-publishing your own book (that I’ve been talking about with you on Periscope for days now), you can’t host multiple videos on the same page at the same time easily. So if you plan to have an 11 o’clock session, a 1 o’clock training, and a 3 o’clock training for your workshop, you’d have to have 3 separate URLs, which can be confusing and doesn’t really allow for the convo to keep going in the same chat box easily.

Also, the tools listed above cost money. Further, with LeadPages your chat will be below your video typically, which means people have to stop watching to scroll down and type. Boooooo.

So now we arrive at V4 of all this. The version I recommend and use when I have lengthy online classes and workshops going on (especially ones with multiple separate trainings) that I want to provide a single workshop page URL for. Oh, and the best part about this version? It’s free.

Backstory: As you can see on my workshop page, I have a $97 master workshop coming up on self-publishing your own printed books. I’ve shared in income reports before how printed books make up a couple thousand of my income each month. I completely believe in them.

This training is going to involve planning + researching your book, laying out your own book, designing the cover for print, publishing and printing your book, getting your own ISBN and making your own small publishing house, and so much more. It’s way too much for a single day, and it’s way too much for multiple LeadPages strung together. Simply updating the one LeadPage with the current video of the day is not ideal, because I want my workshop ninja friends to be able to go back to the previous sessions and replay them.

So, for version 4, I’m using private Google+ Hangouts On Air to broadcast live, then I’m embedding those Hangouts in a page on my site, along with a clean chat interface that people can use throughout the whole 3-day event. If you want to get fancy, you can even password protect these pages (or integrate the pages with a membership plugin that only allows certain people to log in). Optionally, you can just keep the URL between you and your workshop friends.

I realize that a lot of steps and technical stuff can go into hosting something like this, and as I’ve been setting events like this up, I’ve been making notes so that I could share them with you in this tutorial. I want to show you how to set up the flow below, for free (as long as you already have a website).

The registration flow of a live online workshop

Or, if you offer a workshop for free (as most of mine are free on the day of and for 72 hours afterward), you can set up your flow like this:

The Flow for Hosting a Free Online Workshop


Whether you offer your workshop for $0 or charge for it, let’s go through the steps of how you can create and package your next workshop or live class without incurring any expenses on your end (while still capturing important information from people and delighting your attendees).

Workshop Flow Worksheets

1. Build a signup page or form + payment option.

I suggest you make people before they register. If you create a registration form that then redirects to a payment page, you’ll likely have some people fall off and not complete their payment. It can then be difficult to tell who has paid and who hasn’t if you receive forms for people who didn’t complete the process.

Tools + options for your signup page + payments:
  • A PayPal payment button on your site that you set to redirect to a contact/registration form or a MailChimp list signup form.
  • The free version of Typeform.
  • A simple contact form on your site (using Contact Form 7 on WordPress or the built-in form feature on Squarespace).
  • A “product” set up in your digital payment platform of choice, where you can collect emails and send workshop details to those email addresses afterward.
  • A “product” set up in your digital payment platform of choice, where you have an automated action set up to push the customer’s email address through to your email list and then send an email. (This will typically be a paid feature though.)
  • The paid version of Typeform that accepts Stripe payments for you.

Whichever method you choose, make sure to get your customer’s email address, name, and any pertinent needs/questions related to your event so that you can tailor the experience or build in extra value for people. Sometimes your workshop purpose will be so clear that you don’t need much extra information from people, but info can be a powerful tool for crafting an epic experience.


2. Send a receipt and a thank you email with next steps. Or redirect people to a thank you page that gives them an idea of what’s next.

When you send this receipt (whether you’re able to link this up with an automated system or not), you can also send the schedule or homework for your event. If you haven’t created that yet, simply send a thank you or redirect people to a thank you page with additional information or downloads.


2.5. Set up your live video events (and chat feature of your choice) and embed the appropriate code in your website.

A. Log into Google+ so that you can schedule a Google+ Hangout On Air

Start a Google+ Hangout On Air

B. Create a Google+ Hangout On Air with a title that will make sense to your attendees. Make sure you select the future date and time of the event by clicking on “Later.”

The description won’t matter because people will view it from your site.

Create-Your-Google-Plus-Hangout

C. Set the event to private by deselecting “Public,” then add in at least one invitee (I added my bro) and hit “share.” Repeat this process for each live session you want to have.

Set your Google Plus Hangouts On Air to private

D. Copy the “video embed” code from each of the pages/events that are created. We’ll need to embed this into your site.

Get your Google+ Hangout On Air Embed Code

E. Optionally, create a chat channel at Tlk.io by typing in a channel name, then clicking “join.” You can also log in with Twitter and become the owner of the channel to make sure no one else can delete it or take over.

Join Tlk.io to embed a beautiful chat box on your site

You can use another chat software that you like, as long as it can be embedded or integrated into your workshop’s page on your site.

