Planning a Successful Seminar
by Patricia O'Blisk
(County Bar Update, March 2002, Vol. 22, No. 3)

 

Planning a Successful Seminar

By Patricia O’Blisk, written at the request of the Law Practice Management Section Executive Committee. O’Blisk is a professional services marketing consultant. She has more than 12 years experience with professional service marketing, including strategic planning, public relations and event management. She can be reached at poblisk@adelphia.net. The opinions expressed are her own.

Client seminars have been a cornerstone in law firm marketing for more than a decade. Seminars showcase a law firm’s expertise on a topic or trend and educate clients on new developments that will impact them and their business. They also provide face-to-face interaction between clients, prospects and attorneys in an environment that facilitates relationship building. However, today’s competitive business environment offers dozens of timely events that stand out. What can you do to assure that your event will be well-attended and the one that stands out and is selected by decision makers?

Once you’ve determined that sponsoring a seminar is an effective tactic for a specific situation, here are some recommendations when preparing a successful event.

Establish clear goals and objectives. Spend time at the beginning of the planning process to define the focus and goals that you want to achieve.

Identify your target audience. Invite clients and prospects who are decision makers in the industry you wish to reach. Several days before the event, review your attendee list, look at job titles and the types of companies represented. Research the attendees before the event.

Choose a timely topic and speakers. Educate participants on a change or new developments or laws that will impact their industry. Include recognized leaders from that industry to further demonstrate your credibility and connection to key industry individuals. Conduct a short survey of your target audience prior to the event to confirm your choice of topic.

Begin the seminar with a statement of the problem. Attorneys should present options for solving the problem and specific actions that will address the problem. People hire attorneys who are problem solvers with a unique command of the subject matter.

Make the topic of discussion interactive. It’s key to learn clients’ problems, needs and concerns. Keep your presentation fresh and interactive. Avoid visual presentations unless they have been specifically prepared for the audience you are addressing. Never start a presentation by asking people to hold questions until the end. It makes you look insecure about the material.

Be available to the audience. Speakers should be available 30 minutes before the event, during the breaks and at the end for questions. Make a point of asking attendees if they are getting what they need from the material during the break.

Survey the audience for their interests and needs. Have a survey available at the end of the event so attendees can offer feedback on the speakers and event. Include questions asking about future topics in which they would be interested. Always ask for contact information.

Follow up after the event. Building a relationship once the event is over is the most critical action in changing a prospect to a client. Be proactive. Increase the amount of contact after the seminar. Follow up with a phone call to ask if the attendee found the information useful. Add all attendees to your mailing list and, when appropriate, send them information pertinent to their company and situation. Schedule a meeting at mealtime. Invite them to visit the firm offices.

Attorneys who wish to use forums and seminars as a business development tool cannot cut corners. Each speaking engagement requires the same detailed preparation and enthusiasm that an attorney brings to his or her cases and client meetings. With that, attorneys will be rewarded for their efforts.

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