Most people go to seminars for one of three reasons: they want to gain useful information quickly, they’re looking for an excuse to get out of the office, or they’re required to include training in their schedule.
By offering a seminar of your own, you not only help fit the bill for your attendees (who hopefully fall under the first category), but you also help create or strengthen relationships with your attendees and establish your organization as an authority in your field.
While your company will get plenty of name recognition and publicity for hosting a seminar, you should in no way treat your seminar as one big advertisement. In other words, your purpose should be to educate, not market.
To get your planning underway—and to make sure you keep a proper focus, stick to your goal, and develop a successful seminar—answer the following five questions:
1. What do you want your attendees to learn? Your seminar should focus on one, clearly defined topic. Do your customers have a common, recurring problem you can help them solve? Do members continually ask for advice or help in a certain area of their jobs or activities? Identify your subject, and then identify the best speakers and methods to deliver your information.
2. Who do you want to invite? Your attendee list could include current customers or members, prospects, local businesses, local residents, or even fellow colleagues in your industry.
3. Where do you want to host your event? The least expensive option, of course, is in your office. But if you don’t have a large conference room or sufficient parking, or if your facilities are difficult to find or not easily accessible by public transportation, you may want to considering renting a space. Renting space adds expense and complexity to your seminar, so consider your topic, your seminar length, and your ideal class size when you evaluate your options.
4. When do you want your event to occur, and how long will it last? Timing a seminar can be tricky. If it occurs during mealtime, you’ll need to provide your attendees with food and beverages or at least provide them with time to visit nearby restaurants. If you plan on a full-day’s agenda, you’ll need to work in regular breaks. Traffic during peak hours can be an issue, too. Before you schedule your seminar, be realistic about how much time you’ll need to cover your intended topic, and be mindful of your attendee’s commute.
5. Fee or Free? This is another tricky one. Seminars created for the good of your customers should, by extension, be offered for free. But goodwill does come at a price, especially if you need to rent a space, plan on catering a meal or two, require special equipment, or provide handouts or special materials to your attendees. If you’re uncomfortable adding a price tag but need a little financial support for your seminar, consider offering free registration by a specified date and charging a small fee to those who sign up later.
Offering face-to-face interaction with your market in an educational setting takes planning and patience, but the short- and long-term payoffs could make it an opportunity worth repeating.