Are you thinking of hosting a seminar? Your business could likely benefit from doing so in several ways.
It may seem counterintuitive that an educational seminar can be an effective marketing tool in today’s digital age.
Nevertheless, there will always be demand for information-rich events that double as a networking opportunity. As a business, you can take advantage of that demand by demonstrating your expertise and authority in your field.
In this post, we’ll consider who seminars are for, who can run a successful event like that, and why your business should host one.
Then we’ll outline 13 practical, actionable tips for hosting your most successful seminar ever.
Not everyone has time to invest in a weeks-long course, and online education isn’t for everyone.
Seminars are in-person meetings focusing on a specific topic and are usually educational in nature.
They can be an excellent solution for busy people who just want an evening or weekend event.
Most seminars involve a presenter giving a lecture to a room full of people who want to learn about a topic.
These types of seminars can be educational and motivational, with topics such as:
- Real estate investment
- Personal finance
- Deep dives or training vehicles for course students
Of course, seminars can also be for people who simply want to network and collaborate with peers.
You might attend a trade seminar to meet others in your field, participate in workshops, and hear some presentations of white papers.
Faculty at a university might hold a seminar to share their expertise and hear others’ ideas that they may want to implement themselves.
Seminars are generally shorter and smaller than conferences or symposiums.
They might take only an hour or two and only host a handful of people. However, a seminar can be whatever structure, length, and attendance size that you make it.
Contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to be a certified expert or professor to run an educational seminar.
Successful seminar hosts come from all backgrounds, and very few have professional education experience.
If you have experience in your subject matter and have something to teach others, you can run a seminar.
Individuals, companies, and universities can all be excellent hosts.
The most important thing is that you are able to turn a topic into a useful experience for your attendees.
Give value to your participants in the way they were expecting when they signed up, and your seminar will have been a success.
If you’re interested in running a seminar, start by taking a look at other recent seminars in your field to get an idea of the type of value they’re offering attendees.
Use those as a jumping-off point in designing your own event experience — but don’t forget to look for what the other seminars might be missing.
By offering your participants the kind of value they expect while also providing unique information or insight, you’ll be well on your way to a successful seminar in no time.
Hosting an educational seminar is an excellent way to increase brand awareness and engage your audience.
When they’re done the right way, however, there are many added benefits to giving a seminar besides the publicity and word-of-mouth marketing, including:
Opportunity to Demonstrate Your Products
Show off your products and services in a personal setting. Educate clients on subjects related to how to use your product or how best to take advantages of the services you offer.
You can also use a seminar as a chance to introduce a new product or service. Still, whatever you do, don’t be salesy! Your event needs to be educational, not a sales pitch.
In-person events are a great chance for attendees to mix and mingle, enabling them to make connections with others in their field.
As the host, you’ll have a chance to make connections with everyone in attendance, which could turn into a long list of leads and referrals.
Creating valuable and educational content for your audience will enhance your perceived authority in your field. This will build customers’ trust in your product or service.
Multiply the seminar’s impact by recording and streaming your presentations to your business social media feeds.
While holding a seminar is an accessible way to reap the benefits of in-person marketing and authority building, not all seminars are created equal.
Use the following tips to ensure your event runs smoothly and delivers the best experience for your attendees as possible — after all, a dissatisfied customer is worse than no customer at all.
1. Target the Right People
No matter how amazing an event is when you plan it, it won’t matter unless the right people attend.
To attract the right people, build an audience persona (a hypothetical person who would be interested in your event) and make a list of their demographic traits, such as:
- Education level
- Geographic location
Is your target attendee a young millennial who is interested in managing their money better? A marketing professional looking to learn the latest industry trends? Or perhaps they’re a retiree who wants to learn about gardening techniques?
When deciding on a target audience for your event, keep your goals in mind and be sure your chosen audience persona reflects decision-makers who are most likely to become customers down the line.
Once you have the target audience figured out, you’ll be able to design your seminar accordingly.
Make sure your marketing, content, and setting are aligned with what your target audience will expect and value.
2. Focus on One Topic
Though it can be tempting to cover everything you’re an expert on in one sitting, resist that urge. Successful seminars are focused, concise, and easy to follow.
After all, a seminar is not a conference.
While conferences are large gatherings with an extended agenda for meetings, workshops, and presentations, a seminar is usually a presentation on one topic by an expert (or series of experts). Since seminars are more limited in time, they should be limited in scope, as well.
Choose one topic to explore, do it well, and your audience will be satisfied.
Also, it’s a good idea to settle on a topic that may be less well-known by the general public.
If you cover a subject in your field that isn’t already overdone, it’s easier to position your business as a credible authority that has something unique and of value to offer its audience.
