The Vault

Business Aspects of an Alexander Practise

Chris Raff

 

Teaching the Alexander Technique as a sole source of income in Adelaide, South Australia, prompted me to offer this topic at the 4th Congress.

Increasingly, over the last five years, I have felt the need to modernise my marketing of the Alexander Technique.

Our service cannot stay in the realm of passive marketing: name in telephone book, occasional talk and leaflet/brochure around the neighbourhood. What I've undertaken is a transition to pro-active marketing. Dynamic presentations, the thoughtful targeting of specific groups, and actively seeking exposure of the work via the print and electronic media.

The reasons I've become more market oriented are numerous. I sense disposable income is diminishing. If it's not true, then people are more choosy about how they spend their self-educative dollar.

As well, we have other modalities competing with us for 'bodywork'. It's unfortunate the Alexander Technique gets lumped into this category, but this is the public perception. It's a strong case for emphasising as much as possible the self-educative nature of the Technique.

To survive and thrive meant, and continues to mean, getting my act together. These means to my end are not comprehensive:

  • Sharpening one's negotiation skills is useful. The Magic of Conflict by Thomas Crum is immensely valuable.
  • Learning to listen more. As someone commented, "you have two ears and one mouth, that's a good proportion to gauge the use of each". Also, a Positive Parenting course—self-assertion courses are similar—was very beneficial. Negotiating and listening to my children is an excellent training ground for the wider world. More and more I constandy listen for what needs need to be addressed.
  • Telephone conversations—offer to send your leaflet (with selected reading list enclosed). This is good form and gives more time to communicate with the person enquiring. If I have the time, I photocopy extracts or an article pertinent to their enquiry, for example, Caplan's bit on whiplash or an article on horse riding—this is included too.
  • If the enquirer is not prepared to book a lesson, offer an obligation-free session. I base this offer on intuition. In the session discuss their needs or interest in the Technique. Demonstrate with hands-on at some stage in this session. Mention the Society, the code of ethics and amount of training involved in becoming an Alexander Technique teacher.
  • Verbally state where and when you work and what your fees are.
  • To avoid wasting time and energy, I work for an outcome where the person wants to come for lessons. If, after an obligation-free session, they are still unsure, I suggest they go away and think about everything that's involved.

Underlying most of what's been said is the ability to communicate clearly and pleasantly. Communicating can stand constant scrutiny—you can only get better and better at it! And all this is really customer service. I enjoy the obligation-free sessions as they test my expertise and spontaneity.

I recognise that as a teacher I have to constantly renegotiate my authority with my pupil. Mutual respect is essential for rapport. Many of my pupils are part of the growing vanguard that question the professional until they are satisfied that they, the consumer, are sure that you know what you are doing.

Pointers for More Dynamic Presentation

Evidently you have about three minutes to get your audience onside. My presentation coach and J.C. Hume in The Language of Leadership suggest the following plan:

  • Begin strongly—use humour or open with some captivating comment;
  • Focus on one theme—"You can change your habits of physical misuse to your advantage";
  • K.I.S.S.—Keep it Simple and Speak benefits;
  • Draw a picture in the listener's mind—"Your movement becomes a delight and not a fight";
  • End with an emotion—"Imagine the satisfaction of having the choice to change the way you act or react".

In the half-hour before you 'go on' Alexander's directions are, of course, helpful. You can intersperse the following affirmations and I would acknowledge the originator if I knew their name:

"I am glad I am here I am glad you are here I care for you all All I know is what I know".

[Toward the end of the session a more direct group discussion followed:

1) Things to avoid in marketing and teaching the Alexander Technique;

2) Mediums that attract attention to the Alexander Technique;

3) What distinguishes the Alexander Technique;

4) The future—trends and directions.]

1. Things to Avoid...

Based on your experience and relevant to your territory, the following may be pertinent to you. You can disagree, add, or delete:

  • Workshops and talks on Saturdays, particularly in rural areas;
  • Evening talks in early winter;
  • Commercial radio;
  • Intemperate language (touting);
  • The U.S. participants reminded us of the importance—legally—of using can as opposed to will—"The Alexander Technique can improve your performance of everyday activities...";
  • Avoid stating your fee in any advertisement;
  • It was agreed that blanket advertising like letterboxing, i.e. untargeted advertising, is not effective.

2. Mediums that Attract...

  • Television—powerful in informing the public about the Alexander Technique. It's a good seeding medium;
  • Radio—provided the interview is long and the journalist has done some homework, this can be very effective in attracting people to the work.
  • Posters;
  • Newspaper ads—can work well if you take care in selecting time, space, size and page number;
  • Public presentations;
  • Busking;
  • Pseudo-research projects—e.g. research projects that you qualify as personal research for professional purposes. For instance, setting up a questionnaire for golfers that measures their experiential performance at a driving range, then giving them some Alexander Technique work, after which they go back to their practice for a while and then answer the same questionnaire again. In most cases, they improve. It's interesting but time consuming;
  • Videos on the Alexander Technique for loan;
  • Articles in newspapers, journals and magazines;
  • 1:1 obligation-free sessions;
  • Sponsorship;
  • Personal presentation to specific groups—e.g. training officers, CEO's or Occupational Health and Safety representatives;
  • Management consultants—if they are familiar with your work, they can incorporate Alexander Technique as part of their programs. It's good exposure;
  • Follow-up pupils—offer progressive discounts for people they send that take up a course of lessons.

3. What Distinguishes the Alexander Technique...

Please note that this list does not purport to be anywhere near complete:

  • Practicality—anywhere, anytime, in any position or movement it can be applied;
  • Self-educational—it's not therapy, nor is it treatment;
  • Sustainability—on-going, self-improvement noted by self-evident results;
  • A process that teaches one to think in such a way as to move naturally;
  • A skill you own—it empowers you to stop interferences to your use so, you not only gain the awareness to maintain good use, but you also know how to continually improve;
  • "The character of the thinking involved", F.P. Jones.

4. The Future...

  • If training courses are not including skills for marketing, personal presentation and customer service in their programs, they should be encouraged to do so;
  • CD ROM—nationally and internationally (via Internet) we need an Alexander Technique input for the data bank;
  • Quality videos, films and books on the Technique need to be encouraged and supported;
  • Research in general into the Alexander Technique again needs support and encouragement. We need to look at longer term studies such as the preventative dimensions of the Technique. We need ammunition to substantiate the good sense of having primary school children taught the Technique by a qualified teacher;
  • Taking the Technique more into the workplace with courses like "Good body use for bus drivers", "Alexander Technique for deskbound workers".

I wish to thank the people who chose to come to these sessions. Their contribution was invaluable.

REFERENCES

Crum, Thomas, The Magic of Conflict, Simon and Schuster: New York (1987)

Gelb, Michael, Present Yourself, Aurum Press: London (1988)

Hume, J.C., The Language of Leadership, Business Library: Melbourne (1991)

BIOGRAPHY

Chris Raff has lived in South Australia since 1984. He pioneered the introduction of the Alexander Technique to the driest state on the driest continent. Any wandering Alexander Technique teachers who venture this way are welcome to make contact.

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