Essential Steps for Seminar Presentations
Seminars have proven to be the most effective marketing tool to attract and meet with qualified prospects. Financial advisors throughout the country have great success using seminars as their primary marketing tool. However, it is very important to follow certain prescriptive steps to optimize your results. Let’s start at the beginning.
Prep: Review and practice your presentation. Read through the script two or three times to familiarize yourself with the material, and with two or three practice presentations, you should be good to go. Never stand behind a podium because you will likely place notes there. As soon as your attendees see you glancing at notes, your credibility is lost. Your screen shots should be your only cue cards. Because you have practiced your presentation, you will know what to say.
And please remember, it is not appropriate to tell jokes during the seminar because someone will certainly be offended. A little self-deprecating humor is typically OK. It should go without saying that stories or attempted humor about politics, ethnicity, or religion are off limits.
I am a big believer in dressing professionally. That means a suit and tie for the men and dressy business attire for the ladies. Leave the bling at home. Conservative business attire always resonates best with people you have never met.
Room Setup: You have a choice of classroom or dining setup. The classroom arrangement is simply rectangle tables that seat three to four individuals on a side. Arrange the tables and chairs similar to a classroom configuration, with chairs on one side of the table facing the front of the room. If you have a dining seminar using table rounds, arrange them in a semicircle and only seat guests half way around the table so all guests have line of sight to the presenter. If you are having a dinner seminar, serve the food first and present last. Make sure that all the plates and silver are picked up by the servers before you begin and leave only water glasses for your attendees.
Make sure the projection screen is high enough for all to see, the projection table is placed out of traffic areas, and extension cords are taped to the floor so they won’t trip anyone.
The Guests Begin to Arrive: Have a reception table where guests can check in and receive four important items:
1) Evaluation form
3) Pen or pencil
4) Tent card with their first name
No product offerings or product brochures are allowed, even if a vendor is hosting your event. This is an educational event, not a sales meeting. Always have a member of your team seated at the reception table to welcome guests as they arrive and provide them with their items. It is good to have at least one member of the team for every 10 guests, plus you as the presenter. Team members should be good at meeting and mingling and making attendees feel welcome. Direct your guests to their seats and introduce them to others who have arrived.
Presenting: Always start on time. This is an important first step in gaining the attendees’ trust. Welcome everyone and express appreciation for them taking time out of their busy lives for such an important matter. Always begin with a “power opening,” which can be a personal or third-person story that relates to the topic. Never betray privileged or confidential insight or information.
I emphasize that you, the financial advisor, should be the seminar presenter. You need to gain attendees’ trust and confidence and begin the rapport-building process. This is best accomplished by interacting and demonstrating your knowledge about the information they seek.
Next, introduce your guests to the evaluation form. Let them know you would appreciate their candid feedback on how you might improve the seminar and also draw their attention to the two promises. If they check the “yes” box requesting a complimentary meeting at their convenience, you promise that someone from your office will contact them within two days. If they check “no,” you promise that no one from your office will contact them directly (leaving the door open though for follow up with newsletters, etc.).
The presentation should be FINRA reviewed and, if necessary, broker-dealer approved. Typically, seminars from marketing partners include a PowerPoint presentation, script, and an evaluation form. The workbooks can be ordered separately. Attendee seminar workbooks are a must. The workbook is a great catalyst that engages everyone and also keeps them on track and focused. Workbook exercises help drive the point that there is work to be done and helps motivate attendees to sign up for a complimentary consultation.
Addressing Questions: The reason your guests came is because they have questions and/or concerns about your seminar topic. Strategically, you would be much better off to answer their questions in detail in your office during a future one-on-one meeting. Here is where the ABC (Always Be Closing) tactic comes into play. When the first question is asked, you let the audience know you will try to answer their questions as you proceed. If their question does not get answered to their satisfaction, invite them to request a complimentary consultation on the evaluation form, and you will spend as much time as necessary to discuss it then. This technique works wonderfully, and it is a big motivator for them coming to your office. Most advisors say over 50% of their attendees request the complimentary meeting.
Closing: At the end of the seminar, repeat the two promises about them meeting with you, thank them for attending, and make your way to the door to shake hands and collect the evaluation forms. (Don’t study each one after it is handed to you, even though it is very tempting.)
At the end of the evening, when the folks are out of the room, take a moment to review the evaluation forms. Just think, if you had 30 attendees and 15 to 20 asked to be contacted to set up a meeting with you, that passes the pillow test. You will sleep very good that night.