Sunday, March 30, 2014


Last week I received my last installment of paperwork from Antoni. It included my contract, immigration letter, employee handbook and numerous other documents to read and/or sign. This week after my physical from the port doctor in San Francisco and I scan and send it back to Antoni that should be it...all the paperwork is done.

First I want to make a disclaimer, I am far from the top Acupuncturist at Sea. I still have a lot to learn but I have picked up a few tricks along the way that I think might be useful and I thought I’d pass them along. When I started my first blog AcuDoc's Excellent Adventure I looked on the Internet for anything to get an idea of what it was like to be an Acupuncturist at Sea. I found nothing available so I started my journey and posted what I experienced.

With that said today I want to talk about seminars. During your training with Stephanie you reviewed and were tested on public speaking and your ability to give a seminar. I'm sure it was impressed upon you that the seminars you give on ships is your life's blood, it is where you draw from to get your patients during the cruise.

If you have already worked on cruise ships as an acupuncturist you know they are part of your weekly routine. Depending on the length of the cruise typically you give between three and five seminars a week.

If you are on your first contract you my be dreading have to give seminars and the possibility of experiencing a "brain cramp" and forgetting where you are or what you are saying. First don't worry about it; it happens to all of us whether you are just getting your sea legs or if you are an old salt. In time seminars will become just another part of your practice and nothing to fear. In fact many like myself simply love to give seminars and interacting with those curious about our profession.

There are a couple things that will help you get through your seminars as you prepare. One Stephanie told me having known I had a background teaching at Chinese Medical Universities and massage schools. Giving seminars to guests on a ship is very different then teaching to students in a classroom. You are not there "to teach" you are there to inform and to book patients. Give them just enough to spark their interest and belief that you can help them. Don't get too technical, remember they are not students and you are not in a classroom. You will know this is happening if their faces go blank, their eyes get that glazed look or if they fall asleep.

Another piece of advice I received from one of my best friends that at one time was a college professor. He told me there are three things that make you successful when teaching. First be prepared, second know what you are talking about and third make them laugh. If you are prepared you will look and feel confident. If you know what you are talking about those in your class or seminar will respect you. If you make them laugh you will keep their interest and they will be hanging on ever word waiting to hear the next punch line. I found the advice from both Stephanie and Bill to be very true.

So let's talk a little about the seminars themselves. I typical give five per week including "Introduction to Acupuncture", "Acute and Chronic Pain Management" and "Chinese Herbs For Health" which are my top three to which I add "Permanent Weight Loss Secrets" and "Arthritis Pain Management".

On longer cruises to mix it up I will change a name and content a bit to "Stop Back Pain Today", "Pain and Stress Management" or "Health and Longevity With Chinese Herbs". I make sure not to offer the same title twice as I want as many people to show up as possible, even though the seminar itself may be very similar.

Regardless of what seminar I happen to be teaching as I mentioned above one of the keys to giving a successful talk is to be prepared, even when caught by surprise, which happened to me on my first ship.

It was Day Two on my first ship, the Carnival Dream, and we were sailing to Cozumel, Mexico. It was my first Sea Day and the assistant spa manager, Eanna Geraghty, approached me and the following conversation took place.

Eanna: Larry do you know you have a seminar in an hour?
Myself: Am I giving one or taking one (remember your first week is filled with safety seminars)
Eanna: Giving
Myself: What Subject
Eanna: Intro to Acupuncture
Myself: I can do that...

The same conversation happened again a few days later when I was to give a seminar on herbs. Eanna now travels from ship to ship training those in the spa. If you ever get a chance to have her come on board consider yourself lucky. She is a wealth of information and knowledge.

So the key to my survival that first week was I was prepared. I had gone over each seminar several times and knew each slide and what I wanted to convey to the guests. There will also come the time where the seminars become second nature and your stage fright, if you experience it will subside. Then the trick is not to become complacent and to keep you seminars interesting, I rely on humor, but I won't bore you with my punch lines.

There is more to being prepared for your seminars then just reviewing and being comfortable with your slide presentations. This trick I learned from Lisa Forsythe who was the Sales and Revenue Manager for the Acupuncture Department of Steiner years ago. I met Lisa when I was on board The Dream when she was making the rounds in the Caribbean. She now has a successful practice in Florida.

Lisa's advice...have a "seminar box". The purpose of your seminar box is to hold everything you will need to conduct your seminar. That way if you are in a hurry, which will happen because you are busy with patients, all you need to do is grab the box and you are assured you have everything you need. This has saved me more then once.

The box can be something as simple as a clear plastic box or something a little nicer like a file box. I opted for a black file box with silver trim. Remember this will be present during your seminar and the more professional it looks the more professional you look. I bought mine at Office Depot or Staples.

My Seminar Box

My Seminar Box is "legal" size in length contains the following. It contains an adapter, an "s" video cord, extension cord and remote for use with my laptop that runs my PowerPoint or Keynote slide presentation. Also I have a needle tray, alcohol swabs, cotton balls and a box of red Serin needles for the "acupuncture does not hurt" demonstration.

My Clipboard with Schedule on the outside
and Intake Forms inside

A clipboard that I have an appointment sheet on top and it opens to hold intake forms and a couple pencils. When the guest signs up for an appointment I give them an Intake Form with the time written on it. I use mechanical pencils instead of pens in case I have to change an appointment.

I also have about four bottles of the Jou Herbal Formulas, which I display during my seminar. I have a box of Tylenol that I read the side effects off of during my herb seminar. And last I have a laser pointer and dry markers if I am using a dry board during a seminar.

As you can see there are a number of items none of which you want to reach for during your seminar only to find it is not there. Again you are being judged on your professionalism. The more professional you are the better chance you have of booking and rebooking patients. Which is the entire reason for your seminar.

As far as giving your seminar we all have different personalities, so let them shine. Be confident, professional, and assertive but not overly. Know what you are talking about, be interesting and be prepared.

Probably the most important aspect of your seminar is to have a strong ending. Being an avid fisherman I can compare giving my seminar to fishing. The seminar itself is the bait; it gets the fishes (guests) attention. The better the seminar the more interested the fish is as I continue to play out the line as the take “the bait”. Then the strong ending is setting the hook. The only thing left is to reel them in and book the appointment.

During my ending I remind the guests of the conditions that acupuncture is used for by having a slide of those conditions on screen while I am giving my closing. I remind them of my credentials and that I am extremely confident I can help them, I remind them that they need to sign up immediately after the seminar because I ALWAYS get booked..."There are 2,000 of you and there is only 1 of me."

And finally having said two or three times during the seminar "this can change your life" I end with "Who wants to be pain free...Who wants to be stress free, have more energy and feel better...WHO WANTS TO CHANGE THEIR LIFE...RIGHT NOW...TODAY!"

By following these simple rules you will find that your seminar actually can be fun and the best source of patients. You will also find hints in the newsletter and on the Steiner website. Another tip is to contact your fellow Acupuncturists at Sea to ask for their tricks....Enjoy Them and Prosper…

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