Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Starting Out 3. Sharpening The Ax

Abraham Lincoln once famously remarked: "If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four hours sharpening the axe". Alexander Technique teachers - including me - would be well advised to do the same.

I am giving some help at the moment to a teacher in Europe - together we are trying to sharpen the ax. He is a dedicated, enthusiastic and together guy, but he went straight to chopping the tree before sharpening the ax. Like most teachers he decided: “Get a website up.” So he did. It looked beautiful, explained Alexander Technique with some elegant quotes from Alexander himself, but the most critical question was left unanswered: who would be looking at this site?

That’s a passive question. The better question is: who do I want to be looking at my site? A website is nothing more than one-sided conversation with a real person. It is a first contact. I remember years ago, when I was still Editor and Publisher of DIRECTION, being scolded by my high-end designer. We were discussing the layout of the latest issue, when a flyer fell to the floor from my folder. Before I could retrieve it, she quickly picked it up, briefly glanced at it, then declared in horror: “WHAT IS THIS!!!” It was a flyer I had produced to sell DIRECTION which was, well - let’s just say, less than wonderful.

“This is the first experience they have of you - what do you think this is saying to them!? Is this communicating what you want to have communicated?” she demanded to know. I sheepishly agreed that, well - it didn’t represent DIRECTION that well. And it was a big lesson.

The lesson is this: be the person that your prospect wants you to be. The integrity of this position is that you, too, want to be that person for them. This the sharpening of the ax, and it sets up your entire career. At BodyChance I encourage my students to start asking these questions from day one. They are a little bewildered at first, not really grasping my point. I don’t care. I keep asking because BodyChance is dedicated to turning out teachers who impact the world through building successful careers as teachers of the Alexander Technique.

Back to my protégé in Europe: he didn’t really know who his website was talking to. On the other side of his website was “the internet” but that isn’t a person. Who is the real person? And again, more to the point, who is the real person you want? As I searched through his website, I found his story. It was magnificent! A real hero’s journey. “That’s your top page!” I told him, and much to his credit he changed it that day.

Now at least, a visitor gets a sense of him. Isn’t that a better start? People don’t relate to an abstract thing called “Alexander Technique”, people relate to people. In that sense, I can agree if you are going to hide your self, then I guess having FM smiling at you from a black and white photo is better than no person at all. But they are not having lessons with FM, they are having lessons with you. So put your self there - not on another page “About the Teacher”

And again (and again, and again) WHO do you want to be having lessons with you? A website is a one-sided conversation, and how do you know what to say if you don’t know who is there? This ability for long distance, one-sided communication is a skill set all on it’s own. Each teacher needs to develop it - in Alexander’s time it was less than necessary. Today it is essential.

This is how you start your sharpening of the ax:

First, you decide your strengths, your interests - this gives you focus for…
Second, you analyze people who would resonate with your message and then
Third, you make sure they are a fit for your ability to build a successful practise, then
Forth, you start asking questions TO THEM: what do they seek? how can you help? So
Fifth, you begin crafting your one-sided conversation, which is your website. Then
Sixth - well, that’s enough for today.

Most Alexander Technique teachers have not got this done yet. Get it done. Sharpen your ax. Be ready for your website visitor.

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