People want to try before they buy. You wouldn’t purchase a car without test-driving it, and you wouldn’t buy a house without seeing it first. Music lessons are no different. For this reason, it’s a smart idea to consider offering free trial lessons if you have a lesson program.
A potential music student needs to see if your school is a good fit, and the lesson itself is just one piece of the puzzle. Students need to experience the whole environment and decide whether or not it works for them. Your free trial must encompass all this and more, so consider incorporating these steps into your trial lessons.
1. The consultation. This is the single most important part of the trial lesson. All students are different, and the consultation provides an opportunity to listen to the potential student to discover what he or she hopes to accomplish. Not every student is going to fit into one mold—everyone has a different learning style and takes lessons for different reasons. The consultation also gives you a chance to answer questions about your school. At our business, the consultation is handled by us, the owners, or the lesson coordinator.
2. The lesson. The next part of a free trial is the lesson itself. If students are coming to you for voice lessons, they need to experience what they’ll learn during a lesson. They also need to understand the teacher’s expectations and get an idea of what they’ll be working on. Even though this is important, it’s just a small part of the trial. Usually, the lesson is given by us, our lesson coordinator or a teacher. If teachers administer the lesson, we pay them for their time.
3. The tour. During the third part of the free trial, you will show students around. Introduce them to the lesson rooms, the waiting area and places where their siblings, children or spouses could potentially hang out during the lesson. You can also answer any questions that the parent might have, such as, “Should I drop my child off? Do I go into the lesson? Should I sit in the waiting room?”
4. The timing. Finally, talk about scheduling, and determine what day and time is ideal for the student. Sometimes, people want to be on a schedule you can’t provide, such as bimonthly lessons. This is a good time to address any issues the student might have with his or her schedule.
Typically, students sign up at the conclusion of the free trial. Sometimes, they’ll need to go home and think about it, but that’s fine: They’ve now been educated about your program and offerings. Make sure they leave with reading material about your music school and even a small practice assignment to work on.
We always invite students in to see our school and meet our staff. Even if students are ready to register over the phone, we think it’s important for them to come in for a tour. This way, even if they sign up, they know where to go when they come for the first lesson and are familiar with our expectations.
Don’t just offer a free lesson. Go the extra mile. Even if you have to spend well over an hour with students, it’s important that they know you want to work with them—and give them the best service you can offer.
Mike and Miriam Risko run Mike Risko Music, a music lessons and retail operation in Ossining, N.Y.