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Megan Walker: Hello and welcome to Market Savvy Conversations. Today, our very special guest is Melissa Savonoff, who is a Pediatric OT. Melissa is the CEO of Ricardo Reading Mouse, and also the founder and creator of Handwriting Automaticity Matters. Hi Melissa, how are you?
Melissa Savonoff: Good thanks, Megan. Thanks for having me.
Megan Walker: Oh, so good. And we caught up with Melissa a little bit earlier in the year, when she was fully into the works of creating her online course. And I thought now is a perfect time, she's made so much progress and put so many things in place that I thought let's have another sit down chat and hear how her journey is going. So over to you, Melissa. Do you want to tell us a little bit about Handwriting Automaticity Matters and what it's all about?
Melissa Savonoff: Yes, yes. So I've got a few notes on the side, so excuse everyone who watches the video rather than the audio. So Handwriting Automaticity Matters I designed to equip and empower busy educators, although it's been really great that literacy tutors and also new grad OTs or OTs that are new to pediatrics have also registered to partake in the program, which has been excellent. But it's been designed to have simple evidence-based strategies that can be easily integrated into an already existing curriculum and literacy program for class or home. And really encouraging the support of handwriting even in the digital age, for its benefits neurologically, how it supports learning and memory, and how that helps improve reading fluency and spelling. Because there's lots of programs, obviously for reading and spelling, but the read, write and spell and the power of the written text for enhancing memory and learning is really important.
So developing that automaticity, which is really the automatic knowledge of a letter, just like automatically playing a keyboard or automatically bowling a ball, we have those automatic skills and then it reduces the concentration needed to do it, and you can attend to other things. So it really helps teachers and others that are interested, put that in place simply in the classroom without oodles and oodles of worksheets because the teacher really becomes the resource and the strategies of things that you can implement without hundreds of pieces of paper because you can use blank paper, lined paper, whiteboards, chalkboards, et cetera.
Megan Walker: So good. And I love it that you set out to focus on educators, and as a happy by-product, you've attracted OTs and students and homeschooling and parents as well. And I think that's such an important message for people who are thinking about their online course, they're often sort of thinking, I need to create 12 different courses because I've got 12 different audiences. And it's so much easier, isn't it, would you agree, Melissa, when you've got one course and you think of that one intended audience, but then happily help others who are interested come on board anyway?
Melissa Savonoff: Yes. Yeah, I think that's what I really learned joining Private Practice Online Course Academy is how to focus on one audience. Because when I was creating my course, I was like, "How do I say child, student, your client, and all the language that we would use as a parent, teacher, OT." And for the last 20 years, or, well, actually it's about 18, I've been working privately with children in this space. So often the work that I do individually with a child, then it gets passed on to the parent and they are coached and do it as their home program, and then it filters through to the classroom teacher. But most importantly, the children are with the teacher five days a week, and implementing that in the classroom was really what I decided to target. Because when I've had teachers that I speak with, they're like, "Oh, wow. I can do this with my child who's seeing me privately," if I'm seeing their child. And then whatever strategies I've given them, they can then implement in the classroom.
So yeah, I chose to target educators, and it's so much easier when you're creating a course to have one laser focus, and then other people benefit from it as well. So that was good.
Megan Walker: Great. I love that. Great outcome. And so tell us, what have you put in place this year? Tell us what's 2023 been all about for you?
Melissa Savonoff: Finally getting my course launched. It had been on my my radar for years and my very supportive, encouraging husband had been encouraging me to do it. And I had done a big American online course, as you had, a couple of years ago, but it wasn't focused on allied health and it wasn't focused on Australia. So I was feeling a bit lost in how to put and package, as we shared last time, package our wisdom. And I think that was really important because I didn't want to be salesy in that way, but we have so much experience and knowledge, and I've seen hundreds of children benefit from improving their handwriting and how that flows to punctuation, spelling. And then I'd been learning how important that is with reading, which I'd often left to reading specialists or speech therapists. But now understanding through the research that as an OT, if I'm working on handwriting, I can encourage them with their spelling and how that supports reading, to then be able to discuss with speech therapists, teachers, reading specialists, et cetera.
So yeah, hence it's been interesting for literacy tutors to do as well. But I've put in place the program and the sales page and the free webinars and the webinar template that you did was fantastic, because I had no idea. It was like, "What? How do I sell a program via a webinar? What will I talk about?" And so I think the webinar template was fantastic. So now I've the confidence to do the free webinars, so that's been fantastic. So the course, the sales page, the webinars, the email sequences so that people are cared for and they don't just sign up and wonder who you are and where you are, so that's been really good.
Megan Walker: Oh, good. You've just done so well. And one of the things I love about watching your journey is you are so real and genuine and caring, and you take that through everything that you do.
Melissa Savonoff: Thank you.
Megan Walker: And you're a great example that we can communicate to our prospective students about a program, we can ask them to join if they're interested without that salesy style. Have you felt that your confidence has increased with talking more about your program and inviting people to join as you go along?
