Maxing Out Seminar Success

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Received an email recently about how to maximize the effectiveness of conducting a marketing seminar to produce better results. Indeed, many of you over the years have had poor returns from what can be a large investment of time and resources in doing seminars.

Here are the questions that were asked, and my answers. I think you will find the questions intuitive and the answers of value:

Q: "Is it best to hold it in the accountant’s office space? Is it better to try to get a sponsoring organization? If you start by inviting clients does that change the answer?"

A: I prefer a co-sponsored seminar off-premises in a location people are going to want to go to. There are too many distractions in the office.

Earlier in the year I did such an event with an estate attorney, a banker and a financial planner. We all invited people, including clients of course, asking they bring along their buddies. It was for breakfast at a country club. You have to serve something. I have seen accounting firms serve water, and it sends a negative message.

We had a real nice turnout and I picked up some great clients. From my experience in local marketing and with clients, mornings before work seem a winner. That way we aren't tearing into their day.

I did attend a social marketing seminar luncheon sponsored by the local chamber last week and it was very well attended with a catered lunch. It was heavily marketed by the chamber, which has an active membership.

Unfortunately, you have to experiment with these kinds of things and see what others are doing and how it is working for them. I did a lot of evening seminars as promos years ago; they worked outstandingly well, but that was in Chicago, before computers and TIVO (how did we survive?).

A great source for tapping into other firms’ success stories is the Association for Accounting Marketing.

Q: "How long should your presentation be? I always estimate about 2 minutes per PowerPoint slide, so I’m thinking avoiding the 12 slides runs about a half an hour. Is that too long?"

A: No! It is perfect. That is exactly how long my presentation is. 30 to 45 minutes is ideal as long as it is lively and valuable. 5 minutes is too long if conducted in a drone by a technician with no personality.

Q: "In terms of Q & A, what’s the best way to handle that? Encourage during the presentation? Ask people to wait and then take questions? Hand out cards to encourage follow up of questions not asked? "

A: I always have handouts (not my slides) pages to take notes. First page in the handouts has some questions to get their concerns on the table, and create an involved audience.

That's how I start the seminar. Seminar selling is impossible without audience involvement. I encourage questions and comments during the program, knowing there is limited time to answer them, but it adds to the spice of the moment and makes others interested.

Recently I conducted a tax update seminar at a local organization of business executives and discussed how the tax on dividends is scheduled to go up 164% for some people after January 1, 2011. I concluded that section by asking the audience, “Why don’t we just send them 100% of our income and let them send back what they think we deserve? Isn’t that the way this looks to be heading?”

Out of 200 people, two sitting together came back with “It’s only fair to take more from the rich.” That turned into a quite lively, short discussion with the audience doing the discussing!

Often, by the end of a seminar, the audience just wants to get out of there and you are left with dead space, not a winner. If handled correctly as we have discussed in this blog, you will have a line of people waiting for you immediately after closing with business cards in their hands saying, “We need to talk.”

For a complete step-by-step primer on how to get targeted people to your seminar, what to do before, during and after the seminar to create optimum sales opportunities, you can reference Best Practices of Marketing Professional Services sold on Amazon.

Allan S. Boress, CPA, CVA is the author of 12 published books on marketing, selling and managing the business development process for CPAs. The "I-Hate-Selling" Book is available at


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