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A career in seminars can be lucrative, enjoyable, helpful to others, and generally satisfying. But, like all careers and professions, public speaking and seminar presentation require that you develop your skills. Just starting with something you do well, building a seminar or workshop around it, and then resting on your laurels may work for a short period of time. But eventually you get knocked off your perch by someone willing to spend the time and money and energy to keep growing.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the on-going steps you should take to keep your skills as a seminar-giver and your knowledge of your subject area current and ahead of the competition. 

Study Other Speakers

If you’re going to be in the seminar/speaking business you have to watch others who are in the field. In fact, don’t just watch them, study them!

Write down what you see and hear that you like and things you don’t like. Don’t try to copy other speakers and seminar leaders, but do try to incorporate the things you like into your events. 

Watch Good Movies, Read Good Books

Closely observing how good movies and books are constructed will help you in designing your seminars. Think about the way a good book or movie sucks you in immediately and how it keeps you intrigued and interested. This should be your goal at your event.

Watching good movies and reading good books has another advantage besides giving you a feel for how your seminar should “flow.” If you’re reading and watching what your attendees are reading and watching, you’ll be able to use current stories to which your audience can relate. 

Enhance Your Image as an Expert

Establishing yourself as an expert will make it easier to get people to attend your events. The more visible you are in your marketplace (everything else being equal), the better the chances you’ll have of getting people to register for your events and to tell others about them.

Here are some specific things I recommend you do to establish yourself as an expert. You may or may not be able to do all of them, but you should do as many as you can. Writing a book
If you have written a book on a topic, you’re the de facto expert in the field. A book can help you in so many ways. I consider it the most important single thing you can do to establish expertise and help build your business.

You may see clearly that you need a book but feel uneasy about trying to write one. You may think you don’t have time or that your writing isn’t good enough. You can solve these problems in a number of ways. Contact our sister company, Publishing Profit, Inc. (www.publishingprofit.com) for help finding a ghost writer or an editor or even a writing coach.

If you want more information about how to put a book together, pick up a copy of one of my other books,Publishing for Maximum Profit.

Generating publicity for yourself
The more often you appear in the media, the more people will look at you as the expert on your chosen topic. Look for ways to generate press for yourself. The resource section of this book suggests a number of ways you can go about increasing your publicity.

Posting messages in user groups
There is at least one Web-based news group for every industry. You should be a member of these news groups in any case because it’s a great place to listen in on what your customers and prospects are thinking about. You can post your thoughts and ideas on these user groups and become a part of the conversational flow. Pithy remarks with substance in your field of expertise will get you noticed.

Be careful here, though. Anything that even faintly resembles advertising or self-promotion may well be viewed by other members of the group as impolite. You can spend a lot of time undoing the personal damage for being imprudent on a user group discussion board. This is a place for you to provide information. Promotion will naturally follow and usually take place in private email exchanges with interested members of the group who find your insights useful.

Scouting trade shows
Just as it is important to attend seminars and workshops where your target audience is learning about your topic, so it is vital that you attend the major trade shows in your field. You can learn a lot at a trade show. You can also make valuable contacts among people who are possible suppliers of information or products and services as well as prospective attendees. You can scout out potential outside speakers. You can collect all kinds of free literature and even samples you can use later to augment your present understanding of what’s going on in your area of interest.

Trade shows are generally a very sound investment of time and money.

Attending other peoples’ seminars
If you’re going to be in this industry, you’ll have to attend a lot of other peoples’ seminars to build your knowledge base.

For example, some of my major markets are authors, speakers and consultants. I try to attend the major trade shows and seminars in each of these fields. You have to be selective or you’ll be spending all your time and money attending these events. Be selective, but go.

Attend seminars where you’ll both learn a lot and find good prospects for your products and services. The key at these events is to ask great questions strategically and contribute “brilliant” comments early in the event. Look for your opportunities and pounce on them. People will come up to you at the breaks and ask for your card and contact information.

Networking with the movers and shakers
Find people who are the “in crowd” in your market and get to know them. Befriend them. Find ways to help them and they will in turn help you.

Try this easy technique with people with whom you wish to ingratiate yourself. Go up and introduce yourself and ask “How can I help you?” By pre-empting the conversation and making yourself the one offering assistance, you make yourself a very popular person indeed!

Keep Files of Stories, Quotations and Statistics

You need to keep files of three major types of items: stories, quotations and statistics. Separate them by topics or subject matter so you can find appropriate ones to use later on.

Don’t worry about where you’ll use these bits of information. Just get them into your computer. You’ll find places to use the good ones.

By the way, you don’t need to go buy some big, expensive relational database program to store this stuff. My partner and colleague Dan Shafer, who is a real technology guru besides being a renowned writer and speaker, recommends a simple shareware program called EZGather for the storage of information like notes, quotations, and statistics. You can get a 30-day free trial of the program at www.unvisibleuniverse. com/infoEZgather.html and the shareware registration fee is only $10. The program works on Macs and on Windows machines and is ridiculously easy to use. 

Additional Reading:

Cultivate Characteristics of a Great Speaker
Keep Improving Yourself Professionally
Develop and Exploit Your Own Style
Taking Care of Your Voice 
Know What You MUST Know About the Competition
Setting Measurable Goals for Your Event
Selecting Your Topic
Titling Your Event
Structuring and Designing Your Seminar
Creating a Dynamite Opening and Closing
Preparing Handouts and Workbooks 
Scheduling Considerations 

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