Melissa Savonoff: Yes. Yeah. And I think too, something that you said in one of our trainings, to seed our program in our conversation, that we're not just saying, "Oh, yes, what do you do?" "I'm a pediatric OT and I see children with dah, dah, dah, dah, dah." We can also add in that, "Oh, I actually have created an online course for educators to support handwriting." And that opens up a conversation and you're not selling it. But I guess, as you know, working with Allied Health, our core is to help people. So we tend to give away the farm without ... but it is a business that it is something that we live off. So it kind of marries in with our caseload, but then we're earning the income from registrations to help support that. So that's really good. And yeah, we can have that work life balance, I guess. And there's more and more people needing, for me personally, occupational therapists and the curriculum's pushing out handwriting. So to be able to spread the word to more people without exhausting myself is obviously very good for me and for others.
Megan Walker: So important. You've found a way to run yourself through the photocopier and be in lots of places at once with your course. I love that.
Melissa Savonoff: You wouldn't like to see me through a fax. Faxes are gone.
Megan Walker: As daunting as all of that sounds for many people I'm sure who are listening, doing all of that, what have you enjoyed? It's a huge learning curve to take on something new. Have there been moments that you've thought, oh, this is not so bad. I quite like this part.
Melissa Savonoff: Yeah, I think it's been excellent to have the coaching sessions that have been really encouraging, because otherwise you can kind of get a bit lost. Like we were talking in our coaching session on, was it only Wednesday night, to have that accountability and to have the checklist that you've given us and to go, "Okay, so I've done the program. Now what do I do? Oh, free webinars. Okay, free webinars. Oh, that needs a sale page." And you just can work systematically, and I think that really helps to organize and go, "Okay." And I do pencil and paper, I've got my pencil paper diary here.
Megan Walker: Oh, good. Yes.
Melissa Savonoff: So that it helps me sit, I've got the two monitors, so I can have my PowerPoint here, my notes here, and then hard copy there, and I think that that has really helped. So I've enjoyed ticking the box, "Oh, wow. I've done that." And it might be just a little thing like, "Wow, I've done a social media post this week. Great."
Megan Walker: Great. Tick.
Melissa Savonoff: Which I haven't actually this week, I need to do it. It's Wednesday.
Megan Walker: That's a good reminder.
Melissa Savonoff: That's encouraging for people, I think, to hear I actually haven't done a social media post regularly, but my course is still sold to registrants. And I did actually, on Saturday before our implementation workshop, I posted the link for my free webinar in an Australian pediatric OT Facebook group that I'm in in an answer to a comment. Someone was asking for handwriting develop PD courses, and I put the link in, and I'm still continuing to get registrations.
Megan Walker: Fantastic.
Melissa Savonoff: Today I had some, so I just have to set the date because at the moment it says date to be advised.
Megan Walker: Coming soon.
Melissa Savonoff: Coming soon, that's right. So I've done one, as you know, in December, January, then one in June, July. So I'll do another one in, well, it's September now, October, November.
Megan Walker: Soon.
Melissa Savonoff: So that's been really what I've enjoyed, just feeling more organised and having the confidence and the support with yourself. And then enjoyed getting the feedback from the students, my students now, that's exciting to say, in the December, January launch and the June, July of how beneficial it's been. And it makes all those long hours and the angst of tech worth it because you're like, "Oh, wow, this is really helping people." So that's been really rewarding for me.
Megan Walker: That's amazing. And do you feel like you're stepping more into a teaching role now?
Melissa Savonoff: Yes. Yeah. And I really enjoy that because you can share from what you've learned. And I love being able to rely on the evidence because it's not what Melissa says, it's what the evidence says. So I've spent hours getting lots of research, articles, more than what I had when I did the course, because when I've done my two pop-up coaching, which are offered as a bonus, so anyone who's in your program will have heard us talk about that, but if you're not yet, then you'll hear it.
Megan Walker: It's coming.
Melissa Savonoff: That's right. But the two-week pop-up coaching group that I did with a closed Facebook group was excellent because the students could ask me questions, and they were OTs or literacy tutors mainly in that question time. And I could pass on research articles to them, showing about handwriting versus keyboarding or print versus cursive. And it's what the body of literature says that I'm sharing with others and how I've implemented that in my practice, and helps reduce the overload of people spending hours like I have, I can just share what I've spent the hours doing, and that's valuable for them and for me.
Megan Walker: You've created the guide, you've brought it into one place, pardon me, which is amazing. Tell us more about your wins and then as we start to close, I want to hear about what's next, what can your students expect from you?
Melissa Savonoff: Yeah, my wins have been, as we celebrated before, doing the launch, and I think that was wonderful that I actually got the course where you could hit a submit button.
Megan Walker: Yay.
Melissa Savonoff: That's right. And learned Kajabi and am still learning Kajabi and lots of videos. And so encouraging anyone, don't be overwhelmed, you can do it. And with marketing through Megan's support, and so that's been great. And I think that's been a real win actually, seeing your post out there that you've got a course that's available for people to register, and then seeing the registrations come in for people that do your course. And I think that's been really rewarding as a win for me. And I just had a couple of notes. I think that's ... and going beyond the local reach of my own clinical practice has been really encouraging. When you see someone come in and they go, "I'm from an OT from Melbourne, or I'm a tutor from New South Wales," it's like, "Oh, well, that's cool."
