Ten ways to chase those winter blues away

Naomi-DavidsonAccording to experts Monday 19th January 2015, referred to as “Blue Monday” was the most depressing day of the year.

Apparently down to weather conditions (that’s January for you), the post Christmas/holiday blues (Didn’t it go quickly?), Mondays in general and of course the dreaded “D” word in the form of credit card bills catching up on us after the fun and frolics of the festive season.

I have to say, for me I’m glad that January is almost over. I am at heart a sun worshipper and not particularly fond of the recent biting winds and the damp conditions that seeps right through to the bones. The chill factor makes your muscles tense and makes it feel like spring is a long way away.

Several of my clients have mentioned that they find January a difficult month. They say they feel generally run down with lingering coughs and colds and feel completely de-motivated as a result. So much so in fact that they are desperately in need of a boost and pick-me up.

Their words got me thinking how to beat the January blues and here are my top 10 bright ideas (check out the special offers, at the bottom of the page, which will cheer you up, too):

  • Book your next holiday giving you something to look forward too
  • Write a gratitude list which is a really useful tool to enable you to gain perspective in your life
  • Put on your favourite piece of music and SING and DANCE along to it. It is great therapy!
  • Take up a new hobby that makes your heart jump for joy
  • Watch your favourite comedy and laugh with all your might
  • Meet up with friends and do something fun … a great way to reduce stress levels.
  • Live in the moment and savour each and every experience in the now
  • Exercise or take up yoga classes…get those cheerful endorphins flowing
  • Have a series of regular massages which is great for boosting the immune system and clearing the toxins from the Christmas over indulgence. It is great for relaxing the muscles at the same time as being a pamper treat to chase away the winter blues leaving you feeling re-energised
  • Use the energy from your massage to set some exciting goals for the coming year and really make 2015 count.

Organising workshops and other speaking gigs

Massimo GaetaniPublic speaking is a great way to share knowledge with a group of people and it helps to demonstrate your expertise in a particular field or sector.  Practitioners in Complementary Health, particularly the ones offering voice therapy, can use public speaking as a very effective marketing tool.  Many of the targeted audience at the gig may appreciate the speaker’s expertise and often engage in one-to-one projects.

Speaking at an event organised by others allows a first timer to concentrate on delivering quality content without the need of getting involved the whole logistic of the organisation. I would suggest anyone interested in testing their speaking skills to explore which events could accommodate the topic they would like to showcase.

Often I get asked by our practitioners how to organise an event and I decided to write this post in order to create a simple guide to follow.

The three most important things about organising a speaking event are:

  1. People
  2. People and…
  3. …yes you guessed right: People

In my experience it’s relatively straightforward to take care of all other aspects of the event which we will see below but if the event has no attendance it will have negative effects on both your wallet and self-confidence.  Please take this into account and appreciate the importance of having the audience you expect when you get to the promotion of the event.  Below I will go through the key aspects of organising your event.

Type of event

There are obvious many different events you can organise but for simplicity I will stick to the two most suitable for the sector we are in:

  • Lecture, where you will discuss a topic which should be relevant to your audience; the presentation will be eventually followed by Q&A where people can ask you pertinent questions and you have the opportunity to further showcase your knowledge;
  • Workshop, where you have a more interactive approach and a higher involvement of the audience since the beginning and throughout the duration of the event.

Venue

A suitable venue for your event will have a strong influence on its success so chose adequately. It’s essential to decide how much space you will need which is directly proportional to the number of people you are planning to have and depending on the event you organise:

  • lectures can have the audience organised like a theatre with rows of seats while
  • workshops will work better using a cabaret layout (these are the technical terms which venue owners will be familiar with) where you have tables spread across the venue

Cabaret suits well a long event where a lunch break is included while lectures will work better for a separate are area where refreshments are served.

It’s important to remember that too many people cramped in a small venue will make everybody uncomfortable; on the other hand a large room with just a few people will look like an unsubscribed (a.k.a. unsuccessful) event.

Depending on where you are based there might be lots of possible venues available in hotels, business centres, conference centre, community centres and so on.  Some of them will let their venue by the hour others by the half day or day.  Be prepared to inquire exactly what you need and have a budget in mind.  Also some venues might want to charge you a booking fee or to pay in advance for the booking, with little or no negotiation on cancellations or change of date.  I would always try to pay on the day of the event or after, ensuring that a cancellation doesn’t incur in charges if done by a certain cut-off date.  This is the date when you will get charged if the event gets cancelled. Things can go wrong for a number of reasons and, ideally, you do not want to pay for an event you are not going to run.

