Steps to Networking – Step 39: Seminars and workshops

Written By Rick Frishman Published April 7th, 2010

STEP 39: Seminars and workshops

Seminars and workshops are ideal for increasing your expertise and networking. Attending them can:

• Polish your skills
• Bring you up to speed on industry developments
• Introduce you to new areas
• Introduce you to new people
• Put you in contact with authorities and
• Help build your network.

Seminars are great for networking because everyone is in the same industry or has the same basic interests. When you have common interests, networking becomes far easier and more natural. Introductions and explanations can be shorter or even eliminated because the joint experience of learning, asking and problem solving in your own field takes over and creates a bond.

At seminars, you can meet, learn from and forge relationships with renowned experts and your peers. As a student you can feel a sense of camaraderie and sharing with your peers that enables you to make new friends, friends who can become network members. Often you new friends will be from different areas, which can extend your reach and help you to grow.

If the benefits of attending seminars and workshops are good, the rewards from leading or teaching them are stratospheric. Leading or teaching seminars and workshops helps you network by increasing your visibility, reputation and stature. It positions you as an important and respected authority as well as a leader in your field. It makes you the subject of more attention, and if you’re good, of more respect. As an acknowledged authority, you can extend your influence so that you can meet and network with others on or above your plane, the authorities at the top of your field.

When you lead seminars and workshops, you get to demonstrate your expertise to attendees who are eager to hear you what you have to say. As a leader, you can exchange ideas and help solve problems with the top minds and the most successful players in your field.

Create your own

Appearing at seminars is so desirable that the competition between speakers is brutal. If you’re not in demand as a speaker, volunteer to help at other events. It will give you exposure to important, powerful people, position you as an insider and teach you how to operate workshops, seminars and other events.

After apprenticing for a while, you may be ready to create, organize or lead your own seminar. Running your own seminar can be extremely lucrative and let you make invaluable contacts. It will also, enable you test whether you enjoy operating seminars and if you do it well.

Start small, learn on the job and work your way up. Establish a track record for excellence. Starting small also limits your financial risk. Identify topics that can draw large audiences. If you’re a professional ballet dancer, run a seminar to show mothers of aspiring dancers what your career entails; if you’re a realtor, teach people how to buy houses and secure mortgages and if you’re a psychologist, teach stress reduction techniques. Give practical, hands-on, how-to instructions so attendees return home with tangible benefits.

In the beginning, don’t charge, offer free seminars or just cover your costs. Consider what you learn from the experience as ample compensation. Plus, you will be building a following because those who enjoy the event, will return, be your supporters and join your network.

Try to convince a local charity, religious, civic or social group to allow you to use their facility in exchange for a modest contribution and/or publicity. If that fails, rent a room.

To promote your seminar, call upon your network. Print posters and fliers and have your network members help you place them in high traffic areas such as schools, universities, community centers, libraries and businesses in or related to your field. Send announcements to local radio stations and related Web sites. Get names from your network, name lists and local organizations. Send post cards or fliers announcing the event. Promote your seminar on the Web at sites. Send e-mails to you network and ask them to send it to their networks.

WARNING: Running seminars can be difficult, demanding work so instead of trying to operate your own, consider offering your services as a lecturer to organizations that sponsor such events. Unless you’ve got a big reputation, don’t even think of starting at the top. Instead, begin by volunteering your services to local organizations and then, as you gain skill and recognition, moving to bigger, more prestigious events.

Service clubs: To get experience, start with local service clubs. They are perfect venues for making and learning from mistakes. Local service clubs are equivalent to comedy clubs where comics, both experienced and novice, go to polish their material and try out new routines. Give yourself the freedom to mistakes and learn from them.

Volunteer to speak at events sponsored by the Elks Club, the Rotary Club, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Chamber of Commerce, Women in Business, religious, business, civic groups, etc. Don’t ask to be paid, chalk it up to your education. Consider these opportunities to perfect your presentation, build your reputation and meet potential customers/clients, contacts and the media.

WARNING: Certain local organizations appeal mainly to retirees or to a demographic that might not interest you. While events sponsored by these groups may provide opportunities to sharpen your presentation, they may not be the right places for you to network. So when you book engagements, factor in the audience profile.

Get experience, build a reputation and network by teaching a workshop or even a course for local educational institutions such as community colleges or adult education programs. Participate in online conferences. Approach businesses that provide adult education and career-development courses.

Conferences and conventions: With the exception of Oprah, the Today Show, Oprah, Larry King or your own infomercial, conferences and conventions are the top. Speaking at major conferences puts you at the pinnacle of your industry provides unlimited networking opportunities. Speakers and instructors usually receive an honorarium and their travel/lodging expenses are paid.

At conferences and conventions, the presentations are ostensibly about learning. In reality; however, they’re equally about networking, socializing and fellowship. People attend as much to make contacts as to learn.

If you get the chance to speak at a conference or convention, become a performer. Spice up your presentations with humor, anecdotes and real-life stories. Be newsy. Everyone loves inside scoops about people, companies and gossip in their business. Update the latest industry developments and make yourself available to those in attendance. Focus on a few hot topics that people in your industry should learn and cover them expertly. Encourage questions from the audience. Make yourself available after you’ve completed your presentation. Run off copies of news developments, articles, examples, reading lists and abstracts of presentations so that attendees feel that they’re getting value. Provide a list of the names and contact information for who signed up for your sessions.

Popular speakers and authors, such as Chicken Soup for the Soul co-author Mark Victor Hansen, command handsome fees to lead seminars and address conferences. However, they routinely make even more selling a wide assortment of materials during their appearances. For example, they sell books, audio tapes, videotapes, workbooks, calendars and novelty items from the back of the room. They also get names for list that they can sell.

Promoters estimate that 20 to 25 percent of those who attend presentations at conferences and convention buy speakers’ goods. And, the top attractions exceed those amounts. Veteran speakers frequently offer discounted packages of their materials. They might package three or four items that usually sell for $250 for half that price. To encourage sales, they’ll autograph their wares, chat with attendees, pose for photographs and dance with you wife. Audiences, inspired by rousing speakers, gobble up goods that will remind them of, or supplement, the experience . . . especially when the speaker has personally autographed them.

(Excerpted from NETWORKING MAGIC: Making Connections That Will Change Your Life By Rick Frishman and Jill Lublin With Mark Steisel)

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