For many Financial Advisors, putting on a seminar is daunting yet presenting a seminar should be easy. Attendees should sense a relaxed atmosphere; be surrounded by a comfortable, interested audience; and see a confident speaker delivering an informative presentation. Creating a successful seminar experience, in which the participants are not distracted from the important information they came to hear, takes preparation, practice, and plenty of fine-tuning.
One way to help create a winning event is to learn from the mistakes and successes of other financial advisors and seminar presenters. Here are some easy do’s and don’ts that may help improve the response to your next event.
Best Practice #1:
DO serve a meal, preferably dinner. A dinner event will almost always result in stronger attendance than one that does not include a meal. This doesn’t mean that no one will attend a seminar featuring lunch or refreshments only (appetizers, wine and cheese, soda and cookies, desserts, etc.), but if you are trying to generate the most prospects possible through your seminar, serve a full dinner. (Plus, some of your attendees may have missed lunch that day and will be starving throughout your presentation if you don’t provide a meal — so remove the barrier.)
DON’T charge your prospects for attending the seminar.
Best Practice #2:
DO choose the right restaurant. A nice restaurant is the preferred dinner location. Country clubs and hotel banquet rooms can be used, but generally will not generate the same response as a restaurant that is popular in your target community. As the Financial Advisor putting on the event, the location will reflect on you, so choose a nice steak house, an upscale seafood or Italian restaurant, or a restaurant where you would gladly take your family, as long as the menu would appeal to a wide range of tastes. (Avoid restaurants that serve family style.)
DON’T hold dinners at convention centers, libraries, or your office.
Best Practice #3:
DO choose a start time that appeals to your audience. If most of your prospects are likely to be working people, early evening is typically best, usually around 6:30 p.m. Starting too early could exclude some attendees who will be coming from work. Starting too late can cause problems for people who don’t want to be out late during the week. It’s okay to start a little earlier if you are marketing to retirees because they may not have work conflicts and will appreciate not having to navigate a dark parking lot late at night. If you are presenting in an area where the residents have longer commute times, try to factor that into your selected start time.
DON’T expect working people to leave work to attend your event, or for prospects of any age to attend a seminar event that ends later than 8:30 p.m.
Best Practice #4:
DO choose the right day of the week. The best presentation days are Tuesday and Thursday. Wednesdays also work well if you are in an area where the residents do not routinely attend church services on Wednesday evenings.
DON’T hold seminars on weekends, on holidays, on the same dates as major sporting events, or on election days.
Best Practice #5:
DO make it easy for prospective attendees to make reservations. Reservation call-ins should be handled by a live contact and made available 24 hours a day. Answering machines can leave the prospective attendee uncertain and will diminish response.
DON’T entrust your precious reservations to someone who cannot intelligently answer basic questions about the event.
Best Practice #6:
DO use an appealing direct-mail invitation. Use color on your invitation and envelope so they stand out from other mail in the recipient’s mailbox. If possible, add the restaurant logo to the outside of the envelope. Use an affixed stamp, not an “indicia,” so that your invitation looks professional and official.
DON’T cut corners on your invitation. This is your first chance to make an impression with prospective clients. You want them not only to notice you but to have a positive first impression.
Some of the best Financial Advisors have seminars down to a science. Take advantage of the collective knowledge to avoid common mistakes and give your event the best possible chance of success.