Ballroom and Business with ChatGPT

Having started with ChatGPT this week, I must say I’m having a blast; I suspect it’ll come to enjoy a place in my life as a supremely useful tool. Sure, it has its limitations, but so does every other kind of software. Anyway, I asked it about becoming a ballroom instructor and starting a business giving dance lessons, and it gave some boilerplate starting-a-business advice (probably because all the websites, say, a Google search would hit are the same places it got its data from!). It said I should develop my skills, get certified, create a business plan, build a network, and stay organized. I asked it a follow-up question: “Do you have some more tips with regard to such an endeavor?”, and that’s when things got a bit more interesting:

Creating a website is low-hanging fruit for not just ballroom dance but in a mind-boggling variety of business fields that are not stereotypically very “online”; a surprisingly large fraction of businesses and freelancers don’t even have websites, let alone good ones. Utilizing social media platforms to share video of the results you get and the times you have is also low-hanging fruit very few pick, at least in my area. Trial lessons…eh. Providing excellent customer service might seem like boilerplate advice, and it kinda is, but it’s also rather surprising just how rare it is. If you adopt these four tips, coupled with its answers to my first question, you’ll be in pretty good shape!

The tip to attend professional development workshops is interesting, because ChatGPT tells me to attend “workshops, conferences, and seminars”. In ballroom world we do indeed have workshops (I’ve gone to quite a few myself), but “conferences” and “seminars” just aren’t a thing (meanwhile, “coaching” is a big thing in my field that it totally missed); methinks our friendly computer drew on some data from other professions and businesses than ballroom to get this answer, especially considering it wants me to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques (which, unlike in some fields, isn’t all that important to do in ballroom instruction).

The last tip to partner with other businesses to offer joint promotions or cross-promote each other’s services is a possibility I hadn’t considered. Not sure what I’d do specifically with that little computer-generated brainstorm, but I found it interesting.

When I followed up for more tips, it generated these six bits of advice, every single one of which my own teacher currently does and which I always intended to do when I followed in their footsteps. So far so good?

I then asked it for more tips and suggestions. I didn’t just want boilerplate; I wanted some advice I hadn’t heard before! It gave me this:

Specializing…blech; in my experience focusing on one specific type of dance doesn’t help in any truly compelling way, and I’m a natural generalist, so that’s out.

Building a community by organizing social events like dance parties…oh, I’ve partaken in that on the student end myself, and it’s great! Outings to local performances or charity events? Now that’s an interesting concept, one that doesn’t seem to be a thing in the part of ballroom world I’m familiar with, but I could see it being very effective.

Establishing a unique brand? Meh; that’s practically business boilerplate again. Leverage technology? Virtual lessons are commonplace, though in my experience scheduling apps are not. Lots of possibilities in this area.

Partnering with other businesses makes an appearance, but this time with the suggestion that I partner with wedding planners, event venues, or fitness studios; that too doesn’t really seem to be a thing among instructors in my circle, but I’ve at least heard of local people doing all these things successfully.

And the less said about “safety protocols” for the “COVID-19 pandemic” the better (your 2021 cut-off date is showing, ChatGPT…).

Before I had to reload the answer to get this one (because it cut out midway), ChatGPT suggested I do a referral program, which together with the ideas for outings interested me enough to ask it a follow-up question.

I’ve actually never heard of ballroom instructors offering referral discounts, but it might prove an effective tactic. As for unique experiences to build closer relationships, the first tip to organize dance trips out-of-town is interesting, considering it’s basically what I’ve done myself a few times, only with some students in tow!

Hosting a dance retreat at a vacation home or retreat center offering dance classes, workshops, and social activities sounds totally awesome; sounds kinda expensive too, but I guess in this world you get what you pay for. An idea for when I have more money to work with?

Hosting social events like movie nights is an interesting idea; sounds like it would appeal to TCM Backlot types…which probably have a lot of overlap with ballroom dance students? Hmm…

Private lessons and customized choreography so instruction can be tailored to the student’s specific needs and goals sounds too familiar…but hey, if it worked on me it should work on others, right? Hehe.

I asked it for some more suggestions:

The first suggestion is really cool; outings to historical landmarks, museums, and outdoor locations. And so obvious it’s kinda weird I’ve never heard of it before. The fourth suggestion to bring in “guest teachers” (ChatGPT seems unaware the term of art is “coaching”…) is almost too familiar, as is the second suggestion to compete with a student.

