Six points to successful seminar planning: Bring in a flood of leads while building your image as a lending expertDiana M. Smithseminars, seminar planning, keynote speakers,
Seminars are a great way to get an impressive volume of highly
qualified leads in just a few hours. Imagine being able to describe
all the things a first-time homebuyer needs to know, along with the
services you provide, to a captive audience of 20, 75 or even 150
prospects. If this sounds exciting, then consider planning a
Giving a seminar is a great way to present yourself as an expert
in your community. Its an outstanding way to educate numerous
people at once about how to make informed decisions when looking
for a loan product. Virtually every person in attendance will be a
Seminars require significant advance planning to be successful.
But, as you might imagine, the rewards can be amazingly
The six points that you need to know to plan a successful
• Scheduling your seminar;
• Promotion and marketing;
• Tracking and acquiring leads;
• Seminar delivery tips;
• Seminar content; and
• Post-seminar follow-up.
Scheduling your seminar
To schedule your first seminar, pick a date at least 90 days in
advance. You'll need plenty of time to create your seminar content
and to appropriately market it. Be sure that the chosen date
doesn't fall near a holiday. Also, devote at least 10 days after
the seminar to attendee follow-up.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings are the best times for
seminars. Saturday mornings are also ideal. Spring is great for
first-time buyer seminars; however, consider the off-season if you
notice that your local market is flooded with competing ones, or
choose an alternate topic for the spring to stand above the
The venue for your event is an important choice. For budgetary
reasons, you may wish to schedule the seminar in a conference room
at your office, as it would be at no cost to you. You must
consider, however, that some potential attendees might be
suspicious of a seminar sponsored in a commercial location.
By hosting your seminar at a public library or community
collegiate setting, your seminar will have more of an educational
feel. By presenting it in a place reserved for learning, your
audience will be in the learning mindset before they even walk in
Most community colleges have conference center facilities
available for rental by businesses. The centers often have an
integrated media system for video and teleconferencing. Internet
hook-up and Wi-Fi is almost always available. On average, community
college room rental costs ranged from $200 to $600, with seating
capacity from 75 to 600, depending on the room used. Catering
services are usually available through the colleges food service
department as well. To schedule a seminar room, call the
information desk of the community college of your choice. The
contacts title varies, but Director of Public Information is a
common title for the person in charge of scheduling seminars. Never
use a hotel for seminars. Although appropriate for trade seminars,
they do not work for local seminars. Hotel seminars have become the
domain of late-night TV real-estate scams, and attendees always
arrive wondering what they are going to leave obligated for.
Promoting and marketing
Your marketing for your seminar can be as simple as 1,000
well-designed flyers placed in prominent locations about town. Or
it can include press releases, direct mail and possible radio
advertising. Plan to devote around 60 percent of your seminar
budget on marketing and promotion.
If you outsource your advertising and design, make sure your
agency is aware that your materials need to be distribution-ready
at least 45 days in advance of your seminar date. If you do your
own promotions and advertising, youll want to have all of your
printed materials ready to go six to eight weeks ahead of the
Your printed marketing for your seminar should include a
bulleted summary of the event, as well as the usual details of
time, date, length of seminar, location and brief driving
directions. Also, be sure to mention secondary enticements. For
example, if you will include a gratis continental breakfast or
refreshments of some sort. Free parking is probably a given in
suburban or rural locations, but consider that it could also be an
enticement for locations in the business district. You could even
try to arrange validated parking in advance.
Dont forget to notify your past clients about your upcoming
seminar. Even if it's a first-time buyer seminar, they may know
someone who would benefit from attendance.
Flyers are an easy and informal way to let people know about
your event. After covering the usual locations, such as a public
library and grocery store bulletin board, think about alternatives.
Perhaps your real estate agent partners, especially if featured at
your seminar, will help promote it at their office.
Also remember to post flyers at the actual location of the
event. Leave a stack of flyers at the reception desk at both your
office and at the venue. If the event is being held at a library or
college, find out if you can be promoted in their newsletter.
Tracking and acquiring leads
Youll definitely find several assistants to be an asset at the
seminar. Dont try to do it all on your own.
You will want to do a "dress rehearsal" with your assistants so
they understand how to accomplish the tasks that you set. Consider
having assistants to:
• Greet and seat attendees;
• Distribute and collect information request cards;
• Handle catering duties;
• Operate sound and/or video equipment; and
• Distribute business cards, flyers and/or promotional
Require that all of your assistants dress appropriately in
business attire for the seminar. Have your assistant collect
information from every attendee. One simple device for tracking
attendees, which will become your future prospects and clients, is
an information card. (If you would like a copy of a sample
information card to hand out at your seminar, please e-mail me at
Give attendees a small notebook and pen for note-takingprint all
of your contact information on the notebook cover, and perhaps on
the pen as well. Remember that this is an informational event. If
your prospects are mostly college-educated, they'll be used to
taking notes. Again, you dont want this event to seem like a sales
Create outdoor banners or sandwich boards that clearly identify
"Seminar Today." This might seem insignificant, but consider this
scenario: Have you ever walked into an unfamiliar place, wondering
if you got the directions right? It's an awkward, sometimes
uncomfortable moment. You don't want your attendees to ever feel
uncomfortable. If the seminar is being held in the back corner
meeting room of your office, make sure guests clearly know how to
get to the room and aren't left wandering the cubicles. Having an
assistant available to greet at the front door can help.
