March 29, 2023

Why every client service professional needs to try swing dancing

Olivia Citak

Associate Project Manager

Imagine you’re in a room full of strangers. As a live band picks up their instruments for their second set, people around the room quickly pair up and rush to the dance floor, anticipating what song may be ahead. Will it be classic jazz, moody blues, or perhaps even a brassy take on a modern pop hit? As music fills the room, so does the sound of feet echoing in perfect syncopation with the music. Each couple has their own style, yet the crowd seems to move as one. 

As the song ends, each person gives a quick nod and a “thank you” and then moves on to find their next dance partner. No one has an assigned partner; they often meet for the first time when they ask for a dance. 

This simple social exchange has helped me put an abundance of professional skills into practice. Let me tell you why. 

Leading… and backleading 

Each set of partners consists of a lead and a follow. From the onlooker’s perspective, the lead determines the steps and the moves of the dance, but when you look closely, you may notice that the follow often is “backleading.” Backleading is a way of silently communicating to your dance partner about how you’d like to dance. It’s a subtle push and pull that takes the dance to the next level by working together toward each dancer’s strengths. 

Like in dancing, account managers may have moments of leading and following different clients, but a key differentiator in enhancing a client-agency relationship is learning how to backlead. By following the client’s vision but giving a little push in the right direction, you can work as a team to come up with the most optimal results. 

Following the music

Social dancing is all about improvisation. In contrast to line dancing or performance dancing, you never know exactly how a song will go until it’s over. It’s important to listen to the music, your lead (or follow), and improvise to bring it all to life. 

Like in dancing, advertising requires you to stay on your toes and improvise. Whether it's jumping on the latest social trend or responding with grace to client feedback, having an open mind and a ready attitude is vital in the agency world. 

Making the ask 

There are no rules about who asks who on the dance floor, so if you want to dance, you have to ask someone! Mustering up the courage to ask someone to dance has helped me build confidence at the office too. 

Presenting a new idea to a client or colleague, especially one that could cost additional money, can make your palms sweat. The first step is building up the confidence to put yourself out there. You never get a “yes” if you don’t ask in the first place, and if this round is a “no,” there’s always another opportunity around the corner. As they all say, “practice makes perfect,” so whether you hone your skills on the dance floor or around the office, by practicing with small asks, you can build confidence for when a bigger proposal comes your way. 

So now I’m asking you… Would you like to dance?

You're in! No secret handshake required.
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