A step-by-step guide to teaching a class for consumers.

     A growing segment of consumers is seeking opportunities in the “do-it-yourself” (DIY) arena, and retail florists across the country are embracing this trend, offering floral design classes that not only allow consumers to learn new skills but also foster customer loyalty to the flower shops and increase consumption.

     If you are new to teaching or are looking for ways to help the process go more smoothly, Teresa P. Lanker offers the following step-by-step plan for working with consumers. She is chair of the horticultural technologies division and coordinator of floral design and marketing technology at The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute.

  1. Prepare each work station ahead of students’ arrival. Make sure each person has a bucket of flowers needed to create the planned design. Measure and cut ribbon, count out wood picks, etc., and put materials in bags so they are ready for participants to use. This helps eliminate waste and saves valuable time during the class. Reserve a few “extras” in your demonstration area, in case someone says he or she did not receive a particular supply.

    Ms. Lanker also advises buying inexpensive paring knives for participants to use, to help avoid injury to those who are not accustomed to working with bunch cutters or florists’ knives. “Paring knives are sharp enough to cut the stems but not sharp enough for people to hurt themselves,” she explains.

  2. Introduce yourself, and let them know what to expect. Break the ice by welcoming students and telling them a little bit about your shop and your background. Then show them a sample of the floral design they will create, letting them know that they will follow along, in step-by-step fashion, as you demonstrate how to create the design. Ms. Lanker advises also having samples of larger and more complicated designs on display so that participants can see not only what they can aspire to create in a more advanced class in your shop but also the many beautiful arrangement styles your designers are capable of creating for them.

    Also during the introduction, let students know that they are welcome to take their creations home, and tell them about any handouts they will receive once they have completed their designs. Be sure also to point out the restroom as well as refreshments to which they can help themselves.

    Ms. Lanker cautions to keep the introduction brief—no more than 10 minutes—but also to be specific so that everyone knows what to expect, which helps reduce the possibility of repeated questions. If you plan to have a break, let the group know, up front, approximately when it will occur. Ms. Lanker says two to three hours is a good length of time to conduct a class, depending on whether the group will work on one or two projects. If participants are making only one arrangement, she relates that a break is not necessary, but a two-arrangement class should have one break between the projects.

  3. Create the arrangement. After you demonstrate each step of the arrangement, allow a few minutes for everyone to follow your instructions. Use this time to mention a few interesting facts about the design style or the flowers used. Although a bit of improvisational speaking is fine, Ms. Lanker suggests planning ahead of time—while you are putting together the sample arrangement—the types of things you could note during each step. For example, when designing with tulips, be sure to mention that these favored bulb flowers continue to grow after they are cut.

    Because people work at different paces, it is important to identify when the majority of participants are finished. Acknowledge this by saying something like, “It looks like most of you have completed this step, but if you are still catching up, please listen to the next step as you work.”

  4. Wrap it up. Following the demonstration, as participants are completing their designs, make some type of wrap-up statement such as, “Thank you for joining us this evening. Everyone did a great job.” Offer care and handling information, either verbally or, better yet, in a handout that participants can take with them.

    Ms. Lanker says it also is a good idea to make participants at least somewhat responsible for cleaning up at the end of the class.

     “If you want help cleaning up, you need to let them know, and it’s all about saying things in the right way,” she relates. “Rather than saying, ‘Everyone has to clean up her station,’ simply say, ‘The brooms are over here, and the trash can is over there ... .’”

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