10 tips for brilliant client seminars

Financial brokers are always seeking out different ways to keep your clients engaged throughout the year. Many of you send out regular updates and newsletters, you of course meet clients face to face and some of you use technology to deliver excellent webinars and conference calls.

A popular marketing tool is client seminars, as these offer great opportunities to interact and engage with lots of clients. When carried out well, seminars can be significant brand enhancers. On the flip side though, when they are not done well they can significantly undermine your brand. Quality needs to sit at the heart of every aspect of them.

Here are some thoughts on delivering high quality seminars.

 

1. Don’t make it a once-off event

The best events are the regular events (this being even once a year) that clients really enjoy, get value from and look forward to the next one. Not easy to accomplish! But if you spend the time planning a regular event from the outset and think through themes that will carry forward to future events, this will always be much more powerful that a once-off event that in reality will deliver little long-term brand value.

 

2. Focus on quality throughout

Focus on quality throughout – the venue, speakers, the messages, room layout, presentation template, food, invitations, takeaway packs etc. Every aspect needs to be high quality. Spend a little extra and really wow you audience. This will make your event memorable and will encourage them back again.

 

3. Choose speakers carefully, even better if they are unexpected

The quality of the speakers is of course a really important ingredient. This is not a time for sales pitches, you want to add value through informing and educating (see point 6 below). In a previous life in 2008, we hosted a seminar for Financial Brokers at which the CFO of Ryanair spoke about cost cutting. At that time cost cutting was the no. 1 challenge for almost everyone in the audience. We got huge kudos for this seminar, as it was seen as providing information that was really valuable to the audience, at no direct gain to the company that was hosting the event.

 

4. Cut down your number of slides, and then cut them down again!

The number one presentation killer…… You have a very good message to deliver but you can’t understand halfway through why people are starting to nod off! More often than not, it’s because your presentation is just too long. The audience has just got bored!

A rule of thumb I use is to allow at least 2 minutes per slide (excluding the cover and end slides). That means if your presentation is 20 minutes long, there definitely should not be more than 10 slides.

 

5. Reduce the content on each slide

Assuming you will present yourself, don’t have more than 5/6 lines of text on a single slide. The audience have come to listen to you the speaker, not to read your slides! Otherwise they could just have asked you to email them a copy of the slides the next day. You are the main act and your slides are simply a visual reminder of what you’re saying, not the other way around!

If your presentation requires the audience to be given every detail, give them a hand-out at the end – how bad is it if they ring you the next day with a question?

 

6. Make your presentation engaging and educational

As mentioned earlier, your goals are (or should be) to inform and educate. Ensure your message is crafted with these in mind. Then you need to make the presentation more engaging, both in terms of your spoken message and any supporting slides. Use simple visual prompts by bringing in graphs and diagrams to make points. A single video (no more) can add a lot but only if it is very relevant.

This can be a lot of effort but is really worth it. If you don’t have the PowerPoint skills yourself, use someone who does. You’ve gone to the bother of getting a room full of people together, it is so important now that you engage the audience fully. Oh and talk to your audience, not your slides! If there is an opportunity to interact with them by questions / looking for a show of hands, then this is even better.

 

7. Make sure everything works at the venue

Check out the venue beforehand and then on the day, get to the venue with loads of time to spare in case time is needed for any unforeseen problems. Nothing will damage your confidence and ultimately the delivery of your presentation more than rushing to try and sort out issues…. If possible, have someone there as a support to deal with any potential problems for you.

Is there enough parking nearby? Is the sound good enough in the room and are there enough chairs? What about the temperature in the room? Also, do a complete run through of the entire presentation with someone at the back of the room – not just the first few slides. Can they read the slides or is the typeface too small? Is the projector strong enough? Do all the links in the presentation work and will your video play properly? Once you see everything working perfectly, you will relax and can go and greet your guests.

 

8. Practice, practice, practice

I know, this is really obvious but so often ignored! The benefits of practice? Well first of all, the more prepared you are, the more confident you will be and the better your delivery will be! How many times have you finished a presentation and thought “I meant to say…… but just forgot”. This is less likely to happen if you practice. If you practice, you are more likely to stay on track in terms of the message and also your timings, so you’ll probably finish the presentation stronger.

 

9. Spend time thinking about the Q&A

What are the likely questions and how will you respond? What are the potential curveballs and how will you deal with them? How will you deal with any unexpected and very negative question – think how you’ll cut this off cleanly and quickly and enable yourself to move on. Listen to the news that day. If there’s a current and relevant story, develop a position on it. If you want an easy start to the Q&A, plant a question in the room to get the conversation going.

