Seminars sound like something someone else does. You think of those massive self-help events. People buy a book or enroll in a program afterwards. That's not me. You think of boring college classes where you watch the clock. No, thanks. You think of financial advisors speaking to seven people in a room set with 50 chairs. Spare me.
First, differentiate between two similar ideas:
1. Seminar. You hire the venue, choose the topic, attract the audience, and set the agenda.
Pros: You control the variables.
Cons: You pay the costs and assemble the audience.
2. Speaking engagement. Another group includes you on the agenda for a meeting. You have a timeslot, and the group approves the topic.
Pros: The group supplies the audience, and there are usually no costs.
Cons: The group sets the timeframe, follow-up might be difficult, and your time might get trimmed.
Now, Think Outside the Box
Let's consider 10 types of events where you speak before others.
1. Public seminars. The traditional version. You run ads, send letters, email market, or promote your event on social media. You hire the hall, staff the room, provide food and drink, gather attendee contact information, and follow up afterwards.
Pros: You have control.
Cons: It's a lot of work. You must fill the room. You cover the costs.
2. Warm lead or prospect-based. You build a list of referrals who haven't opened accounts, people you know from the chamber, previous clients, new neighbors, new chamber members, and friends. You invite them personally and follow up beforehand to confirm attendance. Do your friends really know what you do?
Pros: Building the audience is easier. They are more likely to attend.
Cons: You are covering the costs.
3. Client/prospect event. You choose a topic with broad appeal, something topical people need to know about and would otherwise pay to get the information. You invite clients and encourage them to bring a friend as the âprice of admission.â
Pros: Clients are likely to attend. They do the work of filling the room with guests.
Cons: At least half the attendees are already clients. You are covering the costs.
4. Co-branded seminars. You join forces with someone who doesn't compete directly, like a luxury car dealer or financial advisor. Each of you invites your clients. Event expenses are shared. His clients hear your story and vice versa.
Pros: Assembling the audience just got easier. Costs are shared with someone else. His clients hear your story.
Cons: Finding a trustworthy speaking partner who shares your high ethics.
5. Community-school classes. You teach a night-school class at your local adult education center. It addresses an introductory tax subject that appeals to your target audience of small business owners or industry consultants.
Pros: Someone else assembled the audience. Costs are minimal. Some attendees will likely become clients.
Cons: You are teaching a multievening course. This takes time. You must prepare.
6. Religious institution-based. You pick a public service topic, such as identity theft. You offer to present the topic in the religious institution's community hall for interested members of the congregation.
Pros: It's publicized from the pulpit and in the bulletin. Costs are minimal. Your credentials are showcased.
Cons: Follow-up might be hard.
7. Virtual seminar. You secure permission from a professional group whose members have good client potential to contact its membership. You send hard-card invitations or market online. You present a dial-in webinar with PowerPoint slides.
Pros: Attendance is easier because the audience dials in instead of driving. Executives are comfortable with conference-call meetings. Cost is low.
Cons: You must find an agreeable professional group.
8. Professional medical association. You join a local society that is offering associate memberships to those selling professional services likely used by physicians. They buy insurance, lending, and accounting services. You attend meetings and become a dinner speaker. This can work for other industry associations, too.
Pros: Everyone you meet is an ideal prospect.
Cons: Membership costs might be high, you might need to sponsor the dinner, and you will likely become a volunteer to raise your visibility.
9. Clients-only. You are introducing a new service and want to roll it out. You organize a client-recognition lunch, dinner, or reception to thank them for their ongoing business. You introduce your new service.
Pros: Assembling the audience is pretty easy.
Cons: Everyone is a client already. You need a new service that will bring in additional revenue.
10. Executive education. It's not uncommon for senior executives to be connected with a retirement-planning specialist as a company perk. Not everyone qualifies. If you have a client on the inside, you could offer to conduct a series of retirement-planning classes for middle- and senior-level managers.
Pros: Attendees likely qualify as good business prospects.
Cons: Is this your specialty? Are you qualified to address the topic? Offer the right guidance if they want to become a client.
This list only scratches the surface. Your alumni association has possibilities. What about community organizations and service organizations you have joined? What advice can you offer if you live in a company town and layoffs are prevalent? A previous article of mine, 8 Great Ways to Get New Accounting Clients with Public Speaking, is another good resource for ideas.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, Captivating the Wealthy Investor, can be found on Amazon.com.