When Justin Lambert sent me this follow-up post (you did read his first post, didn’t you?) on how to create a seminar in just ten easy steps, I was pretty darned pleased. A seminar is a fantastic way to show off your stuff, get people interested and get them buying from you. So… when’s yours?
The average freelancer absolutely hates to sell. It’s sad, but true.
For some people, selling is a horrible, painful reality that makes their hands dirty dealing, like cleaning out the litter box or doing taxes. It sure as heck isn’t fun.
Or is it?
What if I told you there was a way to gather together a crowd of your best prospects for a few hours and focus their attention on nothing but you and what you can do for them?
And what if you’re allowed to hand out anything you want, give away whatever you’d like, sell them what you’ve written, pitch them any product or service, go over case studies… WHATEVER YOU WANT.
And what they even pay you to be there doing this?
Yeah. Now I have your attention.
In a previous post, I wrote about how public speaking can boost your freelance business to the next level – almost instantly. Today, I want to follow that up with an aspect of public speaking that many freelancers have found to be the most powerful and profitable of all:
Seminars: The Often-Overlooked Secret to Success
Don’t get nervous. Seminar is a word used to mean a huge array of different formats of various lengths and complexities. I’ll put your mind at ease right now: your seminar doesn’t need to be long, it doesn’t need to be complicated, and it doesn’t need to be expensive.
As a matter of fact, when it’s broken down in the following 10-step process, even a numbskull could do it.
The Numbskull’s 10-Step Guide to Seminars
- Narrow Your Topic – Get one of us talking about our particular passion in our field of expertise, and watch out! We could talk all day. For seminar attendees walking away with something they remember and use, narrow your topic down to a brief, action-packed slice of the pie, then make that slice as tasty and memorable as you can.
- Think About Your Audience – Since you’re in control of who gets invited, think about what kinds of questions they’re most likely to have about your topic. By answering those questions in your content, you automatically impress your audience as the expert they came to see. Of course, you’ll answer more questions at the end of the seminar, but by then, they’ll be asked in hushed tones full of awe and wonder!
- Develop an Outline – By having an outline of what you plan to teach and say, you have the chance to organize your thoughts in the most logical order, and you can clearly see any holes in the program that might leave your audience wondering. This outline also serves to help you prepare, which you’ll be doing a lot of in the coming steps.
- Consult Your List – As a freelancer, you’ve heard it a million times: the money is in the list. One portion of that list is made up of hot prospects that faded lukewarm for reasons unknown. In other words, folks who should be interested in what you can do for them but who haven’t yet become customers. These are the diamonds for this particular venture, so make sure every single one of them gets an invitation to your seminar. Of course, past clients you haven’t worked with in a while are a close second, especially if you’re presenting on a new topic you didn’t cover when you last worked with them.
- Decide on a Venue – A lot of factors go into this decision. The best you can do is make a solid estimate of how many people should show up based on how many invitations you want to send out. Then locate a room big enough to accommodate that number comfortably. Make sure it offers the basics of equipment: a microphone, a lectern, maybe a digital projector and screen or a flat-screen monitor, adequate restroom facilities, etc. Consider refreshments for your guests, especially if your event might last more than two hours.
- Get Invitations Out Early –Get your name out there. Look into mass advertising options like local newspapers, regional magazines, community bulletin boards, local radio, or even TV news. There are tons of places online where you can fire off a targeted press release. Don’t forget about Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin – use these social media sites. Many of them have regional or geo-centric features that allow you to target individuals who might attend your seminar. Give potential attendees plenty of time to make plans, but not so much time that they forget about the event. 3-5 weeks is probably best. Try hard to get as many RSVPs as you can to make your last-minute preparations far easier.
- Prepare Quality Visual Aids – This usually consists of some sort of PowerPoint-style slide presentation plus handouts to help the audience to follow along, take notes, and bring something home. This is a perfect opportunity to put together a packet of killer marketing materials, and make sure everyone gets a copy! Put your best stuff in a classy two-pocket folder with a business card in the die-cut slot, and place a folder on each chair. I nearly guarantee people will see it as a gift, and they’ll silently thank you for marketing to them.
- Consider Selling Products at the Back of the Room – If you’ve written a book, created a product or have audio files you can put on CDs or flash drives, this is a golden opportunity to sell these materials to people who’ve just heard you speak of the awesome information inside. Another option that may be even more effective is to add the cost of the product to the price of their ticket (assuming you’re charging to get in). Then a nice hefty book becomes a free gift to each attendee, and the perceived value of the seminar goes up another solid notch!
- Practice, Practice, Practice. When You’re Finally Done, Practice Again – This needs to be overstated and stressed: practice your presentation. Don’t bother going through the effort and expense of getting people to your seminar only to “um” and “uh” your way through the program. You’ll know the presentation off by heart and appear naturally confident. Be prepared, be yourself, and be polished! That way, people’s memory of the seminar won’t be marred by moment you blinked out while trying to remember the title of your second book.
- Enjoy Yourself – Yes, after all this intense preparation, it’s the day of the event. Finally! Go into it smiling, enjoy your day in the spotlight and take advantage of it. If you pull this off right, you’re going to have dozens of potential clients absolutely loving you.
And that’s priceless.
Just remember that your seminar is about them. When you put together a seminar, you do have goals of benefiting yourself, but that only works if you benefit the folks coming to attend. And it’s only going to benefit them if you’re all about giving them as much quality information as you can in the time you have.
You can do it. You’re a talented freelancer, and you’re going to talk about what you know better than anything else. They’ll see you can help them further if they hire you.
So there you have it: The Numbskull’s Guide to Creating a Seminar. Now let’s put that comment section to good use: what questions do you have about creating and launching a seminar? What’s holding you back from putting one together? Go on, surprise me!