Our last two columns have dealt with “The Prosperity Foundation” (not its real name), which claims to have developed a non-profit retirement education initiative, including a seminar delivered by university instructors. Despite its academic garb, the program is actually a pre-retiree lead-generation seminar, developed by an FMO and delivered by advisors, not academics.

I understand the cloaking. Your seminar will never succeed, the thinking goes, unless you can fill seats. But you won’t draw attendees if they think they’re in for a hard sales pitch. So, you pose as an academic instructor instead. However, this is illogical, because many seminars succeed without deception. And the way they succeed is by being ethical, compliant and content-driven. So let’s take a quick look at each of these elements.

See also: Why seminars still work

Ethical Always make sure you’re doing seminars for the right reason. If you’re looking to make a lot of money, that is the wrong reason. But if you’re hoping to provide valuable information and insight to prospects, that is the right reason.

Now, I’m not suggesting it’s unethical to make money from an educational seminar. Of course it isn’t. But your primary goal should be to deliver insight — and to create motivation to take action on financial matters later. If you excel at this, then appointments, sales and long-term client relationships will inevitably ensue.

Transparency is another ethical concern. You never want to hide your true professional role in your seminar-marketing program. I can’t think of a weaker, more flawed basis upon which to initiate a new client relationship. 

Compliant The goal here is to not run afoul of any state or federal law or regulation. The specifics will depend on your license and state jurisdiction, but here are some fundamental guidelines:

  • Get your seminar marketing materials and program slides and script approved, either by your registered principal, RIA or insurance company compliance department.
  • Make sure your seminar marketing is based on the principles of fair dealing, good faith, and balance.
  • Never make an untrue statement or omit a material fact during your presentation.
  • Never make misleading statements regarding the safety, liquidity or anticipated returns of an insurance product or investments.
  • Never misrepresent your credentials or hide the identities of product sponsors who are funding your seminar.

Content driven Of course, you want your seminar to be rich with useful, actionable information, not hype. The content should balance breadth with depth, dramatize key insights with powerful visuals, and share tools and checklists that promote follow through. In other words, you want your seminar content to have nutritious meat, with enough “sizzle” to encourage future action.

At the end of the day, your seminar success will depend on you being an authentic, passionate educator who wows prospects with your expertise. Faking out prospects with dubious marketing schemes is not only unethical and potentially illegal, it’s also a slippery path to success. Wouldn’t you rather achieve prosperity the right way?