Overview

product

Leadership Training Course

my role

Team Lead

Created leadership training course. Developed goals, six person team, marketing plan, beta test, curriculum, and event launch. Trained sixteen students in the beta launch, and over 100 students in the course YTD.

tool kit

Discover

background

Ecstatic Dance is a Sunday morning dance party. Dubbed “a creative cross between a rave, a yoga practice, and a church service,” Ecstatic Dance events exist to bring people together in community through music and movement.

the challenge

Independent Ecstatic Dances have popped up all over the world since I started the first in California in 2008. While the organizers had experience as dancers at Ecstatic Dance events, they didn’t have the knowledge or support systems in place to succeed on their own. Because it wasn’t a franchise, and they didn’t have business training, they didn’t have the same success as I did. Most went out of business within a year.

By 2010, after every weekly dance I produced in Oakland, at least one person asked me to train them to start a dance. At first, I privately coached students. But I realized helping people to start their own dance event businesses needed to be more scaleable in order to fulfill the mission of getting more dance into the world.

How might we help organizers have success starting their own dance businesses?

constraints

1.  I had to build a separate team, with different skillsets than the team at the weekly live dance, to collaborate within areas where I wasn’t an expert.

2.  Other people recognized the opportunity for a training, and we wanted to be first to market, so creating the training quickly was important.

3.  Working with an international, distributed team across multiple time zones presented scheduling challenges that forced some of the team to learn new technology platforms (Zoom, shared Google Docs, Slack).

team

goals

1.  My company’s mission was to bring more dance to the world. Independent organizers wanted to join the mission, but the dances they started often failed, harming the mission. To stop the failures and grow the global dance community, my company would offer a new product: A Business Training Course specifically designed for dance organizers.

2.  I would build a curriculum that made learning business concepts accessible and executable for creatives, who would be able to start and grow their dance events successfully with confidence.

3.  To make sure the concepts became part of running their dance events, I would build a community network of peer support for each cohort.

4.  In order to stand on its own, not supported by the weekly live dance, the training needed to be profitable.

Create / Test / Execute

define the challenge

Generate research to discover the main challenges and what might be behind them.

Why did the businesses fail?
My business is successful. Why isn’t theirs?
What did we need to provide to ensure success?

Utilize customer interviews and feedback to come up with the goals for the training.

Based on the interview data collected, notice patterns, and draft a persona for the training.

Discovered that a passionate dance leader understood their customer, but did NOT understand business processes.

CONCEPT TEST FOR MARKET RESEARCH

Created the marketing materials, web page, and copy to sell the beta test in order to test the market and make sure it’s something students would pay for.

Are we crafting the right message?
Will customers pay for it?
Will customers make time to attend the training?

user persona

service design

We tested internally instead of live the first time in order to find the missing pieces in the prototype experience.

After the internal test, we mapped out the student journey, starting with the online experience of how they learn about the training, moving through to the offline experience of completing the training.

When we had the basic training curriculum and timeline set, we added touch points that would occur during the live training designed to create lifelong memories and bring the students closer together (i.e., a picnic in the redwoods with drum circle and dance ritual).

We periodically questioned our progress to make sure we were fulfilling the number one goal.

Are we bringing more dance to the world by training these future organizers?

build prototype

We confirmed people wanted the training, but what needed to be IN the training? In order to find out, we completed the following five steps:

1.  Surveyed the 20 people who had signed up for the training on what they wanted to learn.

2.  Wrote down all the things I knew about how I ran my own business. Listed and described my own best practices.

3.  Collaborated one-on-one and as a group with my team of experts to discover their best practices. Jointly created exercises to teach business to creatives in an embodied way. (E.g., How can we teach embodied marketing?)

4.  Utilized an affinity map to craft the findings into chapters of the manual and slotted days of the training to correspond to each segment.

5.  Wrote the first draft of the 180 page manual, then designed it, including all graphics and exercises.

After building the curriculum, I taught the curriculum to a beta tester. I got valuable feedback and made iterations.

In order to enroll others in our mission, I shared my founder story to the entire 300+ person community at the kickoff of the training. Because I needed to learn how to tell a compelling story, I hired a speaking coach to help me create and deliver a memorable, impactful talk.

execute beta product

kickoff

Shared my founder story with dancers and trainees.  Invited them onstage to build community and practice leading.

live training

Produced and co-taught a seven day workshop to 16 students. Led 5 teachers and 1 assistant. Collected photos, video testimonials, and interviews to sell next training.

post training

Iterated and scaled training for the next four years.

Results

student results

The most exciting result of the training was that 56% of students returned home and immediately started an Ecstatic Dance, with 100% success rate in continuing their dance for at least a year.

44% of students learned they were not yet ready to put in the time, money and effort it takes to start a dance, fulfilling our goal of stopping the failures. Delightfully, one third of the 44% returned to take the training again in subsequent years.

Over two thirds of the students had such profound experiences, they were willing to go on video and share about the training for the benefit of future organizers.

business results

Trained over 100 students in lifetime of training, including sold out trainings in Amserdam and Guatemala.

Course was a profitable product that stood on its own, without need for support from the weekly live dance.

EVALUATIVE RESEARCH

In the evaluative testing of the product, we implemented surveys and one-on-one interviews. The surveys and interviews revealed the training was one day too long with too much information for teachers and students to maintain optimal levels of excitement and focus.

We also learned the students wanted more focus on the emotional experience of being a leader, including practicing leading, and less on in-depth business concepts they don’t immediately need and can learn elsewhere.

In the beta launch, the team learned the amount of emotional intelligence required for this type of work is best facilitated in small groups. In subsequent launches, we corrected this problem by creating small, intimate groups.

testimonials

The energy put into every detail came through strongly and I really appreciated it. What I liked most was our open-hearted connections. I loved the teachers’ diverse yet equally powerful teaching styles.

Alicia Kelly, Ecstatic Dance Reno
I liked the blend between information, dance and movement, and time for reflection—the blend between body and mind. Beyond the content, it just felt really good to be here. I felt supported, safe, nurtured, and seen.

Omar Aena, Ecstatic Dance NYC
This far surpassed anything I could have ever imagined. The transformation and healing that took place is beyond my wildest knowings. Wow.

Raj Inder, Ecstatic Dance Milwaukee

Reflection

final thoughts

Creating a training from scratch involved creativity, cross-functional teamwork, detailed planning with the ability to improvise, and most of all, the willingness to wear a lot of hats and figure out tough problems.

The emotional depth of this business-based training course surprised the students, delighted the facilitators, and took a high degree of emotional intelligence to navigate.

Supporting the students to become leaders, and helping them blossom and thrive, was some of the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done.

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