As you’ll recall from last issue, a successful seminar marketing campaign has to deliver on five major numbers. We’ve taken a detailed look at two of them — the Acceptance and Show-Up rates. Now it’s time to get the third up into a profitable range.

Your Appointment Request Rate is the percentage of people who request an appointment when they fill out your “seminar report card.” This figure alone tells you whether your presentation is paralyzing your audience or enlightening them sufficiently for them to want more of your time.

First let’s define a successful presentation as a presentation in which a profitable number of participants request an appointment with the advisor. That helps a lot, right? If not, let’s set a goal: A successful presentation is one in which an average of 50 percent of the participants, over several seminars (at least three and preferably five), request an appointment.

To hit that 50 percent mark, there are several “success ingredients” you must combine:

o Make the presentation in a room under your control and where you can comfortably communicate with your audience

o Resist the urge to add additional presenters

o Prepare material that both enlightens and disturbs

o Know your material cold

o Maintain your audience’s attention level.

Let’s take these factors one at a time.

The Right Room

The right room is in an upscale restaurant with a banquet room separate from the main dining area. Noise from the kitch en and other rooms must be minimal.

The room must also be the correct size for the optimum audience, which, based on my experience of coaching thousands of advisors through tens of thousands of seminars, usually comes to 24 people.

When seminars get much bigger, your seminar appointment request rate drops. The reason appears to be that our ability to bond with a group of people has limits. When that group is too big, we will bond with a smaller percentage of them — and these tend to be the people seated in the front.

If your seminar promotion works too well, instead of continuing to add people to an already overloaded room, open additional seminars.

The Right Layout

You need to group your audience members so communication can easily occur. Several seating arrangements make that hard, if not impossible.

The “horseshoe” arrangement is the worst. In this set-up, you cannot create a group response like humor because it disperses your audience in such a way that you have to address each member as an individual.

The second-worst arrangement is “movie theater” style. When your guests sit in this configuration, it is very difficult to take notes. Since they cannot take notes, you have sent a hugely negative message about your presentation. You have effectively told them, by the way you set up the room, that they will not learn anything important enough to write down. So they won’t write anything down, nor will they remember it.

The optimum arrangement is “classroom” style. An acceptable arrangement is round tables that have been cleared of dinner and positioned in such a way that everyone can see your screen or chalkboard.

The One-Presenter Principle

I cannot tell you the number of times I have spiked the appointment request rate by cutting the number of speakers to one.

The optimum length for a financial services seminar is about an hour and fifteen minutes. This is barely enough time for a single speaker to bond with an audience; more simply can’t do it. A single speaker can develop a momentum and a bond with the audience. Multiple speakers, each with a few minutes, cannot.

In one of my coaching cases, each member of a three-way partnership was splitting an hour-long presentation and their seminar appointment request rate was about 20 percent. After I told them two of the presenters had to go, their appointment request rate immediately doubled.

In another case, a father and son were splitting the time. I reduced the dad’s role to introducing the son, and their appointment request rate also shot up.

This of course brings up the role of a wholesaler. Wholesalers should be introduced, thanked for their financial support and then made available afterward for questions. They should never present within the seminar itself.

Good Material

“Good material” explores a problem experienced by the majority of people in the audience. It also discloses at least part — but not all — of the solution. To put it another way, good material both enlightens and disturbs.

There are two ways to develop good material: You can buy it, or else you can develop it yourself. For most advisors, it’s best to buy. There are a lot more people who can give good seminars than there are people who can design them. Seminar design is a rare skill.

Know Your Material Cold

One of the worst things you can do is read your slides. You’ve spent all that money to position yourself as an expert. Reading your slides demonstrates that you don’t know your subject.

The test is whether you know your presentation well enough to give it without looking at your slides or notes. Every time I see someone who can do this, they get at least 50 percent of the prospects requesting an appointment.

There are three guiding principles to learn a seminar cold:

1. Rehearse.

2. Rehearse.

3. Rehearse.

Maintaining Attention

If you lose the audience’s attention, they lapse into boredom and are then gone forever. When the time comes to request an appointment, they won’t. No one wants more of a bad thing.

The entire art, then, of making a public presentation is keeping the audience’s attention focused on you the speaker and your message.

The best material I have ever seen on keeping the audience focused is Lend Me Your Ears by Max Atkinson. He fully covers what you must do to capture attention and what you must not do unless you wish to destroy it.

Consider these points that illustrate how attention is too often destroyed.

“One way to make sure people pay attention is by getting the audience to do or say something… Once we realize that the speaker is no longer treating us as passive listeners, but might fire a question at us at any moment, we know that it’s time to start listening closely enough to be able to speak if and when we are spoken to.”

“Visual aids that most often attract positive ratings from audiences are ones that are genuinely visual or pictorial, rather than verbal or numerical.”

“The main offenders are slides consisting of nothing but words, sentences or tables of numbers.”

Checklist For Success

If you are not getting 40 percent to 50 percent of your audience to request an appointment:

o The seminar is too crowded. Don’t book more than 24 people (or a few more to allow for last-minute cancellations).

o Room is set up wrong. Change to classroom format.

o You are reading slides. Learn your material so well you never look at them.

o More than one person is making the presentation.

o Your seminar does not properly balance enlightenment and disturbance. Buy a new seminar.

o Your presentation style is boring and unexciting. Deliver your seminar with passion and conviction.

Be able to check off each of these points and watch your appointment request rate soar.

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BILL GOOD is chairman of Bill Good Marketing in Draper, Utah, which for 20 years has produced a marketing system to help financial professionals produce time and money to pursue the good things in life. See www.billgood.com.