The cotton Alliance Francaise seminar bags we supplied
Hosting a seminar is a good way to engage with your audience, teach, gain or retain customers, build your brand image, and learn from the seminar particpants.
In a seminar, the audience will be participating and discussing the topic or subject you are presenting. As a leader of the seminar, amongst other things, you will need to prepare the discussion points, teach what you know, and be able to ensure a wide and robust debate, but be able to pull in the reins when someone goes completely off topic or tries to take over.
So here are some tips on how to run a successful seminar:
1. Ask your target audience what topics they want to cover a few months before organising a seminar.
For example, on your Facebook page or regular newsletter to your customer base, you could explain you are thinking of hosting a seminar, and ask them to contact you to advise you which topics they would like covered (obviously relating to your field or expertise). You might be surprised at what people want you to discuss. You might think its common sense, but to a lot of people, your expertise is new to them!
Ensure that when you pick the most popular or intriguing topic that you think people will want to learn about, that you really are an expert in that field, and that it's relating to your work or business. The worst seminar I have ever been to is a 'how to market your small business' marketing seminar last year, where the presenter (who owned a marketing agency) was trying to tell everyone he was an expert in marketing, but his business didn't even have a good website or a Twitter or Facebook account, and I ended up explaining to him and the group why it was so important to be online.
I lost all respect for him and his business, because it was just so obvious he had no clue and was stuck in the 1990s. He hadn't bothered keeping up with basic advancements in the marketing world, even though that was his business! He should have kept to his expertise, which I gained was printed brochure marketing (everyone has expertise in something). So my point is: you shouldn't feel you should conduct a seminar about a topic you don't know about, just because you think people will attend your seminar, or you think it is an interesting topic that you know a little bit about - it will damage your reputation.
2. Write up the subject topic on the board. This will keep people on track. Start the conversation rolling by giving your opinion / teaching the subject, then start with those that look like they have something to say (you will spot them bursting at the seams), then make sure you go around the room and ensure everyone gets a few minutes to cover their point of view or ask questions to you as the expert on that topic.
It's often the quiet ones that take a minute or two to warm up, to get the confidence to speak out, that are the ones with excellent in-depth thinking, ideas and questions, so make sure you get everyone involved in the discussion or asking questions.
3. Don't waffle and faff around. It's so annoying when I feel like my time is being wasted by someone that is taking 30 mins getting ready, talking about non-relevant, boring stuff at the start of the seminar, as if they are trying to take up as much time as possible to talk about off topic things.
If you can cover and discuss a topic/s in 2 hours, DON'T make it a 1 day seminar. Be precise with your timings and your presentation. Don't go over the same exact sentence 15 times, because you want to waste time and draw it out. It's boring.
Remember, a seminar is supposed to be interesting and interactive, and you want people to go away feeling positive about you and your business, because they have learnt something, participated, and feel like it was worth their time. They will feel grateful to you for teaching them something new in a timely manner.
Too many times I've gone to a seminar where I feel as if we never actually got to learn about or discuss the topic that was advertised in the invitation (and the reason I attended the seminar), due to time wasting, which leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth about the seminar host.
4. Ask your attendees to fill in a feedback form. Honest feedback is really important for you to learn what needs to be improved, or what people liked most about the seminar, and what they least liked! Don't be put off by negative comments. Remember, practice makes perfect, and you will get better and better.
5. You should have a series of workshops lined up, so at the end of the seminar, you already have a captive audience that you can advertise the next seminar to.
It's important you get some sort of ROI out of your efforts. Even if the goal is client retention, rather than gaining new clients. The people that attend your seminar are more likely to have you front of mind when they need your product or service in the future, or if someone asks them for a referral for the product or service you sell, they will think of you.
Working out what you want to achieve from hosting seminars will make you figure out the best way to ensure you acheive your goal and will help you to measure the ROI.
6. People love to receive a promotional giveaway to thank them for attending your seminar or workshop.
A useful promotional item that relates to your business is best. You should put time and effort into working out what promo item would work for your brand image.
There are loads of promo companies that have excellent products, and of course it should be presented in a branded seminar bag or package with your company logo printed on it, to make you look even more professional.
Best of luck with your seminar!
Clara Cassidy, Founder and Marketing Manager of Custom Printed Bags & Boxes, is a marketing professional with years of experience in branding, promotions and events.