Megan Walker: Go on a road show, take a caravan around, visit all of your students.
Melissa Savonoff: Could have a map. Reminds me of my pen pal days. I was writing to pen pals in the '80s, before there was technology.
Megan Walker: And so you've got these beautiful students that you're helping. What are you going to do next? What's your vision for where this is all heading?
Melissa Savonoff: Yeah, I would like to be able to have the say, like you've been teaching us, set two or three free webinars and launches in the year and have it more organised. And to date, for those listening that are on their journey, I haven't actually done any paid Facebook ads because the pixel thing didn't work, so I still haven't got back to that. So through spreading on social media and the groups that I'm and my own networks, that's what has happened so far. So for me next would be to get the Facebook ads working and to have that more bigger audience available to me would be fantastic. And then I've also finished, finally, for those this is encouraging to, I haven't actually had a lead magnet for handwriting, and I've got a two-page guide, discover, now let me read what I've called it, Discover Five Reasons Why Handwriting Improves Reading Fluency and Spelling. And it's a two-page PD that I've put onto my website and there's actually now a clickable button that you can click and download. So yeah.
Megan Walker: Beautiful. And on that note, Melissa, where can everyone go to have a look at what you're doing and help you spread the word about your fantastic drive and focus around pen to paper? Let's get those handwriting skills out there.
Melissa Savonoff: We're claiming handwriting for the digital age. That's right. And for our students. So I have a little mouse, Ricardo Reading Mouse that I've trademarked. So read, write, and spell with Ricardo Reading Mouse. So that's my website, ricardoreadingmouse.com.au. And I think the link might be in the description, will it, Megan? Yeah. So my course is on the courses page, and then you can also click on the link for the free webinars, which when there's not a webinar upcoming, I have the wait list. And then the link is there for my free resource, which will be on my handwriting resources page, and you just scroll down and click the button and that'll be exciting.
Megan Walker: So exciting. Oh, Melissa, thank you so much for sharing your amazing journey. You have put in, you're such a great person to work with because you have that high learn do ratio, like you're a doer.
Melissa Savonoff: That's encouraging. That's encouraging. Sometimes I don't feel like that.
Megan Walker: And you're getting the results.
Melissa Savonoff: That's good.
Megan Walker: No, I love it. I love it. You've committed and you're doing it and it's working. And think of all of those hundreds and thousands of children who are going to benefit from handwriting because you took that big leap of courage, which is no mean feat after doing the way ... working in practice first as a therapist, and that's very traditional training. And to step out of that and look at something new takes huge courage. So thank you for your bravery.
Melissa Savonoff: Well, thank you for holding my hand.
Megan Walker: Anytime.
Melissa Savonoff: Yes, I do really thank you too, Megan, because I know that your heart and your passion is to support us as allied health professionals. And I know people can see your genuineness in that too, and your willingness to share your marketing and your technical expertise, even though you might feel like you're only a step ahead of us with some of the tech, it's been encouraging for us. It's like, if Megan can do it, so can we.
Megan Walker: Yes, anyone can do it. I don't have your beautiful allied health brains. I've got the marketing side. But it's such an interesting evolution. I mean, I worked traditionally helping practices do their marketing, as you know, for 15 years before I set into online courses. And the burnout rate was just so high. So when COVID hit and we moved so much to digital, and then the opportunity came for online courses, I was all in because I thought there is a limit on income, particularly if you're one or two people in a practice, you can only sell so many hours in the day. It's exhausting. It's hard to take breaks. And so people were coming to me saying, "Oh, I need marketing help. I need more patients. Oh, hang on. No, I don't. Now I've got too many. I'm swamped. Now I'm desperate. I need more." And this stop start ...
Melissa Savonoff: Cycle.
Megan Walker: Turn it off, burnout. So if the online course can help alleviate that, even for practices who want to have a portion of revenue with that and still see some people traditionally, I just see it as such a golden opportunity for practice owners and if I can help, I'm here.
Melissa Savonoff: That's right.
Megan Walker: I'm willing and able.
Melissa Savonoff: That's right. That Digital CEO, like you've encouraged us, it's good. And the rural remote community too don't have as much access to therapists, particularly. So I know with the telehealth move and whatnot, having online courses is really wonderful because they can do it self-paced. They can do it in their own home and then support whomever they're caring for in their rural remote area. So that's really excellent too.
Megan Walker: Brilliant. Well, I hope for everyone listening that you can help spread the word about Melissa's fabulous work. Thank you so much again, Melissa, and I look forward to speaking with you very soon.
Melissa Savonoff: Yeah, thanks, Megan. Bye. Thanks everyone.
Megan Walker: Bye.
Links and further information
Find out more at: https://ricardoreadingmouse.com.au/ and learn about Melissa's online course "Handwriting Automaticity Matters" - Simple, evidence-based instruction to help improve your students’ handwriting and overall literacy abilities!
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