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Ep 62 - 2021 Kickoff Week: Sharpen Your Skills

A smiling woman talking on the phone and taking notes

This week begins a three-podcast push for practice improvements in the new year. We start with improving your written and speaking skills. Why? Because communicating well is a sign of respect for your audience and saying that you take what you do seriously. From emails to your service menu, from public presentations to your elevator pitch, how you write and speak is a reflection of your practice and your brand. Nine writing tips and three verbal tips follow!



  1. Have an editing buddy.
  2. Write like you speak.
  3. Buy Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.
  4. Listen to Grammar Girl.
  5. Buy a dictionary.
  6. Kill your darlings.
  7. Do not plagiarize!
  8. Read great stuff:,,,
  9. Journal.


  1. Listen more, speak less.
  2. Perfect your elevator speech.
  3. Join Toastmasters:
Author Images
Darren Buford, Massage & Bodywork Editor-in-Chief
Author Bio

Darren Buford is editor-in-chief of Massage & Bodywork magazine and senior director of communications for ABMP.


This episode sponsored by:

Full Transcript

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0:01:32.3 Darren Buford: Welcome to The ABMP podcast. My name is Darren Buford. I'm the editor-in-chief of Massage & Bodywork magazine and senior director of communications for ABMP. Welcome to 2021. If you're a regular listener, you'll notice that I'm flying solo today on the podcast, and that's because we wanna start out the new year with three podcasts this week. You'll be getting one today, one tomorrow, one Thursday, and then Ruth Werner's normal podcast on Friday. The purpose is to help set up 2021 for success, so I'll be doing this podcast alone today, my co-host Kristin Coverly will fly solo tomorrow, and then we'll unite on Thursday with a special guest. We'll be back next week with our regular interview format in which we speak with leaders in the profession, but for this week, let's get things moving with some new 2021 self-improvement strategies. If you've read my most recent editor's note in the January-February 2021 issue of Massage & Bodywork magazine, and I know you have. It's titled 10 for 21. And what that is is that 10 items I'll be doing in 2021. Now, I love making a good to-do list, I'm a listomaniac, so in my lists of my normal things that I do in my personal and professional life, like movies I'm gonna watch, hikes that I do, dinners I'm gonna make.

0:02:58.3 DB: I took this space this year in the magazine to write about the 10 things that I'm gonna do professionally and personally in 2021, and it's important to note that this was not a New Year's resolution list, why? We know that the success rates of those are abysmal and are often forgotten within two weeks, that's why the gym is super busy in January and very, very quiet in February. Now, these are list of things I'll be doing in 2021, a promise and a commitment. So in that same vein, I wanted to turn the spotlight from me and on to you, what will you do in 2021 to improve your practice, your personal life? These three pods this week are designed to help you focus on a few areas, they are not the be-all end-all, and please come up with your own things to do, but we think they're important avenues to pursue in 2021 for self-improvement.

0:03:48.9 DB: So without further ado, let's dive in. In 2021, let's focus on improving your communication skills, written and verbal, why? Because how you write and speak is the presentation of you. It's the process of transforming your ideas for another audience, and in this case, this is your clients, it's in your branding, your marketing, your messaging, your practice. For instance, say you're applying for a job at a spa, and so you put together a cover letter and a resume, did you know that the average amount of time spent reading a resume and cover letter is under one minute?

0:04:32.8 DB: Shocking, right? So can you imagine if you're writing a subpar or that there are spelling errors throughout, bottom of the pile, right? I get hundreds of article pitches a year to be included in Massage & Bodywork magazine, guess what happens to those that I see a mistake in? Denied, right? Now, those stakes are really high because people are pitching to write in a magazine, but I will argue that you are potentially being judged equally in your communication skills everyday, you just may not know it. Aside from social media, and maybe even including social media, do you cringe when you read someone's email and see mistakes, spelling errors? Does it make you question what else they're not paying attention to? Communicating well is a sign of respect for your audience and saying that you take what you do seriously. So with that in mind, here are my tips. First, I want you to find an editing buddy, an accountability buddy, if you do nothing else, if you stop the podcast now, this is the number one thing to do, this is someone you can run emails by, your marketing material, your service menu, your resumes, your cover letters, this is a very important thing to do.

0:05:52.9 DB: I'm an editor and have been for 22 years, and I have someone read almost everything I write, on staff when it comes to the magazines, we have editors read pieces three and four times before design, after design, asking you to do the same thing to treat your work, your written work with a higher level of accountability. Your editing buddy, your accountability buddy, I hope that they can look at grammar for you, context and tone, is the writing too harsh? Is it honest? Did it convey what you wanted it to? It's also important in that process when you are critiquing someone or they're critiquing you. If they're critiquing you, you're gonna have to toughen your skin a little bit, the work is gonna get better, and when you're critiquing it's important to be honest. Clear is kind.

