6 ways to improve your seminar
Anyone who is important enough to speak publicly as an expert in a subject should act as the main event.
By Kimsey Hollifield
Can we be super honest? Most financial seminars are boring, generic and meant to confuse you so the presenter feels smart. It’s basically like the teacher from Charlie Brown. "Wa wa wa" for an hour. Nails scratching on a chalkboard would be better because at least you would be memorable. I built a successful financial services business on the back of public speaking engagements and here are six ways you can improve your seminar's performance.
1. Have someone introduce you.
Have you ever went to a Tony Robbins event? Picture it…you’re sitting there with thousands of other people eagerly awaiting for the expert to come out and change your life. All of the sudden Tony comes out. The crowd goes crazy. Everyone is on the edge of their seat wearing their best fire walking shoes and ready to take notes. He quiets the crowd, adjusts his microphone and says, “before we begin could everyone please silence your cell phones and note that the bathrooms are to the right side of the stage and concessions are in the back left corner. Let me now tell you about my background…..” Of course not!
Learn your material so you don’t have to read from a PowerPoint and put some individuality in your presentation.
Anyone who is important enough to speak publicly as an expert in a subject should act as the main event. Do this at your seminar. Have someone…staff, family, etc. come up and do the housekeeping items and introduce you. They should give 60 seconds about you professionally and then say, “He/She is not just a great financial advisor but a great person and friend…” Then they should give 60 seconds about what a great person you are. Then to a big round of applause…. and you come flying up like Will Smith on the Tonight Show. I’m serious. You want to see how to make an entrance? Go to YouTube and watch Will Smith enter on some of these late shows. It’s great!
When you get up front don’t ruin it by welcoming the audience or introducing yourself a second time. The first words out of your mouth should be a story. A relevant, relatable story that can tie back in to what the audience is going through. Start with a great sentence. Something like, “Let me tell you about the scariest moment of my life.” Watch your audience respond to you and the sales come rolling in.
2. Stop with the PowerPoint.
Everyone hates PowerPoints. Everyone that is, except the presenter who doesn’t know his/her stuff. It’s easy to turn the PowerPoint on, turn your personality off and just click click click. Stop it already. Interact with the crowd, tell jokes, show them you know the info without having to look at a screen or a stack of notes. Let your personality and expertise be the attraction, not a screen with 48 slides.
Bite the bullet and see what your audience sees and then fix it.
Let’s be honest, too. You didn’t even make your own PowerPoint. You got it from your FMO or RIA or a third-party marketing vendor who handed that same one out to hundreds or thousands of other advisors. Is that what you want? For your audience to sit through the same presentation the guy across town is using? Give it up already. Learn your material so you don’t have to read from a PowerPoint and put some individuality in your presentation.
If you refuse to throw the PowerPoint away do yourself a favor and cut down on the number of slides. I see a ton of advisors using 30-60 slides. If you are dead set on keeping the PowerPoint, cut them in half before your next presentation. Then cut it in half again. Less slides equals more appointments.
3. Record yourself.
If you’ve never recorded yourself public speaking, here’s the hard truth: You probably suck. Like repeat-yourself-three-times-in-a-row suck. Like use-um-and-uh-every-other-word suck. Like talk-really-really-slowly suck. I worked with a producer once and after videoing his seminar we figured out that he actually picked his nose and scratched himself. Don’t be that guy. Bite the bullet, see what your audience sees and then fix it.
If you do dinner seminars, you know there is a subset of your attendees that are there just to eat the meal, set a fake appointment, and avoid your calls forever. You can be bitter about it or you can address it and have fun.
This is the most important step you could ever do and it will improve your seminar faster than anything else. If you do this and work on it in the evenings for one week, your seminar will be better, and it will be one of the most profitable weeks of your life. And record the audience, too. You need to know what resonates with them and gets their attention. After you record yourself and fix some problems, record them and see what excites them and what bores them.
