Avoid Common Pitfalls for More Effective Sales Seminars — Part 2


In Part 1 of this post, I discussed the importance of having a good sales pipeline, building quality content, and allowing adequate time for promotion. I want to publish a few additional thoughts here.

1. Doing the Little Things Right Can Make a Big Difference
I had an interesting conversation with a regional sales director the other day. He mentioned door prizes, venue selection, and catering. Hey, without a doubt all these “little things” matter and they can add up to make the difference between success and failure. Here are some examples:

A. CATERING:
You can *increase registration* if you mention in your invitation that a meal will be served. For the title of your event, consider naming it a “Breakfast seminar…” and mention that a complimentary meal will be served.

B. DOOR PRIZES:
Including door prizes might increase registration, but it is even more important for *reducing your no-show rate.* Include a note in your confirmation and reminder emails that there will be prizes raffled off or give-aways for each attendee. Be specific about what will be awarded. That way, registrants will realize that if they no-show then they will miss out on something concrete and desirable.

C. REMINDERS AND CONFIRMATIONS:
While we are discussing *reducing your no-show rate*, it is absolutely critical that you remind your registrants of the upcoming seminar and confirm their attendance. Send a reminder email a day or two before the event to every person who has registered. Follow up with phone confirmation to make sure they are still able to come. While you are at it, ask them if anyone else in their organization would be interested in attending, it can be extremely valuable to get other members of the decision-making unit to attend, or at least capture their contact information. During your confirmation activities, be sure to have ready driving directions to the venue, and any information about parking (these are common questions you will get).

D. VENUE SELECTION:
Choose a venue that matches the theme and it may *increase registration.* If you are having an end-user “hands-on workshop” then it is OK to rent a standard function room at Holiday Inn. But that will not cut it for an executive audience. You need to go upscale and exclusive and “cool.” Choose a fancy restaurant, or an upscale hotel. Try something unconventional like renting out a museum space or art gallery or sports facility. I once held a seminar in Fenway Park (home of Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox) and it was a huge draw. Hold your event at a prominent customer’s headquarters. We have hosted seminars at the facilities of customers who are prominent NASCAR competitors and it always helps to draw a crowd.

Any other good examples? Please feel free to post them in the comments section below.

2. Knowing When to Pull The Plug on a Seminar That Will Fail:
I came across a good article called “Seminar Marketing – Seven Tips to Increase Attendance.” There’s a good discussion of timing your promotion, the importance of coming up with a good seminar title, setting realistic expectations about how many registrations you will get based on the size of the list you are promoting to, etc.

The post starts with this quote “I just delivered one of the best seminar presentations of my life,” said the professional. “Too bad only 6 people showed up.”

This should NEVER happen. It is not easy to admit failure. But it is sometimes better to gracefully cancel a seminar than to hold a seminar with low attendance.

Monitor your registration list. If you have less than 20 people registered within a week of your event you should strongly consider canceling your seminar. Remember you will have something like a 50% no-show rate, so 20 registrants will yield around 10 attendees. Depending on your room size, less than 10 people in attendance will probably be embarrassing and counterproductive — an empty room will convey to the audience members that nobody really wants to listen to what you have to say. It will make them question why they fell for it, when nobody else apparently did!

So if you have an unacceptably low registration rate it is better to cancel your seminar. Call up each registrant and make an excuse (our guest speaker had a family crisis and had to cancel, or something like that) and offer to come to them in-person and deliver the content. That is the best way to salvage the sales opportunity, and you might actually be able to recoup some of your event costs too (venue, travel, catering, etc.). That is taking lemons and making lemonade!

Please feel free to post examples of successes or failures, or additional tips.

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About Bob Hebeisen

My name is Bob Hebeisen and I'm a Boston-based Marketing Director, currently seeking new full-time and contract opportunities. I formerly held Field Marketing and Channel Marketing roles at PTC and SDL, and have spent most of my 20-year career in Business-to-Business (B2B) technology marketing. Follow me at http://twitter.com/bobhebeisen
This entry was posted in Channel Marketing Best Practices, Seminar Marketing, VAR Marketing Techniques. Bookmark the permalink.

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