F. Get the embed code of your Tlk.io chat by scrolling down on the home page to the “Embed” section and entering your channel name. After your press enter, some modified code will pop up on the right side of the screen.

How to embed your Tlk.io chat into your site

Note: Tlk.io allows people to type in their name or log in with Twitter to chat, so people can choose to be as public/anonymous as they want to be.

Okay, now it’s time to plug in all your code to your site. Below are instructions for WordPress and Squarespace.

G. WordPress Embed
WordPress-Embed-Code
Use the “text” tab of your WordPress page editor to plug in the code for your live video(s) and your Tlk.io. In the shot above, I’m using the plugin Symple Shortcodes to create 2/3 + 1/3 columns so that my chat is always at the top of the screen. As your workshop progresses, you can move the current video up to the top of the screen.

How to get a live Google+ Hangout On Air embedded in your site

G. Squarespace Embed
Create an unlisted page in your Squrespace site and add content blocks with the G+ Hangouts On Air code and the chat code. Line the two blocks up side-by-side, then publish your page.

How to embed code in a Squarespace page

After all those steps, your site’s page will look something like this.
How to embed code in a Squarespace page


3. Send the workshop schedule and event URL.

If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to share more details of the event with your audience and make sure they know where to go on the day of.


4. Send a reminder the day before and resend the homework and event URL.

This reminder will help people who may have forgotten and started to schedule other things. This will also help people who may have forgotten the homework or misplaced the URL.


5. Send a reminder email 60 minutes before the event.

This is typically enough time to let people finish up last minute things but not so much time that people will re-forget.


6. Conduct your live class or sessions.

If you are co-hosting a Google+ Hangout On Air, make sure you and the other party/parties are all following each other beforehand. This way, you’ll be able to invite your co-hosts properly once you click “Start” on your event page. Also note: Whereas your Google+ videos will play live on the pages you embedded them on, you MUST start the Hangout on Air form the Google+ event page that you copied the embed code from.


7. Send out a replay link and a reminder of how long you’re audience will have access to the files.

If you plan to package your video(s) up with any resources you created and sell them to anyone who didn’t purchase the first round, make sure your attendees know how long they have access to the files and where they’ll need to go to access the files during that time.

Ex: You may take down the live pages on your site, but give your audience (that has already paid) free codes to your product in Gumroad.


8. Package your product for sale on the platform of your choice.

You can either:

  • continue to host the workshop on your site and give access to people after they’ve paid
  • package the workshop as a course using 3rd-party software like Fedora
  • or sell the material on a site like Gumroad (as I often do–view the image below)

You can add your video, audio, and PDF files to Gumroad

Since you created a Google+ Hangout On Air, it creates an automatic copy of your presentation in your linked YouTube account. Go to your YouTube “Creator Studio” after the live recording has ended. Select the drop-down arrow next to the recording you want and select “Download MP4.” This will give you a video file to upload to your course website or Gumroad account (which by the way allows you to set videos to “stream only” so people can’t download them if you don’t want them to).

How to download a Google+ Hangout On Air from YouTube

Packaging workshops for sale can be super profitable. Since I typically don’t sell during the workshop itself, and since most of my workshops are free when they first air, this has been a really great way for me to earn income off of the hard work of putting together content of substance, homework, worksheets, and more.


Workshop Flow Worksheets


What do you think? Might you be trying the online workshop model soon?

P.S. If you’re interested in publishing a book, you might want to check out the Zero to Self-published Book Workshop.

Main Photo (c): Lumina

43 responses to “How to Create + Host Online Workshops (or Live Classes) for Free”

  1. ceah says:

    Great tutorial. I’m launching my site soon. I want to try it all: webinars, ebooks, video, free and premium. But I’m a newbie and I feel that maybe I should wait a few months to do these things because I don’t have the audience yet.

    Do you have any pointers on what I should be doing in the meantime or should I come out the gate running with all of these resources.

    I guess what I’m asking is what should I try to build first, the audience or premium resources or both?

    • regina says:

      Ceah,

      I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have a ton of free stuff and a few premium things when you’re new. As long as people can find tons of value from you for free, the paid content won’t look out of place. Plus, as your audience grows you’ll be finding out how much they care for your premium stuff so you’ll know whether to adjust your offerings or not.

      As long as you have reason to believe the item you’re spending time developing will be of interest to people (perhaps you can test it out on a few people), then I say go for it. If it for some reason doesn’t sell as awesomely as you like, you can always repurpose the content. Creating content consistently is the most important thing in my opinion.

      I hope that makes sense and there wasn’t too much rambling in there. Thank you for stopping by and for commenting.

    • Eva says:

      This is pretty damn dope, Regina. ..been trying to figure out this formula for nearly a year. THANK YOU!!!!!!

