- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2000

There was a startling observation in the latest Small Business Newsletter. Eighty-seven percent of people interviewed who had gone to at least one business seminar during 1999 described the event as boring as wet toast.

This should interest you if you are thinking of holding a seminar to sell services or products. If the main purpose of your next seminar is to sell, you'll need specific information that will assure you of success.

A seminar is nothing more than a formal way of telling your story to more than one person at a time, with the goal of ultimately increasing your bottom line. Keep that thought in mind as we go through the machinations of developing a seminar for your business.

Seminar design: You've heard that you are supposed to use a three-step program in seminar design. First: Tell them what you're going to tell them. Second: Tell them. Then finish with: Tell them what you told them. That's baloney. If you follow that outline, your seminar truly will be as dull as watching paint dry.

To have a seminar that accomplishes your purpose, you must use the AIDA principle: Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Begin by getting the attention of your participants, next arouse an interest in what you are going to present, then build a desire in their hearts for what you offer and, finally, wrap it up with a call to action.

Getting their attention: An attention-getter can be anything from a clipping from a magazine warning of a consequence that your product or service can eliminate, a broken item pointing out the danger of something you can fix for a fee, a personal story of woe from an expert you bring in or most anything else that points out to your seminar participants that there's something broken that needs fixing.

Seminar design: Now that you have the attention of your seminar participants, you need to arouse their interest in what you offer. This phase of your seminar is where you take the attention statement you used and detail how your product or service can solve problems. You must use benefit statements in this phase. A benefit statement is something you say that directly benefits the buyer. It's not a feature of your product or service, but the benefit the buyer will gain if he or she buys. Remember: It's a benefit, not a feature.

Examples: "It is a fact that more time is spent on getting the beams parallel than on any other phase, and this time is usually not billable to your customer. Our Parallel Alignment Generator will solve that problem, meaning you will spend less time on the project." Continue with other benefit statements: "Your customer will receive their final product faster." Or: "You can turn out more work in the same time, which translates into a larger profit."

By the time you finish the Interest phase, your participants should have a high state of interest in your service or product. They will also know the exact price you charge, and have a good idea of how that price compares with not doing or buying what you offer. Make sure you point out this comparison.

Desire: At this step in your seminar you need to point out how much your participants need what you offer. Tell them how easy, simple, inexpensive and effective your product or service can be, and how easy, simple and inexpensive it is to own it. Your goal is to make your participants want no, desire your offering no matter what it costs. A great way of doing this is to show how their life will change for the better. Maybe they'll have more golf time, have a better home life or whatever. Paint a word picture of how their day, week, year will improve as a result of your offer. Build a desire.

Action: It's time for the wrap-up. If you've done the first three steps correctly, all it takes next is something to make your participants take action. This could be as simple as a limit on the number of products: "We only have room for four new distributors in this state … .," or a special offer: "For those of you who sign up today, we will include the visual indicator at half price …" or an implied consequence of not taking action: "The state regulating agency will be forcing this change on our industry soon, and when they do the cost of compliance can escalate."

You goal during the Action phase is to have something happen right then. Not tomorrow; now.

Paul Tulenko's column is distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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