How to ‘sell’ your HTM routine by Richard Curtis
Watching The Apprentice television show the other night, it struck me that the task they had been given has many similarities to making a good heelwork to music or freestyle routine. On the show they were given the job of coming up with a gourmet fast food and it showed how they developed the idea through to selling it. Having completed a business degree when I was younger I am well aware of the process of taking a product to market.
There was of course a wide range of gourmet foods that the teams could come up with, from pasta to Chinese noodles. This is just the same with a routine as you have a wide choice of music that you can choose from. The apprentice team had to consider what type of food might suit their target market as something which perhaps was not easy to eat on the move was not going to be popular.
This is just like choosing the music for a routine, as you could pick something very familiar which the audience will know or something that is very unknown. The advantages of the well known piece of music is that the audience can join in with it but on the negative side the music may have already been done by other competitors. If you use the unfamiliar music then the audience might not appreciate it as much and if it has a different sound such as techno music then this might put off some of the audience of they don’t appreciate this kind of track.
The teams then had to develop the gourmet food and choose the ingredients. In a routine it is the moves that are the ingredients; the choice of these might well affect the end product. If you do basic moves, ie cheap ingredients, then this will not have a high appeal to the audience or judges. If though like one group you use a couple of expensive ingredients then this will give a better taste to the end product.
Within our routines I tell handlers that they must have a mix of moves with some basics and some moves that you are less likely to see. Especially at the starters level you can stand out from the crowd in your performance if you do a few more advanced moves which the other teams might not be doing. Performing some more technical moves adds a sense of quality to the routine and if you combine this with some nice interpretation of the music then this has to stand a team in good stead.
The teams on the show then had to market the routine, as how you present the product will affect the sales. This is just the same when devising a routine as you want the routine to appeal to the judges who in the end are the ones who will be giving you the scores. The score is really the equivalent to the sales of the product on the programme as the higher the score/sales the better the team would do.
Part of the marketing is how the product is packaged. On the programme they were selling their food from a mobile food trailer. The teams needed to make sure that the trailers were attractive to their target market. If the trailers looked unappealing then this would not get prospective customers to buy their product. When putting together a routine we must think about the overall look of the routine and package it well.
In a HTM/freestyle routine the packaging tends to be the costume and props. If we have chosen a track which has a strong theme then we must somehow within the routine demonstrate that idea and also think about a relevant costume. If we for instance had a routine to Old MacDonald Had a Farm it would look rather odd if someone worked it dressed in a suit as the obvious choice of costume would be to dress like a farmer.
Attention to detail is very important in both marketing a product and formulating a routine. If you have a prop that looks like something made by a three-year-old on Blue Peter then this can give out the signal to the judges that this is a half-baked routine. Another area where it is important to look in detail is the links in the routine as these can affect how the routine flows.
The Apprentice teams then had to go out and sell their products to the people in Scotland. For us in a heelwork to music or freestyle routine we too have to ‘sell’ the routine. If we go out there with a miserable face and plod around the ring shouting commands at the dog then I can almost guarantee that the judges will not be giving you a high score. This means we must at all times when we are in the ring ‘sell’ the routine to the judges and audience.
One of my pieces of advice to people is no matter what is going on, keep smiling. With this sport the judges and audience don’t want to see someone looking cross and bored but would rather see someone enjoying themselves even if it is not going right.
Also on the ‘selling’ of the routine, how we perform or act during the routine may affect the overall appearance. If you are working to a theme-based track then you again need to portray/sell this theme to the judges in your movements. At all times we are looking to ‘sell’ our dog and show it off to its best abilities. The moves should have been picked with this in mind, making sure that the moves the dog does really well are placed in the routine so that the judges can clearly see them.
As usual one of the teams didn’t seem to do as well as the others with their sales. Some of the reasons they didn’t sell as much as they should have could have been location of the trailer, price etc. In a HTM/freestyle routine we might not end up with as high a score as we thought. The reasons for this can be anything from the dog getting distracted through to the handler forgetting the routine.
Of course as with every programme of the apprentice Alan Sugar has to fire someone. I suppose in our sports terms Alan Sugar is the equivalent of the judges but I would hope that our judges are a little friendlier than Lord Sugar! When they are all sitting there before the three members come back for one to be fired, this is just like the time before the awards are announced at a competition.
The major difference of course between The Apprentice and a HTM competition is of course no-one gets fired! Instead a winner is announced but I’m sure the apprentice who has been fired doesn’t feel like a winner when they get that finger pointed at them.
So as you can see our routines are basically a product which needs to be of a good quality, be branded right and presented to the best of our abilities. As with all products they can have a shelf life so if we have been using a routine for a while we might need to reinvent it. This might mean adding in some different moves or starting differently. Basically we need to give the routine a fresh look to attract out customers/audience to it.