  2. Deana Ward says:

    Wow Regina! This is soooo helpful. Thanks a million for this amazing and detailed tour:) xo- Deana

  3. Laura says:

    OMG! (I never say that, but it’s so appropriate right now…) If I had known how complicated you were making that before, I would totally have taught you this method you just described. I’ve been using my email provider to sign people up for webinars for a while now. It’s just so much easier. And then I have them as a little segmented interest list for future stuff too. For instance, I ran my pricing webinar again in July. If I decide to offer a one-on-one consultation where we price a certain number of their pieces, I can promo earlier to the webinar group or just promo more to them because I know it’s a topic that interests them.

    • regina says:

      Haha, yeah, it’s sad. I’ve been using targeted lists for a while, just recently started embedding live videos on pages on my site instead of through other software, though.

      I still love and use LeadPages and Webinar Ninja for now though. They have great reporting and make it very simple to know who does what, who is engaged, etc. They’re both easy and powerful platforms, but I love presenting free options as well.

      I love the method you are using too–it’s just so smart.

      • Laura says:

        I’ve never tried Webinar Ninja, but I’m just not a fan of G+ Hangouts (On Air or not). It’s really buggy. I don’t think I’ve ever attended one that didn’t lose sound, video, or drop a presenter off at some point during the event. That makes me frustrated – but I love that it’s free and pretty easy to learn and has all the features I need in webinar software. I’m torn.

        • regina says:

          Huh, interesting. I haven’t experienced that much, but I’m usually presenting so I might not notice. I get your point about being torn through because some of the other options just seem so unnecessarily expensive. I’d love to hear if you discover anything else you love.

  4. This post came in perfect timing for me! I have been seriously thinking about self-publishing my own photography books but honestly didn’t know how to go about it. I will definitely be checking your Book Ninja workshop out 🙂

    By the way, this is such an epic post. I’ve already bookmarked it to reference again and again. Thanks!

  5. Katrina says:

    I’ve been thinking about doing for a while on my WordPress site and now I finally have a plan. Thanks so much, you are also so darn resourceful and helpful.

    A custom landing page + gravity forms + MailChimp http://espressoecourses.com/webinar/

    So excited, thanks again!

  6. Tiffany Ima says:

    As usual, this is totally epic! If I ever do webinars, I will be scouring over this information… also this new website look is wonderful!

  7. Brilliant post! In the past, I would follow the old school rules of conducting a webinar:
    Introduction
    What to expect
    Presentation
    Hard Sell
    CTA
    Upsell

    It NEVER worked for me…like Never ever…ever ever (in my Outkast voice).

    But to actually conduct a webinar without charging for the live stream but turn it into a package afterwards is genius!

    My Love I am sending you a virutual bear hug because I am truly that happy! Lol! This truly helps when you’re trying to take your business to the next level.

    Thank you!

    • Dija says:

      I totally agree! I’ve never done a webinar but I’ve watched a lot and there always is that dreaded moment where you hear the sales pitch. I also love this model much better for when I start doing my own webinars. Ah peace! No pressure!

  8. Allison says:

    Uh … Regina? This post came at the PERFECT TIME since I’m quite literally in the middle of creating my coaching program (which I’m using YOUR creative coaching class for help on!) I was quite literally thinking last night, “How the SAM HILL do I create password protected member sites and all that jazz?”

    Question = answered.

    You’re the bomb diggity.

    xoxo
    Allison

    http://www.wonderlass.com

  9. Ms. Mauikai says:

    I feel like I’m at Regina University!!! Life has been all about Regina lately and I’m not mad at it one bit. Thank you for being such a freaking badass 😀

    Smooches

  10. Dija says:

    Regina,
    This was epic as always! I’m soaking it all up! Thanks for putting this awesomeness together for us. Wow! I’m working on my first book, e-course and more so all of this goodness is right on time! Looking forward to your next workshop. Um and I have a Star Wars shirt I seem to wear all the time so I love when you rock the ninja turtles! Lol!

  11. Jummy says:

    THANK YOU, REGINA: this is perfect—I will definitely use these steps and the workflow plan for my webinar when I do one and I’ll report back on how it all went.

  12. Jessika Digital says:

    Pretty Good Read! I love how you broke the process down into small steps. Especially what to do after someone has signed up. I believe that’s a step often overlooked. Folks like to be thanked, man . Lol. I’ll be launching my site soon. So this insight is appreciated.

  13. Andréa says:

    Ahhh this make so much sense to me! I have been contemplating the idea of doing webinars and infoproducts in 2016… but the way you broke it down seems less scary. And less “salesy.” Thanks, Regina!

  14. Toya says:

    OMG!!!! You necver let me down. You are super amazing!!! Thank you for sharing. I am in the process of launcghing something new and I am living on your page, and taking all your workshops. You rock. I want to do it all webinars, books, worksheets, paid speaking EVERYTHING!!! Thank you for all you do!.