3. Choose the Right Location and Venue
Since seminars range in size from a few people to a few hundred, take the number of attendees into account when choosing a venue, as well as the type of seminar you’re hosting.
Do you need a conference room at a local convention center, or would a reception hall at a country club provide a better atmosphere?
You’d probably choose a different location for an educational presentation than a motivational event.
For instance, you may want to add team-building or other fun activities, like a group cooking class following a presentation on nutrition. In the latter case, you’d need to find a location with the proper kitchen equipment.
If you’re intending to hold an academic or educational event, perhaps a lecture hall or conference room would be better-suited to your needs.
In any case, you want to make sure the venue has all the necessary equipment, from an Internet connection to projectors, a whiteboard, or whatever else your presenter requires for a successful experience.
4. Identify Speakers Early
Don’t wait to lock down your most important draw: your featured speaker(s). Whether they are celebrities or experts on the topic at hand, be sure to do your research and find the right presenters for your event.
The earlier you book your speakers, the earlier you can begin getting the word out — which gives potential audience members the time to make plans to attend.
Check these resources to find the perfect speaker for your seminar:
- LinkedIn — The professional networking site has plenty of individuals who may be willing to speak at your seminar. Look through contacts in your network to review profiles and read through their posted content to find speakers for your next event.
- National Speakers Association — Check the National Speakers Association’s public directory for registered public speakers specializing in the topic of your seminar. This group even has local chapters, so it may even be easy to find a speaker in your area.
- Professional organizations — Regardless of the topic your event is covering, there is likely an organization of niche professionals in your area that contains experts in that field who would be willing to take on a speaking engagement.
- Your local university — Professors can be excellent resources when you’re looking for an expert on your subject matter. Moreover, giving a lecture in an engaging, educational way is part of their job, which is a definite plus.
Don’t forget to put speaker bios on your website and all promotional materials so that people unfamiliar with the speaker will know what makes that person a must-see.
5. Help With Accommodations
Is your seminar going to attract out-of-town guests? If so, be sure to make a plan to assist them with a place to stay that’s accessible to your venue.
Consider coming to an agreement with a local hotel, so they offer special event rates for attendees.
Then, publish a map on your website of the accommodations in relation to the event center and any local points of interest (such as restaurants, museums, public transit, and nightlife).
Make sure to consider the traffic to and from the hotel, how long it will take to get to your event venue, and the amenities offered by the hotel.
If your seminar is geared towards business people, your guests will have particularly high expectations from their accommodations.
A business event will have specific requirements, from conference rooms to other amenities, like free Wi-Fi or even charging ports for mobile devices.
6. Have a Marketing Strategy
A successful seminar necessitates a comprehensive marketing plan focusing on your target audience. Get the word out there in as many ways as possible, such as:
- Reaching out to your network
- Taking out paid print and digital advertisements
- Sending personalized email invites to your contact list
- Cold calling companies in your area whose employees may be interested in attending
Here’s an example of how you can communicate your event:
However, a marketing strategy is about more than communication channels. Your marketing materials need to provide proof of your expertise.
Highlight your guest speaker’s credentials (are they certified or otherwise experienced? Do they have any awards or claims to fame?) and be sure to show your company’s authority as well.
What makes your company qualified to host a seminar?
Perhaps you’ve run a successful business in your industry for decades, or you’ve won several industry awards. Maybe your expertise has garnered you higher profits or an increased revenue stream.
Don’t get too boastful of your business’s successes, but be sure to bring them up succinctly in your promotional materials and mention them at the beginning of the event itself.
People will only care about what you have to say if they trust that you know what you’re talking about.
Also, keep in mind that marketing doesn’t end once the event is over.
Be sure to plan follow-up communications, such as automated “thank you for attending” emails or “sorry you missed us — here’s a summary of the event” messages.
This small bit of extra outreach goes a long way towards increasing your credibility and locking down customers.
Learn more about how to create an event strategy here that includes before and after steps to take.
7. Handle Registrations, Then Send Confirmation and Reminder Emails
People registering for an event in 2021 expect to have a smooth, convenient digital experience.
Tools like Regpack let you easily create and publish registration forms directly to your website. Our software uses conditional logic to create a personalized registration experience that is both mobile-friendly and centralized.
Once your audience is registered, it’s crucial to keep them engaged with a multi-sequence email campaign.
Send an automated confirmation, periodic emails providing additional details in the lead-up to the event, and follow-up emails after the fact.
If that’s all sounding a bit time-consuming, don’t worry; Regpack offers trigger-based email communication that will send messages and reminders based on audience segments and certain actions they take.
Simply set up your email templates beforehand, and the software handles the rest.
