50 Ways to Kill a Perfectly Good Seminar

Posted by Marty Dickinson on Nov 20, 2009

If you agree to speak at enough seminars, or attempt to start one and promote it yourself, the day will come when a seminar you are a part of fails completely and you’ve lost any investment you put into the event. You arrive and simply no one is there to fill the room.

Since the first paid workshop I conducted in 2003 with just 9 people in attendance (a sold-out room by the way) in November 2003, I can remember only once since did I “cancel” a workshop. And, I vowed to never let it happen again.

This past weekend, I flew to the destination where I was invited to speak and even planned an extended stay with relatives. 18 hours before the event would begin, I received word that the entire event had been canceled due to lack of attendees.

The economy is a contributor maybe. People claim they don’t have the money to pay for “anything” let alone a seminar. People pull the “sales pitch” card that they don’t want to pay money only to get sold to. People will find any excuse, such as “too close to Thanksgiving” in this case, in order to prolong their education of cutting-edge material.

Have you ever wondered who is truly at a loss when a seminar bottoms up? Is it the speakers? Heck no! It was only a couple hundred bucks to fly out there and two nights in a hotel. I made that back in new sales from my websites before I even checked out of the hotel!

We just go back to business as usual and do what we do best. It’s the audience, I believe, that really loses out. They’re given the opportunity to hear genuine content about what’s working now…today, and they pass it up.

We as a society have completely lost the understanding of why we should attend seminars and it’s beyond frustrating for me. In fact, it makes me feel like I’m letting people down when I can’t get through to them the importance of their attendance.

I mean, I have a client that has just crossed the $100,000 mark of sales coming in through his shopping cart website. That means actually selling product online. And, we just launched the thing in August! Don’t you think people would be interested to know that there really are people making money on the Internet and how we made it happen?

We had 99 products for that site on TOP of Google’s organic search … in three “3″ days! Wouldn’t you think people would want to know how we did that?

I’ve always had an interest in what makes successful seminars happen. I’ve run “the pit” as we used to call it, at three Brian Tracy events full of volunteers who sold $100,000 worth of back-of-the-room product in under 20 minutes! I’ve served on the planning and promotion team for two Capital Factor events here in Denver that sucked who knows how many hours of devotion over 8-month planning periods. And, I continue to promote my own 3-hour and all-day Internet training events every few months.

It seems like everyone I meet who has a shred of public speaking experience gets this idea in their minds of one day promoting a conference of their own. Instead of using this post to suggest what you should do, I would like to supply a list of things you SHOULDN’T do.

Please accept this “tongue-in-cheek” guide as 50 things to do if you really want to Kill a perfectly good seminar. Use it as a guide when promoting your own seminar or as a checklist for meeting planners to consider before YOU accept the invitation to accept a speaking gig, meaning, if they’re doing any of these, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. Or, you will soon find yourself speaking to an empty room.