  15. Amanda Sue says:

    Ooooohhhh I totally want to go check out Fedora now. I’ve been considering Zippy, but as a user of some courses that are hosted with it, I’ve run into a few issues. So now I’m going to go peep Fedora.

  16. feuza says:

    loads of info, my head is slightly spinning especially with private videos, and custom pages and don’t fully get why you need lead pages if this webinar ninja also creates a lead in capture page but will refer to this site back as I look at step by step instructions with awesome ideas for both paid and free workshops online, my other doubt is also coming up with some free workshops to do as I feel I get stuck on do I really know enough for free, for blog, for periscope, to sell and make a profit, anyways thanks for inspiring me always, thanks for not growing a big head as some others as you get so big, you keep it so real and down to earth, you are the real thing, love ya

    • Feuza says:

      Me again, 7 months later and ready to launch a live event and so excited, thank you for putting this info together so I can use it as a blueprint for my own event, one thing I am adding is some sponsored too with discount codes and some giveaways then can do on day of event and will report back if it was a good idea and how I did, I did have a monetization question as I have seen you presell these live events and do it completely free and sell after, I have a feeling that option number generates more sales? been curious about that and your approach, thank you Regina for changing my life!

  17. Alysa says:

    Thanks for this in-depth post, Regina. All the information is quite helpful and timely as I’m looking at hosting my first online class in Nov. Your post are always incredible!

  18. Bonnie says:

    Hi Regina,

    I’ve been silently reading your posts and tools for almost two months now. Yours is the first site I come to when I want to do new things I don’t know how to do from what I’ve learned already. Just yesterday someone suggested I make an online “support group” of a sort for my brand, and I have been trying to figure out how to do that while still charging a small membership fee. For now I was thinking I could do a webinar/workshop thing for the support group, but I’m wondering do you have any tips regarding this?

    Thanks in advance, and also thank you for posting all this helpful information, I’m truly learning a lot from you.

    ~Bonnie~

  19. Nick says:

    Significant value here! Thank you Regina.

  20. Michelle says:

    Thanks Regina! As always, you’re right on time. I’m creating a new speaker series as part of my new business directory site and just walked through creation of the subdomain platform, and was thinking through how I’ll present each speaker’s talk. This was very helpful for that missing piece. Thank you. Hustle on!

  21. NIKKI says:

    Thanks so much, this was so helpful for me!

  22. Kyle Sommer says:

    REGINA! You’re my favorite entrepreneurial resource ever in the history of time. You continue to wow me with your loads of free info and wisdom.

    The short story: I am developing an info product to further serve my clients. I have been wondering about hosting a webinar. Most of the webinars I have attended have used LeadPages, which I simply cannot afford right now. It occurred to me that Squarespace cover pages and unlisted pages can accomplish at least the basics of what LeadPages can do (for those of us desperately needing a temporary, lesser solution in the meantime.) I did a quick search on your website, and you’ve given me all the tools I need. Thanks for answering all my questions before I even asked them!!

  23. I’m so glad I came across this! This is exactly what I need I’m planing on doing my first workshop in February and have been wondering which platform to use. Such wonderful and detailed tips. Thank you so much!

  24. Bianca says:

    This is very informative thank you!

  25. Makeda says:

    This is a great tutorial. It is very thorough and you offer information that I could not find anywhere else, online, in this manner. I really appreciate you taking the time to put it all together.

  26. Carol Dunlop says:

    this is an awesome option for free webinars. I’ve used hangouts for a couple years, love them, but as someone said earlier they can be really buggy. But hey they are free, so you can’t complain that much. I’ve used a system like what you described for a while, especially when i did my summit where I recorded all the videos then played them back on my website. “Free” is alot of work, but you do what you have to do.

  27. Titania says:

    Thank you so much as always Regina!

  28. nicole says:

    Ahhh….thank you for sharing this information. I am in the process of deciding if I am going to create a call or video workshop. The idea of doing a call seemed much less scary than trying to figure out how to produce an online video workshop. This literally saved me HOURS of research. Do you have any thoughts on calls vs videos? I have a coaching biz that is launching soon, and you have been my go to girl! I just love you!

  29. meghan says:

    WOW. This is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for. Such a simple breakdown. You rock.

  30. Lovely, this is very good. Thanks Regina

  31. I am starting a bloggers workshop but I find myself trying to figure out where do I start? How do I start? I have people wanting to be apart of the workshop so people wanting to be apart of it isnt the problem its just hard figuring out what’s the first step? I already have a website and I want to have a workshop included to my website any advice on the first step?

  32. Dionda says:

    I am completely last. Whenever I try setting up hangouts with air. I am only giving the option to create a live a even t using hangout and youtube. Looking at the pictures you provided I can not figure this out.

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