For years, successful advisors have worked the seminar marketplace to obtain new clients for their financial planning practices. Seminars have been the marketing backbone of the majority of the best producers I work with on a day-to-day basis. Over the years, I’ve compiled some basic tips and tricks to conducting the most effective seminar, and netting the highest appointment to household ratio possible.
1. Dress to Impress! – Don’t forget, you are a financial PROFESSIONAL. If you don’t consider yourself a professional, stop reading this article now. Gentlemen, wear a suit and tie, and make sure it doesn’t look like you purchased it in the late 1980’s. You don’t ever want a seminar attendee to be able to say “Nice suit! Who shot the couch?” Yes, avoid plaid and “couch cushion” like patterns. Remember, your tie should always be longer than your shirt sleeves. No “copy machine repair man” uniforms! Ladies, dress professionally and keep it conservative. I don’t think I need to go into detail here about what is “not” appropriate for a lady to wear. Remember you are a professional. Dress the part.
2. Show Up; If You’re Not Early, You’re Late! – Plan on being at the meeting room, restaurant, or facility at least a couple of hours beforehand. I’ve heard many horror stories about advisors having traffic issues, vehicle breakdowns, appointments running late, etc… Bottom line, these attendees have taken time out of their busy schedules to be on time for you, make sure you do whatever you need to do to be there. Give yourself a couple of hours of cushion so you can make sure the room is ready and the technology is in place. Nobody wants to be “that guy” that can’t figure out how to get his PowerPoint open and has to have Joe Engineer in the audience assist.
3. If You Serve a Meal, Wait Until After the Presentation – I don’t care what anybody has told you in the past… Food and Beverage service during the seminar is a distraction. Instruct the facility staff to stay out of the room until the presentation is over. Avoid beverage service during the event. Let the attendees know on the phone when you are making confirmation calls that they should show up 15 minutes early to get their food and beverage selection ordered.
4. Control the Room – As much as you want to show how “quick” you are on your feet and how you can handle any situation, I would advise AGAINST taking questions at the event. I’ve found that the best seminars (when I say best I mean those with the highest appointment request to household ratio) are the ones that don’t involve any Q&A. If you don’t know the best way to position this at the beginning of the seminar, contact me directly and I will teach you how to set the stage. I know one of the best stories in the industry that will actually lead to the attendees respecting you MORE because you DON’T take their questions at the event.
5. Paint the Picture – It’s important to story-sell as many details discussed at the seminar as possible. When you are discussing different items in the intro and the close (who you are, what you do, how you help people, what the appointment is like) it is important to paint as descriptive a picture as you can. The goal here is to eliminate as many barrier walls of fear as possible. They need to understand and believe that you don’t work out of the trunk of your car and you are legit. If you have pictures of your office, show them off! I’ve been to many awesome offices and you should be proud of the environment you’ve created. When you can show them a clean, professional, and “safe” environment, you will eliminate another barrier wall of fear. You never know, they could envision you as having a dirty office in a bad part of town with a receptionist that collects stray cats and chain smokes behind the desk. Show them, don’t just tell them; that’s not who you are.
6. Have Somebody Introduce You at the Seminar – This could be done a number of ways. I’ve seen junior advisors/partners introduce, I’ve even seen a CPA or an Attorney do it. Bottom line is; your credibility is boosted by a simple introduction. Make sure you prep the introducer well in advance. Give them time to perfect their script and don’t make it a last minute decision, or you might as well introduce yourself to embarrassment.
7. Step 1: Rehearse. Step 2: Keep Rehearsing – Don’t be lazy here. Just like any sport, practice makes perfect. But more importantly, “Perfect Practice” makes perfect. Rehearsing doesn’t mean reading through your notes as fast as you can during TV commercials or reviewing your materials while driving to the seminar. Rehearsing means actually “giving the full presentation” many times. One of the best advisors I ever had the pleasure of working with once told me “Matt, I give one seminar a week to stay sharp”. Now I knew that he only conducted 2 public seminars a month so I was definitely curious. When I asked him to elaborate further, he explained that if he didn’t have a “public” seminar in a given week, he gave the presentation in front of the mirror. I don’t think I need to explain further as to how he became the best presenter I’d ever seen. This is your seminar. Own it. Master it.
8. Don’t Rush the Close – This is the most important part of your event. You likely paid thousands of dollars to get in front of a packed house. Your job is to convert as many of them as possible into appointments. Make sure your close is filled with a sense of urgency. Do your best to give generic examples of typical clients who you are able to create value for. Quantify or “Dollarize” the solutions you can provide. Oh yea, and if you don’t have a packed house, rethink your seminar mail-house relationship.
9. Don’t be Stingy: Give a Door Prize! – As silly as it seems, the door prize can be used as an extremely effective appointment gathering tool. If used correctly in conjunction with a good appointment request form, you will create a sense of urgency for them to book a time to come and see you. If you don’t have a good strategy for doing this, contact me and I can tell you exactly how it works.
10. Cut to the Chase – One of the biggest fears the seminar attendee has is “What is this guy going to try and sell me?” It’s important to come right out of the gates (in your intro) with the “What’s in it for you; what’s in it for me” conversation. If you do this correctly it will allow the crowd to relax and enjoy the presentation, rather than having them sit on the edge of their seats waiting for the hammer to fall.