 

10. Close the event out well

As soon as people start to get up from their chairs, there is a temptation to get back to the day job. Now though is the time to seek feedback that will help you plan future events, either through a feedback form or via a survey. And follow up then personally with people afterwards. You might just have opened up a new line of thinking in their heads that will result in opportunities for you.

 

Quality throughout is the key. High quality seminars, particularly a series of them over a few years can deliver excellent long term brand value to your business.

 

The latest thinking about financial planning

I had the pleasure recently of attending the excellent Back2Y conference in Birmingham. This conference is predominately for financial planners, but also for anyone interested in hearing about best practice among financial planners in the UK and further afield.

 

What struck me first of all was the number of Irish advisers at the event. It was really heartening to see 40 – 50 advisers investing in their futures, taking a day or two out of busy schedules to travel to the UK to listen and learn. I think it was certainly time well spent by all.

 

So what messages hit home with me? Well I thought that 2 speakers in particular stole the show. The first was Nick Lincoln, a financial planner from South East of England. Nick had a very engaging and humorous delivery, but all backed up with a very simple message. The other great speaker was Mitch Anthony, an American who runs a training and communication consulting firm specialising in the financial services and insurance industries. Mitch is a real pro, with some really strong messages that were very thought provoking.

 

The Three Killer B’s

This was the simple message delivered by Nick. He spoke of how important it is for advisers to never lose sight of three important standards in their business,

  1. Be Picky: You’ve only so much room in your client base to deliver your services as you want to. So pick your clients carefully. Trust your intuition and don’t be afraid to say “no” to potential clients, that you are not the right fit for them. This resonated a lot with me, as I quite often hear advisers moaning about how certain clients “wreck their head!” Nick’s view is that these clients are a drag on your business and you are better off without them.
  2. Be Honest: Tell clients the full unvarnished truth about their money, don’t build false expectations. They won’t thank you for this, ever. Tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.
  3. Be Consistent: Nick’s view is that clients all have the same big question – “will we be ok?” You need to answer this question for clients, and then answer it again, year after year using a consistent process.

 

A very simple message, very well delivered!

 

The Return on Life Revolution

This was the first part of Mitch Anthony’s presentation in which he spoke of revolution in the financial planning world today, as opposed to the relatively gentle evolution over the last decade or so. He spoke of the consequences of misplaced value, where an adviser is judged solely on the financial performance achieved for clients. This is a recipe for disaster – you are judged on factors over which you’ve no control, you’re under scrutiny every month / quarter / year, you are constantly compared to others and unfortunately will be wrong in your predictions very often!

 

Instead Mitch contends that advisers should position their proposition around intangible factors such as “helping people make wise financial decisions”. The value in this instance is felt and seen, but is not measurable in the way that tangible financial performance is. Mitch spoke of 6 core values of Return on Life,

  1. Organisation: helping clients bring order to their finances
  2. Accountability: Helping clients follow through on commitments
  3. Objectivity: Helping clients not to make emotion-based decisions
  4. Proactivity: Helping clients prepare for big changes in their lives
  5. Education: Helping clients understand what they need to know to succeed
  6. Partnership: Working in collaboration with clients towards achievement of the best life possible for the client.

 

All of this is a lot more valuable that achieving a particular financial result!

 

The big questions for advisers

Mitch Anthony then spoke later about the 3 big questions for advisers, for each of you to really look inside yourself and to answer truthfully.

 

The first question is to understand whether you’re in the money business and happen to work with people, or in the people business and happen to work with money? I think everyone will immediately say the latter, but does your discovery process really reflect this? Unfortunately with some advisers there is still a race to find out how much money a person has, and as a result the person (client) gets forgotten. Financial planning today is all about people and their life objectives; it’s not about money (even though of course this is part of the solution).

 

The second question relates to this focus on people rather than money. How have you changed your conversations to reflect this changed world? Because only talking about money and financial solutions just won’t cut it with clients who yearn for a deeper insight into achieving their life goals.

 

The final question related to the forces that cause money to move to you. Mitch’s view is that these come down to 3 forces,

  • An intellectual force: People are curious; they want to know more when you have positioned what you do correctly. Often their experience with a previous adviser leaves them seeking a better one going forwards.
  • A force of life: As people think about transitions in their life and their responsibilities for other people, they seek support – your support.
  • An emotional force: This is when you show deep empathy, that you are really listening. And then ask carefully crafted questions about their principles and values in relation to life and money. From this will come goals. And from there will come the potential to build highly engaged relationships with clients.

 

It was a day very well spent!