The Schmooze Factor

How to Spread the Word About Your Practice

By Kathy Gruver

Massage therapists tend to be a pretty isolated bunch. We’re in our office with one client at a time, or in a spa or health center. Though others surround us, the majority of our time is spent with one person, often in silence. So, what happens when we’re asked to introduce ourselves at a mixer, networking meeting, or social event? Here are some pointers to help you be successful at what I call the “schmooze factor.”

Your Elevator Speech

How can you use a 30-second elevator speech to stand out as a professional and attract more business? First, keep it short and sweet. It’s called an elevator speech because you need to be able to tell someone riding in an elevator with you everything they need to know about your business before you get to your floor. As a former actor, I have no trouble standing in front of people and introducing myself or doing my elevator speech, but for those of you who are not as comfortable “performing,” here are some simple tips that will help. 

Let’s start with the basic introduction. I was recently at a mixer at a physical therapist’s office where about 17 of us stood in a circle and went around and introduced ourselves. One introduction went like this: 

(Eyes turned down) “Hi … my name is Jen … I do massage and um, you know, more relaxing stuff. Um … I guess that’s it.” 

Here’s how my introduction went:

“Hi, my name is Dr. Kathy Gruver. I have a PhD in natural health and I specialize in medical and therapeutic massage. I’ve been studying for more than 22 years and I love to work with athletes and people with complicated pain issues. I like close communication with whoever referred the client to me, so you can feel confident that I’ll let you know how your client is doing if you send them over to me. I wrote my first natural health book last year and, in addition to massage, I work with mind/body medicine and natural health consulting. Please let me know how I can help.” 

See the difference? Now, in a room full of physical therapists who are looking to refer their patients to someone, who are they probably going to pick? 

How could Jen have made her intro more appealing? First off, unless your name is Sting, Cher, or Madonna, please say your full name. Plus, even if you’re just starting out as a therapist, you can expand on your practice and what you specialize in. Her introduction could have been:

“Hi, my name is Jen Smith. I’m a new massage therapist in my second year of practice, and I am really attracted to helping people relax by doing lighter relaxing work. My clientele right now consists of all age ranges, but I really like working with older clients. Let me know if I can help.” 

This introduction is much more impressive than the first one. By adding details like your last name and what you like to do, you are going to attract more business. In addition, make sure you are smiling, hold your head high, and make eye contact with as many people as possible. If you are uncomfortable meeting people’s eyes you can look past them, but change your gaze so it looks like you’re looking from person to person. 

Another tip for these types of events is to make sure you have business cards handy at all times. I wear clothing with back pockets so I can keep my cards in one pocket and put cards I’ve gathered in the other. 

Master the Mixer

More formal introductions at events like networking groups and chamber of commerce mixers are often called elevator speeches, and I’ve been to multiple events where they are strictly timed—and they will stop you. Plan your introduction in advance so you are ready (they are usually 20 or 30 seconds, and you’d be surprised how quickly the time goes). Since this is timed, you want to make sure you get the most important information out first. If you start out saying “Hi” or “Good morning,” you’ve wasted valuable time. Make a list of what the most important points are, and begin with your full name. Rehearse your speech and time it so you know you are within the allotted window. Sometimes people do something unique like a magic trick or a rap so they stand out. Know your audience. If you choose these gimmicks, and if it’s your first time visiting a certain group, play it straight until you gauge what might be accepted and what might look unprofessional. 

A chamber of commerce breakfast mixer I frequented was known for its outrageously creative elevator speeches, with people employing music, props, and special effects. For an October meeting, we were encouraged to wear a costume. I wore an old cheerleader outfit, a blond wig, and did a cheer about massage. It was a hit. I won the creativity contest and got some business out of it, too. 

Another creative option is to work with the timing. If you realize they use a bell or buzzer to end your intro, incorporate that into your speech. For example, I was at an event where they forgot the bell and were just having the timing person say “Stop.” I changed my elevator speech around in my head and planned it so the “Stop” worked in my favor, timing it so that my last line was, “Give me a call if you’d like your pain to…” When the man said “Stop,” everyone laughed. If the environment is filled with humor and creativity—and you are good at and comfortable with them—use them!

Keep the Momentum

You’ve done your effective elevator speech and people are clamoring to hear more about your business. Now is the time to capitalize on your momentum. Make sure you have your business cards with you at all times. There’s nothing worse than someone wanting to support your business and you not having the resources. Your card should have your name and business name, your credentials and specialties, and your contact information. An address isn’t necessary, but you should have a phone number, website, or email address. I encourage all of you to have a website—it’s so affordable, easy, and vital to your business. Even if it is just one page about what you specialize in, a photo or two, your hours, and your contact information, put one together. Utilizing ABMP’s easy (and free to members) website builder will allow you to create an appealing, fully functional website in no time.

Many people have brochures about their services or coupons printed for business events ( is what I use, and ABMP members receive a discount). It’s a great way to get new business. Business cards aren’t only great to hand out, but you can put them up on bulletin boards at local coffee houses and health food stores, or leave them with other complementary practitioners. I’ve gotten a lot of business doing this very thing. Take advantage of all the opportunities out there. 

At a mixer I recently attended, I walked in and found a table with nametags, pens, and a sign that said, “Put your marketing material on our affiliate board to your left.” To the left was a corkboard with pushpins that said “Affiliates.” I filled out a nametag and promptly attached my business card, a postcard for my book, and a postcard for my DVD to the board. There were probably 15 other people there by then, but I was the only one who had done it. By the time I left three hours later, even after they made an announcement about the board, only three other people had put up their information—a missed opportunity. 

Following Up

You did an amazing introduction, you handed out your card, and you left the event with 10 business cards of people you met. Now what? Make sure you follow up. It’s pointless to do all this networking if you never reconnect with anyone. And don’t assume they will contact you—many won’t. Within 24 hours, you should send an email saying how great it was to meet them, referencing something specific you talked about, and inviting them to come see you. For example: 

“Hey Beth, it was great to meet you at the chamber’s Business After Hours event. I’m so sorry to hear about your neck pain and I’d love to help. I’ve got time this week if you’d like to schedule an appointment. And for your first visit, I’d like to offer you 10 percent off. Give me a call at 555-1234 or shoot me an email. Take care and I’ll see you soon.” 

You may be thinking, “I work for a spa and don’t have my own practice, should I still do all this?” You bet. Many times spas will give you their cards; you can put your name on them and encourage people to request you. Also, you never know when you will no longer be with that spa. It can’t hurt to let people know you are out there so if you decide to start your own practice or want to do some extra work on your own, you’ll have the connections. (Having said that, make sure you don’t have a noncompete clause with your employer and that it doesn’t appear you’re going behind their back to steal business.) 

Now that you have all this information, where can you find places to use it? First, check out your local chamber of commerce—oftentimes they have mixers and after-hours events where you can put these skills into practice. Most cities also have Leads groups where people of different professions gather to meet and learn about each other’s businesses in order to ensure mutual referrals. The only downside of Leads groups is they prefer if you refer within the group, so if Joe-the-tire-guy refers you, he’s going to expect the same in kind, even if you have your own tire guy you like better, or if Joe is a terrible tire guy. These things must be considered. Explore other opportunities that exist in your community, including business owners groups and other support networks. Be sure to ask your clients and friends if they have any local groups they can recommend. 

Be confident, be prepared, and be your charming self, and you will be successful. 


  Kathy Gruver, PhD, is the host of her own TV series, The Alternative Medicine Cabinet. She is an author, speaker, and practitioner with more than two decades of experience. For more information, visit