4. Have a strong closing.
They aren’t setting an appointment with you because of your background, education, family pedigree, etc. They are buying your message and your confidence. End of story. Make sure the last thing they hear before setting an appointment is a confident, polished, closing with a sense of urgency. You also need two closings. You need a tactical close talking about your appointment and your office and all the things they will get from meeting with you. Then you need a short personal, no financial story to pull the emotional heart strings. Everyone in your audience is either tactical or emotional so make sure you aren’t leaving half out.
Put people at ease. Have a little fun.
5. Be yourself.
Hopefully, you get tons of new clients and work with them for years. But what does it matter how many appointments you get if you are fake and stiff at the seminar and then when they meet you at your office you’re a completely different person? The easiest way to be the same person all the time is to be yourself. My name is Kimsey. That’s strange right? I know that when people come into my seminar they are reading my bio and talking about what a strange name I have. So when I give my seminar I start by making a joke about it. Put people at ease. Have a little fun.
If you do dinner seminars, you know there is a subset of your attendees that are there just to eat the meal, set a fake appointment, and avoid your calls forever. You can be bitter about it or you can address it and have fun. How about this, “How many people came here tonight because you have financial questions you hope I have the answer to? How many people came here because you want me to answer your questions but you also want this great steak I’m paying for? How many people will be honest and say you only came for the free food and aren’t even paying attention?”
When they see you treating the restaurant staff with respect and calling them by name that goes a long way to them trusting you.
People will laugh and raise their hand and you just broke the ice and made everyone in the room relax. I have seen successful seminars where the presenter is a Christian and talks about his church and prays at the end. I have seen successful advisors cuss during their seminar and tell off-color jokes. You can be successful doing a great number things but you cannot and will not be successful trying to be someone you are not.
6. Treat the staff well.
I do a ton of events at Ruth’s Chris in Charleston. So much so that I spend more money at the downtown Ruth’s Chris location than anyone in Charleston. That gives me certain privileges. Everyone from the valets to the owner knows when I’m there and treats me and my guests with respect. In return, I treat them with respect. Not only the owner and General Manager, but everyone that helps put on our event. I spend time talking to the valets and remember their names. I ask about their life and make a note to remember these things for the next time I’m there. In return they don’t take my car to some back lot. They leave it right up front where it’s easy for me to get out. The servers, hosts and bartenders all work hard to put on our events so I treat them with as much respect and appreciation as the owner.
Let’s take a minute and set aside the fact that it’s the right thing to do and examine how that affects your seminars profitability: your attendees will make a decision on you before the seminar starts about whether you are trustworthy. They are watching how you treat the servers and bartenders. When they see you treating the restaurant staff with respect and calling them by name that goes a long way to them trusting you. When you finish your seminar and they see you thank the staff and talk to the chef and general manager they will feel comfortable with their decision to meet with you.
Small consistent improvements over time yield huge results.
I can’t tell you how many times I have stood with some of the people that attended my seminar waiting for the valet to get our cars. Because I treat the valets with the same respect as I do the owner of the restaurant they always keep my car right up front and treat me like the president when I’m in front of my potential clients. The prospective clients see this, that I call the valet by name, and wish him luck on his Geometry class he’s having trouble in, or with the girl he just started dating. People will care about you only when you start caring about them.
By upgrading some of these areas you will make each seminar a little more profitable. Maybe not much but a little adds up. Let’s do the math. Let’s say you make your seminar better and it gets you two more appointments each night and you end up making 1 of those a client. Let’s say your average case size is about 100k. That means:
If you do 20 seminars per year you would bring in 2 million dollars more in business per year.
If you do 30 seminars per year you would bring in 3 million dollars more in business per year.
If you do 40 seminars per year you would bring in 4 million dollars more in business per year.
If you do 50 seminars per year you would bring in 5 million dollars more in business per year.
If you do 100 seminars per year you would bring in 10 million dollars more in business per year. I actually know a guy who does 120 seminars per year and as you can imagine makes a pretty solid living. Small consistent improvements over time yield huge results.