I’ve never seen an instructor proactively reach out concerning a significant event in a student’s life (along the lines of “do you have any occasions or events coming up where you might want a special dance to celebrate?”), but I’ve seen many cases where the third suggestion was put into practice when the student brought it up. Indeed, it seems people most often come to ballroom teachers to learn to dance for weddings or to spice up their marriages/relationships (usually with the woman all enthusiastic about the idea of being danced around and the man tagging along not-so-enthusiastically).

Organizing fundraising events might be interesting, though it was basically mentioned before (once you drill down with ChatGPT it tends to become a bit repetitive as it exhausts the data it’s summarizing and starts to go around in circles). Undeterred, I asked it for some more suggestions:

The second tip repeats the dance workshops idea, and the fifth tip, organizing showcases or performances, is a bit too familiar, though instructors in my orbit don’t tend to be too proactive about it. The third tip, organizing dance parties, is repetitive, but ChatGPT adds a suggestion to do themed parties. The first suggestion, flash mobs, isn’t really my style, but it is an interesting option that’s escaped my memory. The really interesting tip is the fourth one, where it tells me to take students to Paris, Buenos Aires, or (and this one would ruffle the most feathers where I live!) Cuba. I wanted more, more, more!

*sigh* Dance retreats crop up again, as do fundraisers. I was wondering if it even knew about dance cruises, since I’ve heard a lot about them (and personally know some people who host them), but there it was! I’m pretty sure organizing such a thing as that will be beyond my ken for some time to come, but it is a good suggestion. Introducing students to cultural dances from around the world and organizing workshops or performances that showcase dances from different regions isn’t something I’ve even heard of, and after ChatGPT suggested it I can’t help but wonder why I haven’t!

The really intriguing suggestion, however, is offering photography or videography sessions for students to capture their dance journey (and, I might add, show off on social media), which I find nothing short of brilliant. Quite well-suited to me, since I’m actually pretty good at photography and videography (professional help could be called in, of course, if needed or wanted).

I then got to thinking about the possibilities for integrating other forms of art with the art of dance, and asked ChatGPT about that:

Now that’s really interesting. A lot of suggestions I love, and that I basically never see anybody actually do. At this point ChatGPT seems to have decided I’m opening a ballroom dance studio, which I’m not (but maybe I should?). But anyway, I’ve been to enough parties with live music to know dancing to it is great. Showcasing local artists’ work in my studio is an excellent suggestion, and frankly I find it bizarre that local emerging artists’ work isn’t featured a la an art galley as decor in any of the studios I go to; it’s low-hanging fruit! If I had a studio I’d pick it today!

Organizing art exhibits or gallery openings that incorporate dance performances is a really interesting idea, though I doubt there are enough such events where I live to make it more than a once-in-a-blue-moon sort of thing (ChatGPT must think I live in its hometown of San Francisco…).

Collaborations with the theater scene and the like are perhaps obvious, and relatively common even in my orbit. Film screenings of cinema that showcases dance as an art form would be a cool sort of event to have at a studio, one I’d never even thought of before ChatGPT suggested it. Creative writing workshops for students to express themselves and perhaps reflect on their dance journey would also be phenomenal. Another suggestion that plays to my strengths, since I’m also good at and interested in writing.

Another suggestion that was from a different chat with the AI program was for me to start an investment advice business that caters specifically to ballroom dancers. Frankly, the regulatory requirements, expense, and liability risks seem too steep a hill for me to climb for the time being, but it’s an idea I’ll have on the shelf. By this point we’re up to me being not just a ballroom instructor but a veritable Renaissance Man! Heh.

I asked ChatGPT for more suggestions for integrating other art forms, and here’s what it gave me:

Photography exhibits is basically a subset of the “turn the studio into an art gallery too” concept, and the spoken word performances are another repetitive suggestion, as is the art installations idea. Painting or drawing sessions sound great, though; again, another suggestion that plays to my strengths, that might prove very popular, and that basically nobody else is doing now in the context of learning dance.

The one that really jumps out at me, though, is costume design workshops, for students to learn about the art of creating dance costumes, with me collaborating with local fashion designers and costume makers to offer more advanced workshops, which sounds like a totally awesome thing to do.

I asked it for some more suggestions twice, but they were all rather repetitive of earlier ideas. Nevertheless, the reported strengths of ChatGPT as a summarizer of information and as a brainstorming aid are no exaggeration. Already it’s helped me with titles for some unpublished stories, has shown good performance when it comes to giving me suggestions for baby names for my future children (it’s at least a pleasant an experience as trudging through Nameberry…), and has thrown at me some great possibilities for a dance instruction business I had not even considered before and certainly couldn’t have found through, say, a Google search (I know; I’ve tried!). And I have a feeling that’s just the start.

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