Duration

A lecture can last up to a few hours, a workshop even an entire day or multiple days.  You must have very clear in your mind the format and the content when deciding duration as attendees will plan their day around your event.

Date and notice

It is important that you chose a date a time that suits your audience; if you’d like to attract office employees then an evening or weekend will work better than on a Tues morning.  If your audience are likely to be mums then take into account the school run timings.  Once taken into account the above go ahead and chose a date which is not clashing with other similar events in your area as it might impact on your audience.  When organising a new event I would suggest giving between 2 and 3 months’ notice to allow proper promotion and distribution of invites.

Tickets and bookings

Whether you decide to charge for your event or offer it for free it is very important that attendees take it very seriously.  I suggest automating the ticket and booking process by using an automated system.  I personally use Eventbrite which is free for free events and will charge a small commission if you want to use it to sell tickets.  Eventbrite can be quite daunting the first times you use it but it’s really great.  Just make sure you have handy all key information about the event and they all have a place within Eventbrite.  Make sure to fill up important details like cancellation policies and ensure that booking doesn’t end on the day of your event.  You must have a bit of time for yourself to prepare material and to decide eventual last minute manoeuvres. Once you created an event and you have a URL for it you can then go ahead with the promotion.

Promotion

There are many different ways to promote an event; traditional marketing will suggest having posters hanged up in relevant places and small flyers can be printed and distributed.  If you have a list of relevant contacts you can Email them an invitation with the URL of the event you created in Eventbrite.  If you have lots of followers on relevant social networks like Facebook or Twitter you can also use those.  It is essential that you spend a substantial part of your time and energy promoting the event and you mention it to everybody you know, whether they are part of your target audience or not.

Minimum attendance and cut out date

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph having an audience is essential for your event to work.  You might have done everything correctly in order to prepare the event but you realise that there are just 3 people out of 20 expected (or 15 out of 50) a few days before the event.  In my opinion is best to cancel the event and refund the money (Eventbrite will issue full refunds without even charging their commission) rather than having a much undersubscribed event.  Your decision should be taken before

Delivering the event

I have to trust you know what you are talking about if you decide to organise a speaking gig.  Please make sure to be at the venue quite a few minutes earlier to setup and be ready; early birds always happen at every event and it could be quite disappointing for them to find out they are there before you.  Another important thing is to make sure you finish exactly on time so that people with tight time constraints or relying on public transport can leave without feeling that they are missing out.  At the same time remember to have enough time to hang around as several people might want to ask you something which they preferred not to share with others in the Q&A section.

Make sure you carry several spare pens and notebooks as many people forget that taking notes could be useful.

Event’s exclusive offer

Your own event offers a unique opportunity of speaking to people who are interested in you and in the topic you are discussing.  Once you have their attention it makes sense to offer them something extra which could be sold at a promotional price.  This would usually apply to other workshop or one-to-one work.

Collect feedback

While people are at your event they have very clear in mind what just happened.  Take this opportunity to distribute a short questionnaire that can collect key information about how the whole experience was for them.  You can always do this later but the success rate, both in terms of number of people replying and the quality of their content, will be lower.

Follow up

A few days after the event send a message where you thank your audience.  This will keep the conversation alive while it might give you an extra opportunity for those people who did not take the opportunity to buy extra services from you at the end of the event.

Three essential marketing tools for complementary health practitioners

Massimo GaetaniThere are many practitioners who have been in private practice for many years and have a strong and well established customer base. These people have built their own business in the days when a sign on the door and an advert on the yellow pages was enough to generate new business. Several years and a few thousands of clients later their practice is entirely relying on their reputation and word of mouth marketing.

Professional practitioners starting a private practice in 2014, assuming they have the serious intention of creating a successful business, will require a bit more planning and correct execution of essential marketing and business development skills. Assuming time, money and resources being scarce it is essential to start from the most basic and important tools available to us all. They are:

  • Business Cards
  • Website
  • Leaflets

The order in which they are listed is the order in which you as a practitioner should approach them. Let’s see below a bit more details about why you should use them.

