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Seminar Planning 101

November 20, 2014 Molly Aggas

Hosting a seminar is a great way to increase visibility in your target markets. It also positions you as an industry expert and helps generate business leads. So, what’s the hesitation?

Event planning can be daunting. There are a lot of moving pieces, which means plenty of details to remember. To ease the process, here’s our checklist for planning an informational seminar:

1. Set your objective

First and foremost, what’s the purpose of the event? What information are you hoping to convey? Who is your target audience? How many people do you want to reach? Make sure the rest of these steps fall in line with your objective.

2. Invite speakers

Select two or three speakers who are experts on the subject matter. You can pick from executives within your company or reach out to contacts at other organizations (which prevents you from looking too sales-y). Partner organizations are a great place to find additional speakers.

3. Answer the what, when and where
  • What: This goes along with the objective, but also includes the type of event you’re having (i.e. educational seminar, seminar with continuing ed credits for lawyers and/or accountants, networking event, etc.)
  • When: For a good turnout, we’ve found that Tuesdays or Thursdays are usually best, with Wednesdays coming in a close second. In terms of time of day, we’ve found breakfast and lunch meetings to work best, such at 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • Where: Make sure you choose a convenient location for your guests. Think about parking, proximity to your target market, meeting room sizes, etc.
4. Compile a solid guest list

Your guest list should be targeted and specific. For example: Business owners in x, y and z industries within your MSA who have at least 100 employees and $20 million in annual revenue.

5. Begin distributing the invite six-plus weeks prior to event

We typically send invitations four weeks prior to an event, but we’ve found that when it comes to a seminar, giving guests a little extra time helps. You’ll need to decide whether you’ll send your invite via email or snail mail. If opting for email, make sure you pick an e-vite platform with RSVP/tracking capability, reminder emails, etc.Handouts

6. Follow up with guests

This is where the extra two weeks of lead time helps. If you’re like me, you receive at least 100 emails per day, meaning things get lost. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call your invitees to see if they’re planning to attend. I’d also suggest sending a reminder email once a week to all invitees who haven’t RSVPed. It’s great to send registered guests an email the day before the event with a reminder and information on parking or directions to the venue.

7. Create content to promote your event

This includes posting information about the seminar to your website (with a link to where users can RSVP), blog and social media channels. Alert the local media with a press release detailing the event.

8. Create materials to distribute at the seminar

Present your guests with folders or binders of information, including speaker bios, your business card, an event schedule, a copy of the presentation deck(s), an evaluation form and any collateral you and the speakers wish to include. Don’t forget to create a nametag for each guest. Place them at the registration table along with a few blank ones and a Sharpie.

9. Think through the day-of event logistics

In my opinion, this is where things get really crazy and if you don’t think ahead and prepare for any potential dilemmas, the seminar you’ve been planning for months could go to waste. Make sure you have:

  • Back ups of each presentation in multiple formats (4:3 and 16:9, as well as PDFs of each slide on a jump drive).
  • A designated table for registration in plain sight as guests arrive. If you’re hosting a continuing ed seminar, don’t forget to collect guests’ registration numbers. Include a registration form on the table with space for their name, attorney (or CPA, etc.) registration number and the state they are registered for.
  • Most projectors connect only with PCs, so if you don’t have a PC laptop, make sure the venue is providing one. Otherwise you’ll need a VGA adapter to connect your Mac.
  • If you’re hosting a large seminar with 50 or more guests, you’re going to need a microphone for each speaker. You can typically coordinate this with the venue, though it will sometimes be an extra cost. The same goes for a remote to advance PowerPoint slides.Seminar PowerPoint_FBB
10. Follow up after the seminar

Send a follow up email or letter to guests thanking them for coming. Include a link to or a jump drive with the video of the presentations, PDFs of the speakers’ presentation decks and collateral.

If the thought of planning a seminar – or any event – still sounds daunting, we’re happy to help. We’ve planned a number of events in our day – from a prominent horse race to numerous continuing ed seminars to launch parties to dinner and holiday parties. Give us a shout and let’s get started planning your next event.

Photo credit: Walther Siksma via photopin cc

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