How To Increase Your Business By Sharing What You Know

Follow Jim Donovan's roadmap below to success through seminars and speeches and you're sure to find your way. This great guide is packed with tips and suggestions a must-read for both those new to public speaking and the seasoned veterans.

Most people will agree that you are the best advertising for your business, so why not capitalize on that and pick up a few extra dollars to boot?

What I am suggesting is that you use seminars and public speaking as a way to grow your business. If you have specialized knowledge, which I'm sure you do, there are people who want to hear about it. They may even be willing to pay you for the information. So, how do you get started on the road to success through seminars and speeches?

First, as with everything else in business and life, you must know want you want. You need a goal. Do you want to give talks to local business groups to build your bookkeeping business or do you want to become a professional seminar leader like Zig Ziegler, who draws audiences of 10,000 and more at an event? Do you want to hold a seminar like the Tony Robbins event I attended with 2,800 others - all paying $200 (you do the math)? Each of these is possible, as well as a myriad of opportunities in between.

In this article, I will cover the basics of conducting seminars, explain some of the traps to avoid and offer suggestions about how you can minimize your risk and maximize your effectiveness.

The Local Business Group

Speaking to the local business group is different from the public seminar. With a local group the audience is provided for you. In the public seminar you bring the people. The talk you give to the local business group could be the Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, a Networking Group, Garden Clubs or Parenting Groups. While not as exciting as a roomful of paid attendees, these opportunities are plentiful and are an excellent way to promote your business.

To obtain bookings to speak to local groups, send a letter and/or press kit outlining your expertise in the subject you want to present, experience and why the group will be interested. Each of these groups has a program director, the person responsible for getting speakers. Check the meeting announcements in your local newspaper for contact numbers.

While I will devote the most of this article to larger and longer seminars, most of what follows applies to short talks as well.

The Public Seminar

A public seminar is one where you bring the audience. There are several components that make up a successful seminar. Location, registration, material, presentation techniques, advertising, "back-end" business and more will all be discussed here.

The Location and Set-up

Most business seminars are held in hotels, however, this can be costly and is not necessarily the only place your can conduct your seminar. Chambers of Commerce, museums, libraries, restaurants, company conference rooms, church facilities, private homes and others, have all been used for business and professional seminars. One caution, however, is to make sure your location is accessible. The last thing you want is a lost audience.

Once you have secured your location, you will need to decide on refreshments. This is really a matter of personal choice and is sometimes regulated by the host location. If you are in a hotel conference room, you may be required to order from their catering department. The costs for these services vary widely. Personally, I feel it is an unnecessary expense. Water is just fine. Your audience came for the information, not the cookies.

Wherever you hold your seminar, there are some details worth listing here.

  • Have a registration desk where people can sign in.
  • Be sure to secure everyone's name, address, company name, telephone & fax numbers and e-mail address.
  • Provide name tags, especially for large groups.

The sign in table can double as a display table for your brochures, products and other promotional materials. We will go into that in more detail later.

Regardless of the subject material, use a handout. It need not be fancy or long but you want to have something for people to take away with them. This will serve as a reminder of your event and give them a way to contact you at a later date. In my seminars, I always use a workbook, highlighting the major points of my talk and containing exercises for people to do during the seminar and to take home. For a lunch time talk, I may use a simple postcard with a couple of key points and, of course, my name and telephone number.

Subject & Title

I will assume the subject is in your area of expertise or something you are well versed in. The title, however, is another matter entirely.

The title of your talk should entice people to want to attend. This is not only important if you are charging the audience but for the free seminar as well. You want people to come. Forget "if you build it, they will come." You must delineate the benefits to the audience in your title. Titles that contain the words "How to . . ." are a good example. For a talk about growing your home based business, I chose the title, "Making Money In Your Own Home Business." This title tells the audience what to expect. A talk about saving money on your taxes might be re-titled, "How to slash your taxes and have more money in your pocket." Peoples most precious commodity these days is time. For them to attend your seminar, they must know what's in it for them. Like in any sales situation (you are, after all, selling the audience on coming), you must state the benefits.


Your actual presentation will depend on may things. The size of your expected audience, the location, your budget, material and other factors will largely determine the tools you use.

A small, intimate audience lends itself well to using flip charts, while for a larger group it is better to use slides or overheads. If your budget allows, a laptop computer with projection screen can make quite an impact. The material will also play a big part in your media selection. If your presentation has a lot of charts and graphs, you will surely need visuals. A note on using visuals, limit the amount of information on a single slide to two or three key points. The participant's handouts should contain as much pertinent information as possible.

If your audience is larger than twenty five people, it is a good idea to use a microphone. Personally, I prefer a microphone for any size group because it gives me more voice control. If your seminar is in a hotel, they will, for an additional cost, provide you with audio equipment. Otherwise, you can rent the equipment from an audio/visual rental company.

While it is not my intent here to give a course in public speaking, I would like to share a few key points that should be considered.

