their careers, often try to run seminars or workshops.
There are lots of reasons why they do it, but the main
one is money. These can be very lucrative money-
spinners if done correctly.
An awful lot are not done correctly. Far too many
‘experts’ think that all they have to do to captivate
an audience is to stand at the front with an overhead
projector and drone on for a few hours.
The first thing to correct about this way of thinking
is that the people who have paid good money to attend
are not an audience.
Plays have audiences. Movies do. Even lecturers talk to
Seminars and workshops have participants. And if they
don’t get to participate, they might as well have
stayed at home.
Here are my ten pointers for a successful seminar or
workshop. There is a lot more to it, but get these
right and you will be halfway there.
1. Write a very full outline of everything you need to
cover. It is vital that you are totally prepared.
Nothing looks worse than a seminar presenter who is not
100% on top of the flow of events.
2. Do a lot of market research before you start to
write your outline. Ask people what they want/need to
know. You will probably be surprised. I have found many
times that the things people find the most fascinating
or useful are the things that I would have skipped over
or assumed they already knew. Never assume possession
of knowledge simply because it is second nature to you.
3. Remember that people learn in different ways. Some
people are visual, some are audible and some have to
experience things. Bearing that in mind, ensure that
you provide educational stimulus for each type of
person – visual charts, memorable commentary and
4. Don’t plan a 2-day seminar around a subject that can
be covered in 2 hours.
5. Don’t try to cover in 2 hours a subject that needs 2
6. Learn to present. This little step is so often
forgotten by people who think they can teach.
Presentation is so important. You not only have to be
seen and heard, but you also have to persuade. Think of
it as selling your ideas.
7. If you are new to the field of seminars and
workshops, make sure you carry out a series of practice
runs before you try to impart your wisdom to paying
customers. There are lots of thing that can (and will)
go wrong. Things like having the wrong content; like
reaching the end of your time and finding that you only
covered half of what you expected; like finding you
pitched the content way above their heads – or too far
below; like not having anticipated what questions would
be asked – and worse, not knowing the answers. Run your
seminar at least twice, completely free-of-charge – the
cost to the delegates being that they have to give you
8. Don’t forget leave-behinds. The better the package
that you can give people to take away, the more
valuable they will think the seminar was. I run a
seminar on presentation skills. Delegates pay up to
$1000 each to attend the 2-day course. When they
arrive, I give them a leather presentation wallet with
a crisp new yellow pad inside and three colors of pen.
As each session ends, I give each person a beautifully
color printed document that covers all the main points
covered in easy to refer to summary form. At the end of
the course, everyone is given a CD with all the slides
and exercises used over the 2 days, plus a load of
extra information – articles, back copies of my e-zine,
links to Internet sites and so on. Of course, all of
this stuff is branded with my name. The perceived value
of this package is considerable, but in reality it
costs me less than $30 a head. Not a bad gift for
someone who has spent $1000!
9. Have a back end. Don’t plan one workshop, plan two.
Make sure everyone who attends is sold on the next
workshop (maybe with a special discount offer).
Consider selling any products that you recommend. Many
big names who run seminars make a bundle from selling
books and tapes at the back of the room.
10. Finally, remember that people will thank you if
they learn something, but they will only recommend you
if they have fun in the process.
About the Author
Martin Avis is a management and training consultant.
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