Seminars enable you to create an environment where you are positioned as an expert. It’s a way to prove yourself worthy of your attendees’ trust and eventually their business.
Doing the right work before and after the seminar ensures it won’t ruin your reputation or your finances.
You must be organized, thorough and creative. And you must be all these things before, during and after your seminar.
Focus on answering three questions:
» Who is my target audience?
» Which of their concerns could I effectively solve?
» What products would I actually use to solve their problems?
Your attendees should include a mix of current clients, referrals and total strangers. By blending current and prospective clients, you allow your current customers’ positive comments to build the confidence of prospects who have never benefited from your services.
Current clients also can be a valuable source of additional prospects, because they might ask interested friends to join them. Over time, this can provide you a pool of prequalified prospects you might otherwise have overlooked.
Once you have determined your audience, you are ready to plan the specifics.
Schedule and Location
You should allow about six weeks between the day you determine your audience and the date your seminar will be held.
Don’t schedule it immediately before or after a holiday. It will cut into your attendance and make follow-up appointments difficult to plan.
An important step in planning your seminar is determining its location. Select a venue that is centrally located for your audience and has plenty of free parking.
You should also determine the seminar length. The presentation itself will take about an hour. Allow time for mixing after engaging in questions and answers.
Once you have secured your location, take a moment to visualize how the seminar will actually come off.
Put yourself in the attendee’s shoes and ask yourself the following:
» What will your first impression be?
» What path will you take to the room?
» Will there be signs?
» Where will you hang your coat?
» Are there name tags? Do guests fill them out or does the presenter? Are the name tags on a table at the doorway, or are they inside the room?
» How will you be greeted?
» What will be at your place when you sit down? Will there be a printed workbook, a pencil, a beverage?
Now turn the tables and imagine yourself as presenter. Ask yourself the following:
» Are you standing behind a podium?
» Is there a screen behind you? Is it directly behind you or to the side? Is the material on the screen easy to read? Does the room have to be darkened for maximum legibility? How do you turn off the lights?
» Do you have a pointer?
» Is there a microphone stand or clip-on mic? Where are the amplifier and sound controls?
» What materials are at your fingertips? Can you reach them quickly and smoothly?
Try to think of everything you will need to make your guests comfortable and effectively present the material. Then think of everything that could go wrong and plan a backup.
After the invitations are sent, handle all incoming telephone confirmations personally. Suggest to callers that they are free to bring a friend. Ask whether they have any suggestions on a possible topic you should cover.
After each attendee confirms, mail or email a brief follow-up. Type a short master letter or email, be sure to confirm the reservation and reiterate the location. Close this letter by saying you are anxious to see the attendee, and are confident they will find the information valuable.
About three days before the seminar, call every respondent a second time. Briefly remind them of the seminar, and tell them you’re looking forward to seeing them. Make certain they know how to find the location.
Most successful seminars actually begin the evening before their scheduled start. This is when you go over your checklist and make sure every item has been addressed. It’s also a good time to take a quiet moment to walk through everything in your mind.
As you do your mental walk-through, every detail you visualize should be accounted for and in place. If you think of any loose ends, resolve them now.
Another item to address the day before is how you will open and close your presentation. Tailor your remarks to your specific audience. If you will rely on an icebreaker or a humorous anecdote to get started, write it down word for word. Then get a good night’s sleep.
If you have any appointments on the day of your seminar, make certain they can be wrapped up well before it begins. You should make sure you arrive at the site at least an hour before your scheduled start time.
Before you leave for the seminar, do two things. First, take another look at your final checklist and be sure everything you need is either at the site or in your trunk. Second, make sure an associate is available to field any last-minute calls from attendees.
If possible, have a second associate come with you. They can help greet guests and can serve as backup to help everything go smoothly. Be sure everything in the room is set up at least 30 minutes in advance.
If you are using directional signs, make sure they are in place. Check the microphone, sound levels, room lighting and projector. Arriving early will also give you a chance to relax and to greet any guests who arrive early.
Here are some suggestions to help assure your presentation goes off without a hitch.
» Be cordial. Many attendees may be afraid they’ll be a captive audience for a 60-minute sales pitch. Put their fears to rest. Today, you’re in the information business. Your mission is to demonstrate your ability to solve their problems, period.
» Warm up. About 10 minutes before your presentation’s scheduled start, begin nurturing a warm, friendly environment. Casually ask your attendees one-on-one about their families, etc. Make sure everyone has all the materials they will need for the next hour.
» Have your associate take attendance. You’ll want a record of who attended. The attendees also can record their names on questionnaires. You can collect them at the end.
» Start on time. End on time. Get the ball rolling by referring to the diversity of your audience. Contrast that with their common problems — the ones you will address. Tell them you will show how others have confronted and resolved these problems with your professional guidance. Tell your audience you hope they will similarly rely on you as future clients. Then launch into your presentation.
» Refer to your handouts. Your support materials should emphasize and expand on the points you will drive home in your presentation. Be sure to mention them during your presentation so your audience realizes how valuable they are.
» State your conclusion unequivocally. You’ve identified problems and concerns shared by the attendees. You’ve given actionable solutions to those concerns. Remind your audience that their individual problems and concerns are unique. You are confident you have demonstrated that you can be counted on for creative solutions to your audience’s individual challenges.
Make sure your guests receive a questionnaire and a request for additional information. At the end, ask them to take a moment and fill it out. Let them know you will review all the questionnaires immediately afterward and promise to call each participant within 48 hours.
Don’t ask your audience, “Does anyone have any questions?” Those five words will bring the momentum you’ve built to a screeching halt. The time for individual questions will occur as you mingle after the presentation.
Your associate should give you a cue to let you know your scheduled time is ending. This will allow you to keep focused on your guests, not your watch. When you reach the end, thank your guests. Let them know they can remain to ask questions or call you tomorrow. Then immediately move to a position from which you can shake each attendee’s hand and thank them as they leave the room. If you promised each guest a gift, hand it to them individually.
When the last guest has left, stand at the podium and imagine the room as it had been a few minutes earlier. Recall the faces and names of your guests, and jot down or record anything you can remember about them, including specific concerns they might have voiced.
During your seminar, you worked hard to establish a relationship with your guests. Maintain that feeling of trust by calling them personally to set their appointment times. Be sure to make all follow-up calls within the time frame promised, usually 48 hours.
The day after you set up an appointment, send each client a brief written confirmation. Create an agenda for your follow-up appointments that suits your presentation skills and each client’s temperament. A typical meeting might go something like this:
:00-05 — The meeting begins on time.
:05-35 — Spend time listening. Review the information the client furnished on the questionnaire. Let the client fully explain their specific concerns or questions.
:35-55 — Review the solutions you have available. Don’t overwhelm the client with product specifics or dazzle them with charts and illustrations. Suggest that the client’s concerns are solvable and that you can think of a number of ways to solve them. Cite specifics as part of a framework of general ways you can serve their big-picture strategy. This way, if a client balks at a specific recommendation, you can retreat and regroup with another plan.
:55-60 — If you feel comfortable, do a trial close. Otherwise, conclude the meeting by promising to get in touch with hard numbers and concrete suggestions within the next 48 hours. This will give clients the breathing room they may need to consider your plan and accept your suggestions.
Good luck and good selling.