In today’s world, education and selling often go together. Often, it is not that people do not want your product, they just don’t know that they need it. Savvy business owners and sales people have moved to hosting educational seminars in order to educate their markets and establish their authority as a market leader.
We have a beautiful and functional seminar room here at YourOffice-Ballantyne so I get to see quite a few seminars. Many of them are very successful. I thought I would write a quick how-to guide for any small business owner or pro-active sales person to use in order to organize a successful seminar.
1. Make it easy on attendees. Too often I see seminar organizers trying to fit a seminar into their schedule or requiring attendees to RSVP via snail mail. You have to make attending your seminar easy. Everyone is busy these days, planning a seminar at dinner time and not offering food is a guaranteed way to make sure your guests can’t wait to get out the door. And there are lots of on-line tools you can use to organize the RSVPs. While the fancy, mailed invite may look good, it doesn’t make replying and attending any easier.
2. Choose the right venue for your guests. Choosing the venue for your seminar is a big decision. You need to make sure the venue will meet the needs of your guests. Is it easily accessible? Is there ample parking? Will attendees feel safe? If the seminar is during a meal, will the venue provide food or help with catering? Don’t just go to the latest hot spot or the nearest space to your office. Find a venue that will work for your guests.
3. Have the Right AV. Nothing is more frustrating as a seminar attendee than to get settled into a seminar only for them to have AV difficulties. Especially when all that is required is a little planning ahead. Know what hardware and software the presenter will need and be prepared. The last thing you need is a presenter showing up with a Mac that won’t connect to your projector.
4. Educate. The worst seminars are those that position themselves as educational and end up being just a sales presentation. If you promise to educate your audience, then you need to deliver on that promise. Don’t use education as the tool to get them there and then just pitch at them once they are in their seats. Educating your audience not only makes the seminar worth their time and effort, it establishes you as an authority and market leader. Even if they aren’t ready to buy now, if you educate them, they will look to you when the time comes.
5. Entertain. The very best seminars not only educate the audience but they also entertain them. Let’s face it, it is HARD to keep somebody’s attention these days. If you don’t want the crowd pecking at their smart phones while you speak, you need to make sure there is some entertainment in the presentation too. An old presentation on “How to use Social Media for Business” can be re-purposed into something a little more lively like “Facebook Horror Stories: Don’t Let Your Business Be The Next One.” With a little humor added to the presentation, you will keep their attention the whole time. Also, it never hurts to entertain with some appetizers or drinks.
6. Make it a Networking Event. Successful seminars not only connect the presenter to the audience, they also connect the audience members to each other. Add some networking elements to your seminar. It could a small “Happy Hour” after the presentation. It could break out sessions into smaller groups. It could be simply asking the audience to introduce themselves or to sit with someone they don’t know. The are a million and 1 icebreakers out there, use them to encourage audience connection.
7. Follow Up & Do It Again. We have a few seminar presenters at YourOffice-Ballantyne that are continually hosting events. The really successful ones not only execute the tips above but they ask their audience for ideas, follow up with them and then host more events. As you follow up with attendees you will learn what they liked and be able to deliver more of it. Then plan your next seminar and follow 1-6 above. You will be a seminar pro in no time!