We’ve recently emerged from a time when hosting seminars – as in actual in-person, face-to-face education events – was difficult, if not impossible, but barring any major resurgence of Covid (or – I hate to say it – something new) we are back in a time when they possible again.
And – as I have witnessed from attending various events – there is a lot of pent up demand for in-person learning experiences.
So, if you’re looking for a new revenue stream or way to diversify your business, now is a great time to start developing a strategy and laying out a plan for hosting seminars – and being well positioned to pull the trigger and surge out ahead of competitors.
Seminars are incredibly flexible, ranging from hour-long talks to multi-day events, covering as much of your subject as you can find material for. Popular seminars have hundreds, if not thousands, of attendees (think Tony Robbins) and may charge thousands of dollars for a single admission.
And seminar content can range from educating a novice audience, providing a forum for advanced study, attracting or instructing new educators (i.e., affiliates and franchisees), or simply giving you a platform to build your reputation and promote your other learning products.
Finally, seminars have always been and continue to be a very large part of the market for continuing education. By some estimates, classroom training currently accounts for 42% on the U.S. adult education market.
So, with that said, let’s take a closer look at what you need to know to start hosting seminars today.
What is a seminar?
We tend to have set ideas about what a seminar is, but really your seminar is whatever you make it.
Maybe it’s a two-hour talk introducing attendees to your subject, or sharing your experiences working in your field. Alternatively, it could be an intensive, days-long immersive experience featuring multiple presentations – maybe including some from guest presenters – covering every aspect of your area of expertise.
If you run an online course, you could use seminars as a fast track through your classes, or even as a training vehicle to attract new edupreneurs to work for you.
Just like with ecourses and other online classes, seminar subjects are limited only by your imagination. They’re also unconstrained by format. While many seminars include at least an element of speech-giving or lecturing, it’s also possible to teach by demonstration, or collaboratively in smaller groups.
The range of subjects, teaching styles, and learning outcomes possible with seminars makes them an attractive proposition for many edupreneurs looking to take their online careers offline. Or, they can simply be a much faster way to get started as an edupreneur for those who feel daunted by the prospect of creating an online course.
Who is a seminar for?
Seminar attendees come from all walks of life. Many businesses will arrange for employees to attend relevant seminars, or cover all or part of their costs to attend. Individuals also choose to attend seminars, either to learn a new skill or study a subject they find interesting in more depth. Busy professionals might not have the time to commit to a six- or eight-week online course – or may not like online courses – but will attend an evening or weekend seminar.
And, there’s something about having to show up in person at a specific time that sparks greater commitment. Because seminars require a time (and, usually, financial) commitment, learners are more likely to be engaged and enthusiastic. Online courses, on the other hand, often have a poor average completion rate in part because less commitment is required from the learners.
In my experience, people also tend to be less resistant to paying and less price sensitive when it comes to in-person seminars. In fact, seminars often attract the people most willing to pay a premium. You may even want to infuse your seminar with a high level of exclusivity – possibly even make people apply like they have to for this one from Neil Patel and Eric Siu – to boost your ability to charge a premium price.
Speaking of paying: it’s generally a good idea to charge, even for seminars that are primarily designed as a way to attract prospects to your other offerings. People love free things, but when they don’t have any skin in the game, the chance they won’t actually show up – or engage when they do – are high. Even a $20 ticket will make attendees think twice about no-showing.
Who can run a seminar?
You might not think you’re qualified to host a seminar, but if you’re an edupreneur or subject matter expert who can teach, you’ve got the tools you need to run a successful seminar.
All sorts of people make successful hosts, and the seminars themselves – yes, your own seminars – can become a legitimate source of experience and qualifications even if you haven’t worked in your field as an educator before.
If you’ve already run online classes or a course on your subject, you’ll have a head start in planning a seminar. Study what worked best from your lessons and think about how you can turn them into a longer, interactive learning experience. Research other successful seminars in your field and see what they’re offering—and what they aren’t. Then consider how you can deliver a seminar that adds value and stands out from the rest.
How much money can a seminar make?
In spite of the current online course craze, many edupreneurs still make their primary income from seminars and speaking tours.
While hosting a seminar isn’t a guaranteed success, the financial returns can be significant. Variables such as the venue, food and drink costs, insurance, and equipment can all increase the budget and narrow profit margins – so definitely keep a close eye on them – but hosts of large and successful seminars can charge $5000 or more per person and still sell out. (Here’s an example of one for $6K. If you have one-to-two day seminars you offer for $5K or more, let me know and I’ll list them here.)
Seminars are also great sales funnels that lead to wider revenue streams. In fact, this may be one of the greatest benefits of seminars that aren’t even intended primarily for marketing purposes. Satisfied attendees not only promote you through word of mouth, they can also buy your books, enroll in your online courses, or offer speaking engagements and other lucrative opportunities. Many business people attend seminars in order to network, and as the host, you’re in prime position to make valuable new contacts.
When a seminar isn’t a good idea
Despite the appeal of hosting a seminar, it isn’t for every edupreneur. While most subjects can be taught in a seminar session, some, such as knitting or crafting, are better demonstrated up close, either one-on-one or in small groups, or through video, where the watcher can clearly see each movement.
Seminars also require investment beyond the reach of limited budgets. Ticket costs, travel and accommodation, and even finding the time to take off work can be beyond the means of low-income learners. As such, you should bear your target audience in mind when planning a seminar. A course aimed at college students or single parents isn’t going to support a week-long commitment or four-figure entry fees.
You should also consider your own capabilities when planning a seminar. For example,
- Are you comfortable speaking in front of large crowds?
- Can you hold an audience’s attention, and think on your feet if something goes wrong?
- Do you want the responsibility of organizing an event for dozens, or even hundreds of people?
While many edupreneurs have in-person teaching experience, hosting a seminar is very different from controlling a classroom. If you’re more comfortable approaching your learners from behind a computer screen, to start hosting seminars might not be for you.
For those with the confidence, the abilities, and the right audience, seminars are an exciting way to expand your edupreneurial business and reputation.
Other posts in this series:
- How to start your own seminar business
- How to run a seminar on a budget
- How to take your seminar business online
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