Events and Seminars - How to put together a successful event no matter what size firm you are

Many practitioners think that marketing and running events or seminars is something that only the bigger firms can do.There is also a myth that you need an in-house marketing specialist to organise such things and a big budget.Listed below are my own top tips which I know work from personal experience in practice.

I would recommend that even the smallest of firms has a marketing plan that includes running events and seminars and details how you will keep existing clients happy whilst detailing how you will win new clients.

Every firm should also put together 'A Top 100 target list' of contacts and firms who they want to have as clients. The majority of any marketing effort should then be focused on these people and it is this list you want to come to your events.

Planning and homework before organising an event

  • Think about a subject matter for your event or seminar. Try and make it something 'not too technical and dry' as this isn't very appealing to a wider audience.
  • There are some good business development resources on the market which can be readily adapted to use for a seminar.Similarly, tax planning is always a popular topic.
  • Decide who you want to invite from existing grade A and B clients and those targets from your Top 100 list.
  • Get your PA on Board and give them responsibilty in organising the event for you.This will save you time and a good PA will deal with the detail that you may forget.
  • Set a suitable date and allow yourself planning time.Remember that August is when most peole are on holiday or thinking about cricket ! Choose a month and time when you know people will be interested in listening to you.September is often a popular month as people have a 'start of the new school year' mentality and want to progress their plans before Christmas.By contrast, don't plan anything for December as it's either party season or pre January deadline panic.
  • The main objective of holding any type of event is to raise your profile as a firm, provide a better service to your valued clients and act as a showcase for potential new clients and referral sources. With this in mind, you should really consider running a programme of seminars and events- even if it is only every other month or quarterly.
  • It takes time to spread the word and for people to see your event as helpful and a regular thing.For this reason, plan your topics and send out an annual programme of events and booking forms with your initial invitations.Persistence pays.........potential new clients need to be constantly kept in touch with and a series of seminars is a good platform from which to do this.
  • Start with the end in mind ! Book your venue then work backwards...this way you are committed and will ensure it actually happens.It is the fear of the unknown that makes many practitioners procrastinate and keep putting off holding their first event.
  • You may be fortunate in having your own space in the office suitable for a seminar.If this is the case, even better-just book the date and get the invitations out
  • Choose your venue.Somewhere easily accessible,plenty of parking,conference and catering facilities. If you are booking a series of seminars then this will give you more bargaining power on rates etc.
  • Consider what time of day is best for your guest list.Do they prefer early mornings,lunchtime or late afternoon? Plan around making it easier for them and make an educated guess if you don't know.You can always ask people in future what time suits them best and plan accordingly.
  • Most venues will include pads,pens and screens for Powerpoint presentations etc.Do remember to check this first.
  • Send out an invite to all your guests and keep a control sheet. Your PA should follow up after 3 days with phone calls to confirm places.It is reasonable to expect that only 25 % of invitees will respond and of those who book a place, there will be a further 25- 30 % drop out rate. This is normal.
  • It is therefore critical that you either expect to hold a small 'forum' style seminar and one which is more personal or else you have a guest list with at least double the number of guests you actually can deal with at the event.
  • Worst case scenario is that you have too many guests for the event.This is brilliant as you can go back to them and say 'due to popular demand you are holding a repeat of the event on xx dat' and move non A/B clients abd Top 100 Prospects to the second event.
  • My advice is to start small and build your confidence.Once you have run the first event you will have a system that is easy to replicate.
  • We have all heard and experienced 'death by Powerpoint'. Either book time in your diary to practice, practice then practice some more or don't bother with the Powerpoint presentation at all first time around.
  • If you are using Powerpoint or similar make sure there is someone to hand to help you with any glitches on the day. e.g.Venue staff or your PA.There is nothing worse than sweating in front of an audience,trying to continue talking whilst fixing a power lead or system crash !
  • Rehearse your subject thoroughly.Prepare 'prompt' card notes if you need to.If you like listening to things as opposed to reading and you travel a lot; then record your talk and play it back in the car and train.
  • 3 days before the event itself your PA needs to call guests and re-confirm places.
  • If referral contacts ,such as bank managers, are coming then ask they bring a customer who isn't a client of yours.You may want to restrict the number of bank managers attending by insisting they can only come if they bring a guest.
  • Your PA should visit the venue 2 days before the event and confirm they are happy with everything including catering arrangements.
  • On the day itself, your PA and perhaps one other should do the 'meet and greet'. Offer to look after people's mobiles or that they be switched off.
  • Your PA will have prepared sticker name tags and cross off peoples names from your guest list on arrival.
  • Your PA will also hand out welcome packs.
  • Remember to invite a selection of your team to all events.This is great training for them and they can play a role in talking to guests and representing the firm.