College campuses are notoriously confusing to newcomers. Place
signs at several different areas on campus to direct attendees to
the meeting room. You might also contact the college parking booth
attendants (and give them a nice tip) to inform attendees of your
event and its location.
If you're short on staff, clearly marked signs with arrows
certainly work in a pinch. Consider the seminar clientele. If you
give a seminar aimed at the very affluent to educate on the
advantages of a vacation or second home, minor details are
extremely important. The affluent tend to be highly educated and
demand detailed and attentive service. Step up the quality with
gourmet appetizers, a coat-check, or even a valet.
Seminar delivery tips
Style and tone
First, consider your delivery style. If you aren't used to public
speaking, then youll definitely want to rehearse it.
Deliver slowly and clearly. Remember that the information you
are giving is brand new to your audience. And, no one trusts the
"fast-talking salesman." If you're looking for inspiration, recall
the delivery style of a favorite professor or teacher. Be warm,
friendly and casual. Avoid stiffness and droning. Always give a
brief (two minute) bio on yourself and your company. Stick to the
facts and avoid bragging.
Consumers have learned to be wary of "Free Seminars"that they
are, in reality, hour-long, high-pressure sales pitches. If you
turn your seminar into a pitch, negative word of mouth will spread.
You'll see the attendance at future seminars drop dramatically. Cut
the personal promotion down to just a few minutes for the entire
seminar. You'll have a chance to win their business through the
personal information that you harvest.
Rehearse your presentation a couple of times a week in advance, and
at least once at the intended venue, if possible. Note any problems
with technology such as lighting, projectors and microphones. Then
have the appropriate personnel correct the issues.
Visuals enhance learning at seminars. Microsoft PowerPoint has
dramatically replaced the slide projector, easel and overheard as
of late. Consider the software to highlight your presentation with
key facts and points. However, you should be the focus of your
seminar, not your visuals.
Don't forget to ask for referrals! Do this at the opening and
closing of the presentation. You could word your request like this:
"Maybe you have a friend or co-worker thinking of buying a home
soon. While I give my presentation, if you can think of anyone who
may benefit from this information, please jot down their names. My
assistant will be happy to get their information from you before
you leave today."
Plan to speak for 40 to 45 minutes at your seminar. You'll want to
allow time for audience members to ask questions and make comments.
When writing your seminar notes, one page of double-spaced type
usually equals two to three minutes of dialogue.
Besides the already mentioned first-time buyers seminar, here
are some brief ideas for alternate seminar topics:
• Solving the mystery of credit reports: This seminar
could provide an overview of credit bureaus, credit scoring and the
Fair Credit Reporting Act. Also, you might give specific guidance
of disputing inaccuracies and improving credit scores.
• Building a better budget: After identifying short-, mid-
and long-term goals, participants will learn how to design
realistic spending and savings plans. They can learn strategies for
using loan products to invest in home repairs or paying off high
interest debts. They might also learn how to pay off a mortgage
• Vacation home buying seminar: This seminar will help
people budget when buying a vacation home. It gives them ideas on
how to make this luxury more affordable, such as how to rent
vacation property out during off seasons.
• Taxes, mortgages and real estateStrategies to lower tax
liability: This seminar focuses on ways mortgages and real estate
can be used to lower taxes. A good partner for this seminar would
be a tax attorney, certified public accountant, or financial
planner (or your real estate agent, if they have such a
Post seminar follow-up
First, send a short thank you card to every seminar attendee. Since
you collected the information at the seminar, contacting by mail
will be a breeze. Here is an example of a note you may use:
Dear [attendee name],
Thanks for coming to my seminar on [date]. I appreciate that you
chose to learn more about [seminar topic]. I'd be happy to answer
any questions you might have about anything I covered. If there is
anything you thought I may have left out or could have improved
upon, please tell me. Your input is greatly appreciated. I'd like
to create better future seminars, so I value your opinion.
Next, review the cards that your attendees filled out. If they
provided referrals, get in touch immediately. Waste no time. Ensure
that when you do contact the referrals, you drop the name of the
seminar attendee. This provides the all important connection and
After sending out the follow-up thank you cards and following up
on the referrals, review your seminar event.
By tracking the marketing source (the "How did you hear about
the seminar?" question on the information request card), you can
drop the least effective marketing techniques for future seminars.
In the future, you can spend more time and energy on concentrating
on only the most effective marketing sources for seminar
Make a list of what worked and what you would like to improve
for the seminar event itself. Inevitably, you'll notice some
details that you'll want to improve upon for a future seminar.
Diana M. Smith is an executive sales manager at The Ibis Group. She may be reached
by e-mail at [email protected]