Financial Advisors

Hosting Educational Seminars: Expect the Unexpected

Hosting educational seminars is one of the most effective ways to establish a relationship with people who need your financial advice and expertise, and in turn, grow your business.

But, uncertainty can strike at any time during a seminar. If you’re not properly prepared for the unknown, you might get tripped up and damage your credibility in the process.

One piece of advice we always give to our White Glove hosts is to expect the unexpected. Here are some tips that can help you do just that at your next seminar:

Start and End on Time

Presenters have the tendency to start a few minutes late if they notice guests trickling in after the start time, but they don’t always communicate to the audience that they’re waiting a few minutes to start.  

If you find yourself in this situation, the best approach is to make an announcement about two or three minutes before your presentation and say,

“Folks, we’re scheduled to start at seven o’clock, but I’m going to wait about three more minutes for those still joining us. We’ll start at 7:03.”

And like clockwork, begin at 7:03.

You can make this work in your favor when people arrive late, too. Rather than embarrassing them, make them feel special by calling on them and saying, “Welcome. You missed a few points in the beginning, so come see me after the seminar and I’ll fill you in.”

Conversely, it’s crucial to end on time. People can turn sour when a presentation goes longer than advertised. Your attendees are investing their precious time with you, so respect that. Despite a Q&A running long or if people bring up engaging questions, it’s your job to finish on time.

If anything, aim to finish 10-15 minutes early to give your audience a pleasant surprise and avoid people rushing out if you finish right on time (or if you’re running over the allotted time). Ending early also encourages people to come talk to you after the seminar, and hopefully, book follow-up appointments.

Visit the Venue

Once your venue dates have been booked, contact venue personnel to set up an appointment to visit the room. Once you arrive and before you enter the building, check parking – is it easy for you to enter and leave? Will it be easy for your guests to do the same? If parking is a little complicated, you’ll want to communicate instructions in your reminder emails and/or phone calls to seminar registrants.

When you’re in the room where you’ll host the seminar, make sure there is functioning WiFi, locate light switches and thermostats and make sure the equipment is up-to-date and compatible with your technology.

Master the Q&A

Many advisors opt out of the Q&A session at seminars because of the risks associated with it, but do you know who always includes a Q&A? Experts! The Q&A forces you to go off-script and can masterfully showcase your thorough knowledge of the subject.

There are exercises and protocol you can follow to prevent yourself from being blindsided by disruptive guests, personal questions or anything else that might undermine your expertise. Seminar expert Frank Maselli is a huge proponent of the Q&A, and he put together this video explaining different scenarios that may arise at your seminar and how to best handle them.

While the Q&A is an important element of your seminar, never end on a Q&A! Allowing an attendee to dictate the last thing everyone hears at the seminar can be detrimental to your entire presentation. It also removes your ability to be courteous of everyone’s time.

Have a Plan B

Most importantly, always have a Plan B. Can’t find your presentation in your files? Load it onto a flash drive and bring it with you. Is the WiFi being spotty? Have your hotspot ready. Does it look like weather is going to force you to reschedule? Make sure you have another date in mind and an email campaign ready to be sent out announcing a reschedule.

Nothing can throw you off your game faster than feeling like you’re not prepared, but fortunately, following these steps can help make you feel as prepared as possible when the unforeseen strikes.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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