  1. Don’t give enough time to promote
  2. Pick speakers who have a reputation for not promoting to their lists
  3. Encourage speakers to not talk with the other speakers during the pre-conference promotion
  4. Don’t have conference calls with potential attendees prior to the event
  5. Pick speakers that do not have a presence on social networks
  6. Do not replace a speaker that does not put a banner on their website to promote the event
  7. Do not offer bonuses of any kind when someone buys a ticket
  8. Don’t have an opt-in screen on the site. Just drive people right to the “Buy Now” button
  9. Don’t send any emails to the list you’ve attracted, even if you do have an opt-in field on your website
  10. Don’t have a blog for the event as people will certainly not want to know of your event building progress
  11. Announce on your site that networking breaks between speakers will be short
  12. Allow 60 minutes or less for each speaker and make it obvious to people that’s all they’ll get with each
  13. Choose a low-class cheap hotel in a bad neighborhood
  14. Make your price bigger than anyone else charges…”your” seminar is worth it after all.
  15. Don’t have a promotion team–you can do it all yourself anyway and keep all the dough
  16. Don’t offer the participating speakers 50% of the ticket price as referral incentive
  17. Rely solely on your speaker lineup to promote the event; surely they’ll send emails every day to their big lists
  18. Bank the success or failure of the event on 2 or 3 large groups coming together to fill your room at the last minute
  19. Promote to people who already know your product well, maybe even better than you!
  20. Don’t have a headliner who is a recognized industry leader
  21. Don’t have a celebrity speaker
  22. Don’t use the successes of your speakers in promotions; only feature their topic agendas
  23. Never tell a speaker to promote to their list; they’ll take it upon themselves to do it anyway
  24. Never join the email lists of your speakers to make sure they are promoting the event and call them on it when they don’t
  25. Pick an area of the country that has heavy hitters and frequent appearances from them in their own back yard
  26. Pick a date on the day of a major sporting event
  27. Pick a day that has a seminar just like yours but bigger on the same day or two weeks before or after
  28. Pick a date five days before or after a major holiday
  29. Don’t make your event sound critical or vitally important to attend
  30. Don’t provide sales copy for your speakers to use in their promotion efforts
  31. Avoid sending mailings to all businesses in a five square mile radius of the event
  32. And, certainly never follow-up those mailings with a cold call
  33. Do not alert all local meet-ups (at Meetup.com) that the event will happen
  34. Never offer a giveaway as a taste of what attendees will get
  35. Try to promote a big event when you haven’t successfully promoted a small one yet
  36. Don’t attend potential feeder association events to alert members that your seminar is coming up
  37. Make it obvious that you are really doing a “sell-i-nar” instead of a seminar; people never want to really learn anything but they love being sold to!
  38. Don’t offer an early bird price, because your seminar is so special people will be beating the door down to attend
  39. Don’t have a conference call so that speakers can introduce themselves to the other speakers and the team as this would only make them more part of a team working together
  40. Do not persuade speakers to interview each other and do crazy things like conduct tele-seminars with each other because that would be exposing them to each other’s clients and list
  41. Do not seek volunteers (like local Toastmasters members) to help at the event; they never tell anyone they’re helping at a seminar when they get the opportunity
  42. Do not have a tested method for taking online orders and orders by phone; they’ll always send you an email if there’s a problem
  43. Do not worry about having an affiliate program for affiliate marketers to promote your seminar
  44. Do not have a path and process to instruct paid attendees that they can now start recommending your seminar to others and get paid commission on the sales
  45. DO have a very scary photo on your website and never test a different photo; no one looks at them anyway
  46. Never track visitation statistics for your seminar website; you won’t have time with all those orders rolling in
  47. Don’t plan for how many visitors to the site you will need in order to get the amount of attendees you want
  48. Avoid those long sales letters for your event website; no one really buys from them anyway
  49. Definitely don’t use testimonials as no one reads them or watches them
  50. And above all, do NOT have a project manager on your team that relentlessly gets a ton of work accomplished quickly without whining about it; “get-it-dunners” are over rated

What else can you think of that will kill a perfectly good seminar? List your comments here and we’ll have a complete list!

Hopefully you know I’ve written these totally tongue-in-cheek. Turn each phrase around to the positive and you will have a recipe for success EVERY time you launch a workshop or seminar promotion.

Most importantly, though, it is always my intent to inspire others to attend seminars whenever they get the opportunity. Attend at least 4 conferences or seminars per year that are directly tied to your industry so that you remain on the cutting edge of what’s happening.

I make sure to spend an average of $20,000 a year just on furthering my own education and networking efforts by attending seminars and conferences around the country. That means actually BUYING…yes BUYING…what speakers sell from the stage. Attending a seminar is really just about being introduced to speakers so that you pick the ones you like and want to get to know more. You buy their stuff and learn more about the strategies that work for them.

But, when you decide one day to assemble your own seminar full of speakers, that’s a whole different game. My hope is that you will use this list in your seminar promoting efforts. After all, I don’t want to hear that you are responsible for killing a perfectly good seminar!

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