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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   April 2008

5 Tips for Hosting a Seminar

Want to increase business? Consider hosting an educational event

Anyone who has been in the mortgage industry for even a short time has likely attended a seminar. Perhaps you’ve even let others use your office to host their seminars. But for various reasons, many mortgage professionals -- even tenured brokers -- have never hosted their own seminar.

Hosting a seminar won’t cost you much money. It actually may earn you a lot of money. So what is holding you back?

Common reasons that more brokers aren’t hosting seminars include fear of public speaking and insecurity. The most common reason seems to be that many people are just not sure how to get started.

If you spend some time planning your strategy, however, your first seminar will be successful. Here are five tips to help you get started.

1. Set goals: Goal-setting can’t be emphasized enough. If you don’t know what you hope to accomplish, you won’t accomplish it.

So start by determining a realistic goal. Ask yourself why you want to host a seminar. Undoubtedly, the answer will be, “I’d like to earn more business.”

This is a logical answer and a great goal. But you’d be wise to think a little more critically about the kind of business you’d like to generate. Have you recently started selling mortgage-acceleration products? If so, your goal is likely to attract the business of existing homeowners. But you should also target certified public accountants (CPAs) and financial planners who can pass the information on to their clients.

Do you want to earn refinance business? If so, your goal should be to attract the business of homeowners who have an ARM. And to earn the business of local Realtors, CPAs or financial planners, you should host a seminar that attracts them.

Next, decide how many attendees you will need for you to deem your seminar a success. For your first seminar, you should err on the side of caution and set your goal for the number of attendees on the low end. Set a goal of 10 to 15 attendees for your first seminar and then work your way up with subsequent seminars.

Incidentally, it’s also less stressful to speak in front of a smaller audience than in front of hundreds of attendees.

2. Set a budget: Once you’ve decided on the goals for your seminar, you must create a budget. To maximize cost-effectiveness, look for a free venue or one that charges a nominal fee. If you can’t host a seminar in your office or if you work from home, your local library is a good place to start. Another good option is to ask one of your referral partners if they will let you use their office for the seminar. Title companies generally have large conference rooms and will likely let you use them.

Budget for food and beverages, as well. Because your first seminar will likely be no more than an hour or so, don’t worry about providing a meal for attendees. But at least have a few snacks and beverages on hand.

Finally, set a budget for the materials you plan to use. Using a presentation program will certainly be inexpensive, but it is also a good idea to have some hard copies of information to distribute. If you have room in your budget, put all the materials in a binder that attendees can take home. A folder or stapled copies of material will suffice, especially for your first few seminars.

There is no need to spend a great deal on venue, refreshments or materials, however, as the information you relay to your audience should prove valuable on its own.

3. Plan your marketing: Marketing your first seminar should be inexpensive, as well, especially if you have a decent database of contacts. To start, target those in your database who would be most interested in the topic you’ll discuss. Then, send them a digital invitation. Make follow-up phone calls a few days after your e-mail.

You can also likely list your seminar in your local newspaper’s events calendar for free. Look online, too, for community calendars that let you post free seminars.

Ask people to respond if they plan to attend so that you can make sure you have plenty of materials to distribute and plenty of seating.

4. Have a dress rehearsal: It is not in your best interest to host a seminar that you haven’t rehearsed thoroughly. You should practice what you’ll say as often as possible.

Try practicing in front of colleagues, family and friends. Ask them for constructive criticism and if any of your points need clarification. If you find that others have a hard time understanding the material you’re presenting, it’s best to know early so that you can revise it.

Visit your venue a couple of days before your seminar and run through your seminar in its entirety without an audience. This will help you become familiar not only with the words you’ll use but also with the room. You also can make sure any technical equipment you will use is working properly.

5. Stand and deliver: On the day of your first seminar, you’ll undoubtedly be nervous. But remember that you’ve planned, budgeted, marketed and practiced. Don’t expect everything to go seamlessly, but don’t expect it to be torture, either.

Keep in mind that you’re an expert in your industry, and people have chosen to attend because you have information that is valuable to them. Have fun with your presentation, answer questions and thank everyone for attending.

And remember, once you’ve done it, you’ll never again have to present your first seminar.


 


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