0:06:43.5 DB: Next tip, write like you speak. So many of us overwrite and we try to perfect it right out the gate, that's why so many people stare at a blank screen for the longest time trying to get the perfect introductory sentence or paragraph. The most important skill here, write in a conversational tone. Write like you speak, start jutting your words down and then come back and edit and edit again, and it'll get better in those processes, just don't get hung up on starting and making it too formulaic.

0:07:16.3 DB: Have you ever heard the phrase paralysis by analysis? A lot of us suffer from paralysis by analysis and become too formulaic in our structure. Jump in. Don't take too much time. Get the words out. That's what editing is for. Perfect is the enemy of good. Get your writing, write quickly, then edit to perfect. Next tip buy Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. This short, short publication written in 1918 is so valuable. It has so many grammatical and writing tips that are so valuable still today. I looked it up on Amazon, it is $5 a paperback and $2 on Kindle. Come on. Buy it, read it, read it again. Put it on the shelf right next to your computer. It's super valuable resource. Next tip. Listen to the podcast called Grammar Girl. Mignon Fogarty is an editing guru, these are super short podcasts that are 10 minutes or less in length. She's hilarious. She's practical. Word nerds listen. Normal people listen. You'll learn a lot and you will get better. Next tip, have a dictionary. Internally here, all the editors we subscribe to Merriam Webster's online, it's always been our go-to, another valuable resource here is the American Heritage dictionary. If you subscribe to these online, a lot of them come with thesauruses, use them, but don't go crazy.

0:08:45.8 DB: Next tip, writing is editing. Write, edit, edit again, send it to your edit buddy, edit again, sleep on it, edit it again. William Faulkner, the southern writer, famously said murder your darlings. Today, that phrase has kind of been adapted, sometimes you'll see it as kill your darlings. In fact, Stephen King wrote, "Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler's heart. Kill your darlings." What does that mean? Writers often fall in love with what we write, but remember your editing buddy. Shorten it, terse to the point, that's what your editing buddy is for, that's what you need to do with your own writing. Next tip, do not ever plagiarize. Guess what, there's plagiarism technology and software out there that can be run easily to see if you copied and pasted material off the internet. People do this sometimes with resumes, with cover letters, with their marketing material, if they're writing articles, don't do it. You will get caught. There is a famous phrase that says good artists copy and great artists steal, but that means concepts and ideas, not word for word, copy and paste.

0:10:09.1 DB: Next tip, read really well-written stuff, like Massage & Bodywork magazine, those are the best authors in the profession. Some of my outside the profession favorite things to read are The New Yorker, Garden & Gun, Harvard Business Review and The Atlantic. Those are some of the best writers in the world. Read, pay attention, see how they construct what they write. Finally, journal. Journaling is a super easy way to write every day for five or 10 minutes to get your thoughts out, and it gives you a chance to perfect and to rewrite and get better and get better, and have the courage to share it with someone. Sharing it with someone is an excellent way to get better. Now, let's transition to your verbal communication. Three short tips here. Number one, listen more speak less. Number two, perfect your elevator speech, you know the phrase, have an elevator speech. The reason that we have those or you hear that phrase is it's pitched in 20 to 30 seconds, the length of an elevator ride about you, about your profession, about what you do, about what you're passionate about. I would suggest have a five-second one, a 30-second one and a one-minute one, depending on the situation. Obviously, sometimes you have a very short time to get your point across.

0:11:26.2 DB: What do you do? I'm an editor, there's my five-second, my 30-second is gonna be a little bit more in depth then my one minute, I'm gonna really go into depth, that could be. I've got somebody's rapt attention and we're gonna dive in a little bit. Most important thing here, be passionate. People can tell if you're passionate and love what you do, and finally, number three, join Toast Masters, it's a group that helps you improve your verbal skills, your communication, your public speaking, your leadership, they have in person and virtual groups, all over the world. And I looked it up on their website. It is $45 a year plus if you've never been a member, I think there's a $20-initiation fee. This could be so valuable for so many people struggling with this.

0:12:08.9 DB: That's it. You can do this, I believe in you. How do I know that you'll improve because I wasn't great at any of this when I was younger. My writing and verbal skills were so-so. I was stronger in math and science, but now I'm the editor-in-chief of the publication and host of this podcast. Come on, if I can do this, you can do this. If you have any questions, shoot me an email at, I'd be glad to talk with you about any of these topics or help guide you on your communication skills. Thanks for listening today to the ABMP podcast. We'll return tomorrow with our second 2021 installment with Kristin Coverly.

0:12:50.8 Speaker 3: This has been a production of Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals. ABMP is the leading association for massage therapists and bodywork professionals in the United States and beyond. From liability insurance to professional advocacy, award-winning publications to the world's largest continuing education library for massage to this podcast, no organization provides more for its members and the profession than ABMP. ABMP works for you.