Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Seminar Planning - The Themed Event

I often get requests for suggestions for themed events. These types of events are very popular for seminars and client appreciations because they add a touch of fun. I wouldn’t recommend them for every situation but certainly, if a themed event is done well and professionally, it can show your audience your creativity, personality and attention to detail.

Here are some ideas for themes:

  • Baseball (or a sport that is currently in season)
  • Golf
  • Hollywood or a particular movie (Indiana Jones)
  • Travel or select a particular country
  • Casino
  • Western
  • Island – Hawaii or Caribbean
  • Holidays such as July 4th – stay clear of religious holidays
  • Rock and Roll of the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s

Themes can be carried out in invitations, food, d├ęcor and attire. Check party rental stores, party stores and even toy stores for ideas and props. Keep your event professional and in good taste, no matter what theme you select.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Seminar Planning - Marketing with Direct Mail

Today I received an “invitation” to an asset protection seminar. At first, I didn’t even realize it was an invitation. It has some questions and answers about personal estate planning on one side and names, dates and locations of a seminar on the other. The invitation said nothing about the presenter, who, I assume is a lawyer since the return address is a law firm.

Will I consider attending? No. First, none of the questions posed pertain to me. The sender probably asked for a very general list of names and addresses in my zip code. Second, who is presenting this seminar and why would I believe what they were saying? I’ve never heard of them. Third, the invitation is poorly done, disorganized and unclear.

Having critiqued this invitation, I’ll ask those of you who are using direct mail to get attendees a few questions:

  • Are you using your own list or are you purchasing one that has been customized to reach your specific target market?
  • Have you established yourself as an expert in your field so people will know, like and trust you enough to attend your seminar?
  • Have you invested the time and money it takes to create a mailer that reinforces your professional image?

If you said “yes” to all of these, you are on your way to having a successful seminar filled with qualified attendees ready to spend their money on you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Seminar Planning - Finding Venues

Speakers often ask me for ideas for places to hold their seminars. They want to use something besides hotels and restaurants. There are actually many different types of venues you can rent at a variety of prices. Here are some ideas for you:

  • Ballparks and Stadiums - Parks and stadiums, such as AT&T Park, http://sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com/sf/ballpark/giantsenterprises/plan_your_event.html Dodger Stadium, http://losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/la/ballpark/stadium_rentals.jsp and Fenway Park http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/ballpark/events/index.jsp. allow rental of their spaces for events.

  • Community Centers - Check with Parks and Recreation departments to find event space. Many have lower rates during the week since weekends are reserved for weddings and other large social events.

  • Conference Centers - Some cities have these facilities which were constructed just for meetings and seminars.

  • Country Clubs - These are not just for social events, I've seen financial planning seminars, real estate investment seminars and business networking groups have successful events at country clubs.

  • Cruise Ships - There are cruise companies that do lunch or dinner events on their ships as they cruise the area.

  • Libraries - Larger community libraries often have meeting rooms that can be rented for seminars.

  • Mansions and Estates - Older homes often are now open for seminars and events.

  • Movie Theaters - The Cineplex in my area advertises their theaters for events. Great if you need auditorium-sized space.

  • Museums - Many museums rely on events as a source of revenue and have event coordinators onsite who can help you.

  • Universities and colleges - While you investigate renting their space, find out if they need speakers for their programs. Many speakers make a very good living doing presentations to students which are paid for by the schools.

  • Wineries - Beautiful settings, not just for for social events.

There are websites with lists of event sites, here are two to visit http://www.uniquevenues.com/, http://www.agendaonline.com/venues/,

Check with Convention and Visitors Bureaus in the cities you want to hold your events for additional ideas. Also, if your subject matter is appropriate, contact churches and medical centers for event space.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Seminar Planning - The Budget

Have you set a seminar budget yet?

Setting a budget at the start of your seminar planning process will help you make important decisions, including the type of marketing you can do and the venue you can afford. If you have held seminars before, you’ll have a good idea of how much money you can allocate to each area by reviewing your past expenses. If this is your first seminar, you will need to do some research to create a realistic budget. Get estimates for marketing, advertising, the venue and all costs related to the on-site services, audio/visuals, travel, costs involved with having a back-of-room sales area, staffing and follow-up mailings and calls. Take each category, break it down into details and get estimates for each item.

Don’t try to rush through this step. Having a budget that helps you spend wisely will make it easy for your seminar to be a financial success.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Seminar Planning - Trimming the Cost of Food and Beverage

Are you serving a meal at your seminar? If you are, you’ll notice the cost of food and beverage can be quite high. You don’t want to be stingy when it comes to food, doing so will certainly leave a bad impress on your audience. Here are some suggestions on how you can keep costs relatively low:
  • Use a caterer or a venue with moderately priced menus or one willing to create menus that work within your budget
  • If you are having a sit-down meal, don't have too many courses
  • Generally speaking, breakfast is less expensive than lunch or dinner so start your seminar early in the day. If you still need two meals, serve a full breakfast and a light lunch.
  • Don't serve bottled water
Most important of all, plan and book your seminar as early as possible. This will give you more time to negotiate lower costs not only for food and beverage but for all of the services you require.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Seminar Planning - Your Target Market

Determine your target audience very early in your seminar planning process. Be very specific as to who you want to attend your event. By this I mean going beyond selecting the age, gender, marital status, financial status and profession that many people do. Go deeper into the minds of your prospective clients.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is their pain?
  • What problem are they trying to solve?
  • What information do I have that can help them?

Knowing the answer to these questions will help you plan an effective marketing campaign and design a presentation that will meet the needs of your audience.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Planning A/V for Your Seminar

Your A/V requirements can impact your budget and help you determine whether or not a venue is right for your seminar. Your goal is to present a professional presentation at a venue that lets you use the technical tools you require while you stay within your budget.

Here are some things to consider when planning your seminar:
  • If you plan to use your laptop to show a presentation on Power Point, do you own a projector and screen? If so, will the venue let you bring them in? Is the equipment appropriate for the size of the venue and audience? For instance, the projector and screen you use for meetings in your office conference room may not be adequate for a presentation to more than 50 people. If you don’t have equipment, will you rent them from the venue or an outside vendor? How much do they charge? Do you know how to set these up the equipment? If not, you may need to hire an A/V engineer.

  • Are you planning to use a microphone? Will you need to have a microphone in the audience for a Q&A session? Again, find out if you need to rent these things from the venue or can use an outside vendor. You may also need a sound engineer.

  • Will you record or videotape the event? If so, can you bring in your own equipment or must you rent from the venue? Are there union regulations about who you can hire to do the work or can you use your staff? Also, is there enough room to set up recording and camera equipment without creating a safety hazard?

  • If your presentation requires access to the Internet; check to make sure it’s available in the room and ask if there is a charge. You can always use screen captures instead of a live link if you can’t get reliable access at a good price.