From the August 2012 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

July 26, 2012

The Seminar Secret

The idea of a seminar is great. Get a large number of people in a room; give one bang up presentation and voilà … you qualify for the grand awards trip. If the idea is so great, then why do so many advisors cringe at the thought? Is it the cost? Is it all the planning? Is it the fear of public speaking? Let me share with you: the secret of a seminar.

Way back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth (and I was a snot-nosed advisor), an old seasoned wholesaler convinced me to do a seminar. He told me, “Sonny, you put me in front of a room full of people and I’ll bring you in $250,000 in investments.” Since I was broke and floundering, that sounded like a great idea.

Invitations were sent, follow-up calls were placed and more importantly … the cookies, snacks and beverages were all set up in the back of the room. Ten minutes before the seminar was to start, the only people in the room were my BOA and myself. Mr. Wholesaler arrived next claiming his flight got in late. I was thankful he showed at all because I was a newbie and had absolutely nothing to say.

A few people trickled in to the empty room right as the seminar was supposed to start. Since I was in charge, I made the management decision to open the cookie bar to the few guests that showed and prayed a few more would trickle in. After about 10 minutes (and three snickerdoodles), 20 or so people (10 buying units) were in the room and I gave the nod for Mr. Wholesaler to begin his magic.

Since PowerPoint wasn’t invented yet, our primary technology in the room was a flip chart and a green magic marker. After about 45 minutes of bad drawings and bad jokes, Mr. Wholesaler ended his shtick. I was excited thinking about how the attendees were going to give me the $250,000. Would it be a check or all in $20s?

When the room emptied it was just me, Mr. Wholesaler and the few remaining cookies that didn’t get stuffed into purses. My moneybag was completely empty. Something had gone horribly wrong!

Mr. W. swigged the remainder of his Scotch and said, “Don’t worry kid, it’ll trickle in over the next week or so.” And then he vanished. Apparently the nightlife in my little Amish town wasn’t to his liking.

I can’t recall if anything ever trickled in. If it did, it sure wasn’t $250,000. As time went on, I did have more seminars. It was my love of snickerdoodles that kept me motivated. To my surprise, some of the seminars, I would have to say, ended up being successful.

Several years later I became a wholesaler myself. I was now the wise old Scotch-swigging sage, flying into Amish country to spew my pearls of wisdom. I never promised any advisor that I would bring in $250,000 for them. I only implied it.

Over the years I watched countless advisors and their seminars. Some were hugely successful. Many others were like having a root canal while listening to finger scratches on a chalkboard.

When visiting new advisors, they all seemed eager to mine my vast experience of seminars. What worked? What didn’t? How much money could they make?

They all wanted to know what was the biggest secret to having a successful seminar. Never wanting to let facts get in the way of a good story, I would tell them “I can’t explain why, but the one common denominator of every great seminar I’ve ever seen was … they always served snickerdoodles.”

One of the great mysteries of life, I suppose. 

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