Be sure at least one member of your staff is monitoring your inbox and communication channels, since potential attendees are likely to reach out with questions or concerns.
Demonstrating excellent customer service is an essential component in ensuring your attendees’ overall satisfaction.
8. Rehearse Your Seminar
The day of the event is never the first time everyone runs through it. Create a detailed event plan and make sure everyone adheres to it.
If your guest speaker(s) are willing to arrive a day early, conduct the rehearsal with them to make sure they’re comfortable using the presentation equipment, know the day’s schedule, and are aware of what’s expected of them.
Keep an eye on the clock to ensure nothing runs too short or too long.
When you’re renting a venue, block off time the day before to do a sound check with the microphones and do an equipment once-over.
If there are any glitches, it’s better to find them before the big day.
9. Educate, Don’t Sell
If you’re a business hosting a seminar, the odds are good that your end goal is to generate leads or make sales.
That’s all well and good, but remember: people attend seminars to learn something, not sit through a sales pitch.
That’s not to say you can’t charge money for admission.
In fact, it’s a good idea to charge at least enough to cover the cost of holding the event. People are more likely to follow through on attendance if they’ve paid for it.
Still, the content of the seminar itself needs to be educational, not self-promotional.
If your seminar simply includes presentations on how to use your product or service among other information, that’s acceptable because it’s still providing value without strings attached.
The people who signed up for the seminar are likely already customers, after all.
However, if you’re hosting a seminar on personal finance and open the first presentation with a huge sales pitch for your financial management services, your audience will immediately be turned off.
When hosting seminars, try to build a relationship of trust with your audience by providing real value to them. The sales will follow naturally.
10. Make Your Seminar Visually Engaging
Most people aren’t auditory learners, so it’s important not to rely solely on a speaker with a microphone. Talking to your audience for a few hours will almost surely bore them.
Be sure to include engaging visual elements in your seminar, such as videos, slides, and animations.
If you’re teaching a skill, consider asking the presenter to demonstrate it on screen or in person.
The speaker should also employ proper stage presence techniques such as maintaining eye contact, accentuating their statements with hand gestures, and seeming more natural by walking about the room.
11. Encourage Audience Participation
Even though seminars usually offer less opportunity for audience participation than multi-day conferences, they still typically have an interactive component.
People attend seminars to learn about a topic, which means they likely have questions or concerns about it.
Include enough time for Q&A sessions to address them.
It’s also a good idea not to schedule that session for last, since it can feel anticlimactic to leave the event’s end in the hands of the audience. You need to wrap it up in a structured way.
Even better, allow questions periodically, both as a way to make the audience feel like an active participant and to divide the lecture into shorter, more dynamic sections.
There are several ways to interact with your audience continuously, including:
- Asking “Raise your hand if…” questions
- Telling jokes
- Conducting polls
- Using a custom Twitter hashtag to boost engagement
- Letting people access your slides on their mobile devices
- Using props
- Introducing breakout activities
Don’t be afraid to get creative, either; finding fun ways to engage the audience will help them get more out of the experience.
12. Offer a Networking Opportunity
Since many people attend seminars to meet and connect with others in their field, make sure to offer opportunities to network throughout the event.
Break your event up with coffee breaks or mixers, and set out refreshment tables where attendees can mix and mingle.
Participants often take the opportunity during breaks from the main event to connect with each other or talk to the speakers, so providing them with that opportunity will increase their satisfaction.
13. Give Out Your Contact Details to Take Away
Make sure to provide a way for attendees to connect to you, and each other, after the seminar.
Consider passing out a directory of participants who consent to be included, complete with a photo, name, and links to their social media profiles.
Also, give out the relevant contact information for your own business by handing out business cards, distributing branded pens, or in other creative ways.
Invite attendees to reach out to you with any questions or concerns.
This small gesture will garner a lot of goodwill among attendees – and if they want to recommend your business to their own network, it’ll be helpful if they have your business cards to pass along.
A Successful Seminar Can Increase Your Brand’s Reach
If you’re looking for a way to engage with your target audience and position your business as an authority in your field, hosting an educational seminar is a great choice.
Seminars are attended by a wide variety of people, from casual hobbyists to serious business people. They can cover any number of topics and range widely both in size and length.
In any case, the thing that sets successful seminars apart is how well they’re organized.
Make sure to choose your target audience, topic, and location wisely.
Identify your speakers early, make a plan for accommodations and registration, and develop an effective marketing strategy.
Don’t forget to rehearse your seminar ahead of time, and on the day of the event, be sure to keep the focus on education over sales pitches.
Follow the best practices outlined above, and your seminar will doubtless be a smashing success!