Business Cards

IMG_20140718_171052126However small and insignificant these pieces of paper might seem they are the cheapest and most immediate form of marketing you can access when starting a business. Please avoid altogether the temptation of designing and printing your own business cards as they will look cheap and tacky. The Internet is full of great offers to have proper business cards designed and printed by professionals; simply choose one. A few suppliers will even give you an interactive website, offering templates, images, themes and choice of fonts and colours. Take your peek and order a few hundreds of them. Avoid the cheapest option for paper and chose 3-400 gsm (Grams per Square Metre) luxury finish. I like to be ecological and believe that non laminated cards are easier to recycle but I’ll leave that choice to you. The business card should contain all relevant contact details you want to share with clients or prospects and perhaps a very short description of what you offer. This last piece of information should be expressed within 2-3 words. Avoid, like the plague, the horrid temptation of writing a long list of therapies you offer and try to transform your business card into a leaflet; it will look awful. Once you have business cards keep them close to you at all times. It is no point bumping into a friend or acquaintance, updating them about your new venture and having no business cards to substantiate your conversation. You can easily expect that 4 out of 5 cards you give out will get lost or left somewhere but, like in any sales activity, it’s a numbers’ game.

Website

WebsiteIn 2014 I am not going to explain why you must have a good looking, modern designed and recently updated website but I’ll explain here two main functions that your website will have for you:

  • Personal Identity: people might know you exist as a practitioner, might have heard of you, perhaps a friend of theirs pass them your details but many will want to investigate who you are, what you do and perhaps whether they like you before they connect with you. If you don’t have a website, if it looks bad or old fashion they might go to another practitioner which fits their taste. In order to be useful for personal identity your website will have to searchable by your name.
  • Business lead generator: people might be looking for what you offer (e.g. massage therapy) or for some conditions they suffer (e.g. back ache) and therefore your website should have a decent level of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to ensure that prospects will find your website, on the first page of Google, when they search for relevant key phrases, not just your name.

A couple of extra recommendations about websites:

  • Use your own name as domain name; it’s easier to remember, it helps SEO for searches which contain your name and it’s very good for personal branding. Some people will suggest you to create a brand for your business (e.g. Cambridge Sports Massage) but, honestly, unless you are in the business of creating a large organisation, creating a brand will incur in the double cost of marketing the brand and yourself as an individual. Just avoid one extra step and use your own name.
  • Use the “.co.uk” extension or the one that is typically local for your country of operation. Some people assume that “.com” is the way to go and that’s fine if you are in the USA. On the other hand if you operate from sunny Cambridgeshire there is no need to even suggest you might be based outside the UK, hence the “.co.uk”. I have clients which do regular voice therapy over Skype and they are interested in appearing international and that’s fine. Also, however trivial the difference, a “.com” domain will cost you nearly £10 per year while a “.co.uk” less than half than that much.
  • Rely on a well designed, professional website for your business and steer away for heavily advertised DIY sites that offer all in one designer, templates, images and allow you to design your own website. Results will look between poor and very poor and it will be obvious to most observers including your clients.

Leaflets

IMG_20140718_171134773Leaflets and other printed material allow you to explain, with some level of depth, what you offer and why people should decide to be treated by you. The previous suggestion about avoiding too much information on your business cards was in fact offered assuming you will have leaflets where you can indeed list your services and the benefits associated to them. You can choose among different shapes and formats but, in order for them to be practical and cost effective I would suggest A6, A5 or A4 folded in 3. In all cases you should, once more, avoid DIY and relying on professional design and professionally printed material; otherwise the results will look obviously home made and cheap. You can decide to have a single leaflet which explains all about you and what you do. On the other hand, if you offer two or more completely different therapies, suitable for very different audiences you better create several different leaflets otherwise your prospects might get confused by finding everything mixed on the same sheet of paper.

Conclusions and recommendations

The three essential marketing tools for the complementary health practitioner are meant to be used together as part of the so called marketing mix. It is said that most people will need to see a marketing message or a brand 7 times before committing to it so I hope it will be clear to you that one of this tool, by itself, might not be enough to secure a new client. Two extra rules about your marketing:

  • All marketing material, like the ones described above, should be independent from the others and self sufficient. Each of them should convey the right impression and message, assuming that people will not necessarily try to find and collect all material available about you. Contact details should be accessible and easy to find; maybe it is me but I find very frustrating when I struggle to find a person in order to buy something from them.
  • All marketing material should look as it was designed as part of a suite. It’s really no point having green business cards written in Times Roman and red website written in Helvetica and then yellow leaflets written in Verdana. If you have no idea what the sentence above means that’s an extra reason why you need to work with professional designers and printers. Invest some time and thinking about what colours best suit you, your audience and the therapy you offer. Do you need a typeface (font) which is very serious and pompous or something a bit more relaxed and laid back? Once the decision is taken than apply it to all of your marketing material and keep it that way until you have a very good reason to change.

