If you have never done trial lessons before it can feel intimidating. What should I do? Which kind of questions should I ask? Would prospective students like me? Will they book regular sessions?
What is a trial lesson?
A trial lesson is a short private session with a student to get to know each other and understand if there is a good fit between you and the student. Trial lessons are usually shorter and cheaper than normal lessons.
In most cases, you don’t need to prepare for a trial lesson, unless you work with absolute beginners. In that case, you can send them some material before the lesson. Usually, students are mainly interested in getting to know you as a person and don’t want to do any exercises during their trial lessons.
A trial lesson often lasts about 30 minutes, so it would be a good idea to use the first 20 minutes to ask questions and let students talk as much as possible. That way, you can get a good idea about their knowledge level and personality.
During the last 10 minutes of a trial lesson, you can ask the student if they have any questions and explain to them how you work and which kind of material you use.
If you are teaching foreign languages this is a good time to switch to their native language to make them feel more comfortable and encourage them to ask questions.
How to teach trial lessons?
While it’s called a lesson, most of the time you will not be teaching during the trial lesson. Use this session to understand students’ needs and intentions, present yourself and understand if you’re a good fit for each other. Here are some tips to make your trial lessons better:
Keep the conversation flowing
Small talk is part of each trial lesson, so you’ll have to do it even if you are not good at it. The good news is even if it’s your first trial lesson, remember that your student is most likely even more nervous than you. Especially beginner or low intermediate students need your guidance. Keep the conversation simple.
For example, if you teach languages you can ask questions about family, hobbies, language learning, or travel. Talking about the student’s job is also possible but often too difficult for beginners. Don’t forget to ask follow-up questions. It doesn’t matter if they sound stupid to you. Your student will be happy about any help. A simple conversation with a beginner could be like this:
- Do you have a brother or sister?
- I have a sister.
- Ah, that’s interesting. What’s her name?
- And how old is she?
- She’s 26.
- Where does she live?
Adapt to the student’s level
Some inexperienced teachers make the mistake of trying too hard. They speak much too fast and use too many difficult words. You may get to work with students who want and need to understand the subject at a natural or even lower speed. However, a trial lesson becomes a frustrating experience for a student when he understands only half of what you say and you don’t notice it. He probably won’t book regular sessions with you. Speaking clearly and at a slightly reduced speed is important in your profile video, too, by the way.
Adapt to the student’s personality
This requires some experience. Some students want to talk a lot about themselves, so reveal some personal things about yourself, too (but take care that you don’t talk too much). Others prefer a more professional relationship, they just want to learn the subject. Some students are shy and need a lot of encouragement.
It’s essential to make the student feel comfortable. Asking a lot of personal questions when a student is not keen on telling you too much about his private life is not a good idea. So listen carefully and adapt your questions and follow-up questions accordingly.
Often you will have trial lessons with students who have some existing knowledge and want to work with you to improve their skills further. In this case, it would be a good idea to provide corrections. You don’t necessarily have to interrupt the student, just write down a note and get back to it later. Just make sure the note will be self-explanatory so you will not forget what that note was about.
How much to charge for trial lessons?
Since trial lessons are usually shorter than normal, it’s quite common for tutors to set a discounted rate of 50-80% of the normal price or even free of charge.
If you’re just starting and your main goal is to get the experience – it’s a good idea to get as many students on call as possible and this is where free trial lessons will work the best. Another case is when you’re offering lessons on your website and you need to get students’ contact information to sell them the course.
However, if you have an established website or a good-looking profile on one of the tutoring platforms you will probably have a steady flow of new students. In this case, you should not sell your time for free.
You should also keep in mind that some people will book trial lessons with you but have absolutely no intention to book regular sessions afterward. Perhaps they can’t afford it and to get some speaking practice, they will choose teachers who offer cheap trial lessons.
How to end a trial lesson?
By the end of the trial lesson, your student is probably already made up their mind about you. If it’s in your favor – your only job here is to not ruin it. And if the student decided you’re not a good fit it’s unlikely that you will be able to say anything to change their mind.
So relax, tell the student that it was a pleasure talking to them, and ask them to get in touch if they have any more questions. You need to be fine whether they decide to continue studying with you or not.
Don’t overthink when dealing with trial sessions. The people you’re going to talk to are individuals who are seeking your help. When you’re passionate about what you’re doing, they will sense it and will return if they think you’re a good match for them. The interaction in a 1:1 setting is different from a classroom. In most cases, it’s more personal which has its advantages and disadvantages.