What to put in a 'welcome pack'

  • These should be prepared a week beforehand and can be a simple inexpensive folder.
  • Put your business card inside in a prominent place.
  • If you have literature on your firm then put a sample in the pack
  • Compile a feedback form which your PA will collect when people leave.
  • Your feedback form should ask for current contact and e-mail details (very important if you are targetting potential new clients).
  • Ensure you ask that guests tick a box to say they are happy for you to keep in touch with them.
  • Ask if guests would like you to follow up with them for a confidential and no obligation chat on any subject.
  • Ask on the feedback form who they may know that would also be interested in talking to you.
  • Put a copy of your slides or notes from your talk.This will provide a useful refernece source and save people taking copious notes.
  • Put a flyer in the pack with details and booking forms for future events.

During the event and conquering your fear!

  • 10 years ago I had to be 'bullied' into holding our first seminar. I was petrified and hated the thought of standing up in front of a group of people. On the day itself, I couldn't eat or think clearly. I must have had the biggest case of stage fright ever and all I had to do for our first seminar was just introduce a guest speaker!
  • Today, I enjoy talking to groups of people and whilst I still get a little nervous I just regard that feeling as the necessary adrenalin shot I need to stand up and perform.
  • Of course, you will have done the obvious preparation and be well rehearsed. Go to bed early the night before and avoid alcohol. Set the alarm early on the day and give yourself time for breakfast.
  • Focus on the fact that guests are coming because they like you and are interested in your firm.They are very unlikely to have any level of technical knowledge which is greater than your own.Therefore, what do you have to worry about ?
  • Take a breath and look at your audience and smile.They will smile back and you will see that they themselves are unlikely to be able to stand up and do what you do.

You've done it and can still hear the applause...

  • Remember to ask people to complete the feedback forms before they leave. Have your PA standing on the door to collect them.
  • Talk about your next event and ask people to book now.
  • Be available for an hour after the event to talk to anyone who stays behind.
  • Once back in the office ensure you have a system to follow up on feedback forms and book time to call guests who asked for a follow up call.
  • Look to add current contact details and new referrals onto your 'Top 100' target list.
  • Follow up on guests that attended but didn't leave a feedback form.

To charge or not to charge for places at your events ?

  • I intentionally haven't talked about this.The decison has to be yours based on your own client base and target market.You know this better than anyone else.
  • Some firms charge a nominal ticket price to cover costs.
  • Some firms charge a relatively expensive ticket price to ensure people who attend are committed.
  • Some firms don't charge at all and see it as part of their overall client care package to offer 'free' seminars and updates.
  • Firms that don't charge view the overall cost of running such events as part of their marketing and business development budgets.This was the approach I took when in practice.The value of new business won far outweighed the cost so we deemed it to be a good return on investment.

Finally

In this economic climate and ever changing demands of clients, I think it is essential that all firms consider hosting some kind of regular seminar.It is now the norm and expected by many clients as evidence that their advisor is proactive and up to date on current business thinking.Such events provide you with a very cost effective platform from which to do your marketing.Potential clients can talk to existing clients and learn about how good you really are.This is the best form of reference you can have and a very powerful tool in converting new clients.

After the initial event, it takes only 3 hours total partner time for preparing for each subsequent event.This was my own experience.Your admin team will be the ones who spend the bulk of the required time in planning, set up and follow up.

For 10 years I helped run and speak at my own practices' seminars which were held every other month.I was involved in a small semi-rural practice and considered myself to be simply ordinary.I am therefore happy to answer any specific questions on this topic and my experience if you e-mail me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The first step is just to move out of your comfort zone,book the date,send the invites...then you are on your way with no backing out of it !

 

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