MANUAL LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE (MLD) Massage: the healing power of gentle touch

ManualLymphaticDrainageWhat is MLD really? Let’s start by debunking the myth as, if you have never received MLD treatment or read about it before, your body is in for a nice ‘shock’ when you next try it! The name makes it sound slightly clinical and scary to start with.

After initially having read a considerable amount about its benefits to physical and emotional health, a couple of clients requested the treatment at the clinic but none of us therapists were trained in it so, unfortunately, we could not offer it. I then decided to train in MLD at the London School of Massage so that I could help a wider range of clients. The technique was harder to master than I originally thought and maximum concentration was required at all times to get the moves right. It was especially hard for those like me having previously trained as standard massage therapist. It was a whole new challenging experience in uncharted waters but truly rewarding nonetheless.It’s certainly nothing like you’ve seen before as the technique it’s very different to that of standard massage routines. However, do not underestimate the healing power of MLD!

I was taken aback when practising the MLD massage technique and routine. All my course colleagues questioned how a very ‘fairy’ massage starting on the side of the neck face up and working all the way down the body just using very light touch with no pressure whatsoever could be so effective. Well, you’d be pleasantly surprised to hear that this extremely relaxing massage is hugely beneficial to your immune system.

When I went to visit my friends after my training they commented on my ‘special glow and how beautiful my skin looked’ on that day. I was delighted to hear that and that people had noticed an important physical change in me but, also, I personally felt much lighter, extremely at ease, full of renewed energy as if my batteries had suddenly been charged.

From body detox to extreme relaxation and help with relieving swelling, stress, etc… the benefits of MLD are plenty and clients generally love it. They have reported looking and feeling ‘re-energised’ and ‘deeply relaxed’ following a treatment. It’s a massage recommended for most and you don’t need to be ill at all to have a MLD treatment – in fact even if in good health one every 3 months is generally recommended. This is also the all-in-one solution therapy for those of you who generally do not like standard massage.

In a nutshell, the MLD therapist works by manually moving the lymph (body waste) located on a very superficial layer under the skin to the nearest lymph nodes so that the lymphatic system can process and remove its waste from the body. S/he performs it by gently stretching the skin and using a rhythmic circle motion, physically ‘moving’ the unwanted fluid in the direction of the nearest lymph nodes.

Research has shown that MLD has numerous general benefits to the nervous and muscular systems. Moreover, by helping improve the flow of lymph it has a powerful effect to health and wellbeing: It helps fight infection, aids healing and recovery from illness and relieves pain including migraines. It is not just a deeply relaxing massage, MLD helps improve chronic conditions such as sinusitis, arthritis, acne and other skin conditions, it is also a great addition to other detox programmes as it encourages fluid flow in the connective tissues. Therefore, it is an effective treatment for cellulite and water retention, being especially effective for the treatment of ‘lymphoedema’ (swelling in the arms or legs due to an impaired lymphatic system). It is also an ideal Pre/Post-operative treatment that improves the skin’s texture and promotes healing of scar tissue, torn ligaments and sprains.

Pregnant ladies and the elderly can also hugely benefit from MLD as it helps Clear areas of congestion such as swollen ankles, puffy eyes and swollen legs and improvement stretch marks after childbirth

All in all, this is the ultimate body and mind detox experience to feel pure inside out. MLD is a decongestive massage therapy that stimulates the lymphatic system with gentle, light rhythmical massaging strokes, accelerating the processing of toxins, excess fluid and bacteria. In turn, this helps the body eliminate fat. The technique was invented by massage therapists Dr Emil and Mrs. Estrid Vodder in the early 1930s. I have just introduced the treatment in Salus Wellness Clinic in Cambridge. Visit www.facebook.com/ElenaAroma4Life to take advantage from an introductory offer and feel free to contact me on info@elenagonzalez.co.uk for more details (Elena Gonzalez, Aromatherapist and Massage Therapist @ Salus Wellness Clinic, Cambridge, UK)