  • Get away from the podium. Move around and try to stay in front of your audience.
  • Make eye contact with as many people as possible during your talk. As you make a point, let your eye make contact with someone in the audience. If you are nervous, you can usually find one or two "friendly" faces to help you relax. usually, the people in the first couple of rows will be more motivated and can help you get comfortable with the audience.
  • Relax! After all, you know more about your subject than your audience, besides, most people are impressed that you are willing to get in front of a roomful of people and want you to succeed.
  • Be careful not to keep saying "Ahh" and other meaningless sounds. It's OK to have silence from time to time. Simply pause between thoughts instead of making disturbing sounds.
  • Ask questions. Get your audience involved.
  • Create a strong opening statement. Avoid saying, "Thank you ladies and gentlemen," you'll put them to sleep before you even begin. Try something like, "In the next 20 minutes, I will show you a technique that can put an extra $1,800 in your pocket this year."
  • Be careful not to ramble. Your audience does not want to know every minute detail about your subject.
  • Keep to your outline and deliver your talk in small "chunks" that can be easily assimilated.
  • Remember KISS ­ Keep It Simple Sweetheart.
  • Use gestures. Be animated.
  • Get excited. If you're not excited, why are you doing this in the first place?
  • Begin and end promptly. Respect other people's time.
  • Motivate your audience to action. Leave them with a next step.


If you want to become a better public speaker, join Toastmasters International, a non-profit support group that helps people learn how to become better at speaking to groups. They're number is 1 800-9-WESPEAK. This is the best investment you can make in your speaking (and business) career.

The back of the room - Your hidden profit center

Whether your talk is a free event to a small audience or a paid seminar to an audience of thousands, there is one "hidden" profit center you won't want to overlook. It's called the BOR sale. BOR stands for Back Of Room and it is the place where well known speakers make a sizable chunk of money. You too can pick up extra cash by offering products for sale at the end of your talk. Typically, speakers are selling books and tapes that relate to their subject matter but there is no reason you cannot offer other products for sale. For example, if you are giving a talk on first aid or safety, you could offer first aid items.

Whenever I speak, I make it a point to ask about offering my books for sale. As a matter of fact, I am usually asked if they will be available. You may be thinking, that's great for you, you've written books. What about me? Locate a couple of books that relate to your subject matter, contact the publishers or distributors and place a small order. You should be able to purchase books, in small quantities, at a 40% discount. I sell my books to several speakers who resell them in their seminars. Be careful no to order more than you can sell.

Back of room sales can add significantly to your income from speaking engagements and should not be overlooked. At large seminars, tens of thousands of dollars are added to the speakers fees from BOR sales.

After you have been speaking for a while, you may want to make a professional recording of your talk and sell it at the seminar.

Tip: After your talk, tell the audience you will be at the back of the room to answer questions (or signing books). This will encourage people to come to the merchandise table.

Getting the Audience

This is, without a doubt, the most important part of developing your seminar. Without this crucial step of advertising and promoting, everything else is in vain.

In the case of talks to business groups who will be providing the audience, this is somewhat less important. You can, however, increase the attendance by promoting the event yourself as well.

Advertising and Promotion

Depending upon your budget and the size of your intended audience, your advertising can have several components. A small ad in your local newspaper or business publication promoting the event, radio commercials, cable TV, posters, flyers, billboards, direct mail and almost any other advertising media will help build the audience.

If you are like most of us, you do not have a large ad budget. Your best bet is to send news releases to the local media. Include the date, time and location as well as any other pertinent information. Be sure to give them two to three weeks advance notice. Send the releases to all the local media, daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, monthly publications, radio and TV. Tip: It is a good idea to re-send the radio and TV stations the morning of the event or the night before. Television stations assign news stories early in the day and just might give you some coverage.


My personal favorite is a simple, inexpensive flyer. Often overlooked, this is one of the most effective tools you can use. I have drawn a paid audience of over 25 people using nothing more than flyers and press releases. Don't overlook faxing and e-mail to your own data base of customers, contacts and friends.

The "Other" Way to Promote

Leverage! You can use the principle of leverage to help fill your seminar with people. You can approach a large company with the idea of holding a seminar which will attract an audience that interests them. For example, a home security seminar is of interest to an alarm company. You may find a lawn products company willing to help you promote a talk on landscaping or gardening. Use your imagination. Ask yourself who will benefit by having their name in front of to the audience your talk will attract (See the sidebar for more details about how this works).

The company may want you to do the seminar at no cost but, if there is enough promotion, it may be worth it. Remember, you also have a BOR sales potential. Brainstorm the possibilities to see who you can come up with. The leverage of a larger company can make a major difference in the success of your seminar.

We've covered a lot of ground here and I trust that you will pursue this exciting avenue for building your business. Whatever else you do, have fun with your seminars and the other areas of your business as well. The whole point of being in your own business is to enjoy your life. An added benefit to the seminar business is that you get to meet a lot of really wonderful people. If you are fortunate, you may even hear that heart warming compliment, "I'm glad you came here today."


Recently, I partnered with one of the cellular telephone companies to deliver a series of small business marketing seminars. They provided the location - top hotels complete with refreshments - did major advertising with full page magazine ads and handled all the details. All I needed to do was show up and present the material. This was a win-win-win arrangement. They had their name attached to the seminar, the audience received business building ideas and I was able to promote my work and sell books (remember the BOR).

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