Lead Generator #12 – Seminars & Workshops

If you like teaching (Lead Generator #11), you may consider developing and presenting your own materials.

Due to the considerable start up efforts, however, I don’t recommend this for brand new consultants. Other marketing methods usually provide faster results with less work and money. This is an excellent method to consider, however, after you become established.

We started offering our own seminars at about five years as full time consultants. By that time, we had established ourselves, and were ready to expand the business. Had we tried much earlier, I’m not sure we would have been successful.

It has worked out well. Since 1992, we’ve trained over 10,000 students in our engineering specialty through a combination of public and in-house classes.

The training business nicely  complements the consulting business. Many students become clients, and many clients bring us in to train their colleagues.

But our success was not immediate. We experimented with both content and promotion. After several iterations and a few setbacks, we finally got it right.

So don’t be disappointed if your success is not immediate — one reason why I don’t recommend this as an initial marketing method.

Content

Most training seminars today run ½ to 5 days, with 1-2 days very typical. Longer than a webinar, but shorter than a class. Unlike classes, most seminars are done in a single session — a short cram course where students can focus on the subject alone.

We have found that shorter is better — a major concern is often time away from the office, not the not the dollar cost of the seminar.

Thus, the content needs to be focused and precise.  Most of our seminars range between ½ and 3 days, with 2 days being the most popular for our topics.

The content should also be tutorial. Like writing articles or white papers, your goal is to transfer knowledge, not to impress your peers. Think “How to Tell Time” --NOT “An In-depth History of Clock Making.”

Thanks to the Internet, there is a trend to offer seminars/workshops on line in one hour chunks. In those cases, it starts to look like a traditional class. Another trend is to record seminars on audio or a DVD.  Like traditional seminars, a lot of effort is still required.

Development

The development time can vary widely, depending on how well you know your material.  Maybe you taught classes or wrote a book based on your expertise, so you already have plenty of content and ideas. But there is still a LOT of work to get to a finished product.

Rest assured, it will take much more time than you thought. And plan on spending more time editing and polishing than on developing the content in the first place.

We’ve seen various rules of thumb over the years. For technical training, we assume  5-10 hours of development per hour of class time. That means a ½ day workshop could take a week from start to finish, and a two day class can easily take up to a month.

Promotion

The next big hurdle is the promotion. Typical techniques include direct mail, e-mail, advertising, and more. No, it is not enough to build that better mousetrap — you need to promote it too!

As part of your promotion, you also need a plan for registration and payment. There are a number of on-line services that can help here. There are also plug-ins for your web site. We’ve used both methods with good success.

One way to ease the efforts is to find a sponsor. The good news is that the sponsor handles all the promo/registration details. The bad news is that you end up splitting the proceeds.

In some cases, you get nothing except the exposure. This is typical for trade shows.

We’ve partnered several times. Our most successful is a 20 year partnership with an electronics  manufacturer. They have been a joy to work with. We recently partnered with a training firm that specializes in military/defense systems, which complements and does NOT compete with our main partnership.

Going alone is the most challenging. If you do so, expect to spend some serious time and money on this. (See barriers to entry.) It can be done, but going alone is NOT recommended for new consultants.

Fulfillment

The final hurdle is the fulfillment. In addition to the presentation, you need to prepare materials and handouts.

If going alone, you’ll need a venue. Will you use a hotel? What about meals and refreshments? What about A/V? Don’t assume anything, and double check everything.

Most of this work needs to be done well in advance, and often involves financial commitments and risks. Be prepared for nonrefundable deposits and guarantees. We’ve had a few failures that cost us thousands of dollars. Try to minimize your risks.

In closing, seminars and workshops can be effective marketing tools. They can also nicely augment your consulting business. But the hurdles are there, so proceed with caution, particularly when just starting out. Don’t fret –there will be plenty of opportunities after you are established.

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