If you're a speaker, consultant or educator, seminars might be your business. If you're another business owner, seminars might be one of the best methods for you to market your business. Whatever your reasons for organizing a seminar, the same basic steps should be followed to create an event that runs smoothly and impresses your participants.
Choose your topic. If you're a consultant or speaker, it's likely that you've been asked to speak to a group about a certain topic. If you're a business owner organizing a seminar to promote your business, you should select a topic that will appeal to your target customer. For example, an attorney might organize a free seminar for the public on estate planning.
Select your venue. Try to estimate the number of participants you'll have and choose a venue that will have ample space for everyone to sit comfortably. You'll also have to take price into consideration when selecting a venue. Some venues can have room rental fees of several hundred or even thousands of dollars, while others are much more reasonable. Hotels often have banquet rooms where businesses frequently hold conventions, so that may be a good place to start in your search for a location.
Create and mail invitations. Depending on the size and formality of your event, your invitations can range from a simple document created in Microsoft Word to a fancy design created by a professional designer. Mail your invitations several weeks in advance to allow participants time to plan to attend. Don't mail the invitations so far in advance that they may forget before the actual seminar date arrives, however. You can also email your invitations, but keep in mind that they may end up in several recipients' spam folders.
Decide whether you'll offer lunch or light refreshments. If your seminar runs for several hours, it's a nice touch to have light refreshments available. If your seminar starts early in the morning or runs over the lunch hour, providing lunch is recommended. Some venues have a requirement that you utilize the services of their in-house caterer when holding an event at the facility. Be sure you know the rules of your contract before you order refreshments.
Create your presentation materials. Make copies of handouts, or have them printed at a professional printer. You'll probably want to create a PowerPoint presentation so you have a visual reference when you or your speaker are presenting material. You can easily create a handout for your participants by selecting "handouts" under print options. Make sure you select three per page, and your participants will be able to take notes directly on their handouts.
A few days before the event, finalize your number of attendees based on your RSVPs. If you choose, you can call other people that you've invited to remind them of your event and give them one last chance to register. Leave a message for anyone you don't reach, if possible, and instruct them to call you as soon as possible if they plan to attend.
Create a sign-in sheet and nametags. It's nice for seminar participants to be able to meet other people and immediately see their name and where they are from. It eliminates some of the uncomfortable feelings people have when introducing themselves to new people. A sign-in sheet will prove useful if you plan to offer any type of continuing education credits to your participants, or if you simply wish to keep in contact with your participants after the seminar. You can ask for their names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. It's wise to offer a box they can check if they don't wish to receive further communication from you.
Create packets for each table setting. You may want to include brochures and other promotional material about your business. You'll also want to provide something for your participants to write on and a pen for them to write with. If you don't have these items with your business logo on, the venue where you're holding your event may have pens and pads that they'd be happy to provide.
Confirm details with your contact person at your venue a few days prior to your event. You should also confirm a final head count with your caterer if you're having food catered. Be sure to let your caterer know if you'll need them to supply paper products, such as plates, napkins or cups. Make any payment arrangements necessary. Some venues and caterers require upfront payment, while others are happy to collect money the day of your event.
Set up your venue the day before or morning of your event. You'll want to be sure that your venue staff have the room set up the way you asked. You'll also want to place your packets and other materials at each place setting before your guests arrive. Walk around the room and make sure everyone will have a clear view of you or your speaker at the front of the room.
Plan for yourself or a representative from your company to be present when the first guests will begin arriving the day of your event. You'll want to greet people and direct them to the sign-in sheet, the location of restrooms and the refreshments.
Try to stay as organized as possible when planning your seminar. Small details can tend to overwhelm you, and the more organized you are leading up to the event, the more smoothly it will run on the big day.
You will always have some participants who have reserved a seat at your seminar who do not show up the day of the event. Emergencies arise or other problems occur that prevent some people from actually coming. Don't let it bother you. Chances are, there will be one or two people who show up at the last minute and ask if they can still attend.
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