The Top 20 Seminar Marketing Mistakes People Make (Part 2 of 2)

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seminar-marketing-mistakes-attorneys-makeBy Philip J. Kavesh, J.D., LL.M. (Taxation), CFP®, ChFC, California State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law

Marketing – – particularly seminar marketing – – has come up quite a bit in recent weeks. From our May Ultimate Level event, to list serve discussions, to people randomly contacting me. It prompted me that perhaps it was time to take a break from the usual practice-building topic and put together an article on seminar marketing.

Over the years, seminar presentations sure have evolved, from overhead transparencies, to slide carousel projectors to laptops and LCD projectors. But despite these technical changes, the fundamental rules of successful seminar marketing have remained the same. I learned these rules only after personally presenting thousands of seminars – – and making lots of mistakes – – so I thought I would assemble what I have found to be the “Top 20 Seminar Mistakes”, so you can avoid having to endure lots of trials and errors like I did!  Last month we covered the first 10 mistakes.  This month we will covering the remaining 10 mistakes.

(Note: While going through this article, keep in mind that there are scientific “laws” to successful seminar marketing, so even if you find that you are making maybe one or two of these mistakes, a violation of any of these “laws” may adversely affect your results!)

Seminar Marketing Mistake #11: Too Technical.

I’ve heard many lawyers state that the reason they give seminars is to “educate” the public. That is laudable and certainly one aspect of a seminar, but the ultimate goal of seminars is to get new clients. If your talk is too technical and doesn’t present the information in a compelling manner that makes it both entertaining and motivating, attendees won’t make an appointment decision at the seminar and all of your seminar efforts (and expense) may go to waste.

Seminar Marketing Mistake #12: Only Push One Service.

This is a subtle, but common mistake attorneys make in their seminars—they only push one of the many services that they offer. You never know what might be the “hook” or interest that gets a particular attendee to come into your office. If you have other areas of planning that you offer (or even if you refer them out), be sure to take a quick moment to go over them. These other services could include anything from IRA Inheritance Trust® planning, advanced estate tax planning, asset protection, Medicaid and veteran’s benefits planning, to financial and investment reviews, pet trust planning, LGBT planning, etc. You don’t have to go into detail about each of these services, just simply let the audience know that you have those niche services available.

Seminar Marketing Mistake #13: No Call to Action to Book an Appointment Right There.

I’ve seen a lot of attorneys simply end their seminar by thanking their audience for their time and passing out business cards or their phone number and telling the attendees to call if they want to schedule an appointment. This lack of a strong call to action drives me nuts! As estate planning attorneys, we all know that our clients will find any reason to procrastinate and defer the estate planning process for as long as possible. There should be a very clear call to action at the end (as well as at the very beginning and even in the middle). That call to action simply is: “Be sure to come in for your free attorney consultation by making your appointment at the end of the seminar.” Don’t forget to have a staff member there with your calendar to help book appointments before people leave! (See Mistakes #16 and #17)

Seminar Marketing Mistake #14: No Discount and No Deadline.

Some attorneys think offering a fee discount to attendees is “tacky” or “unprofessional”. However, the truth of the matter is that everyone likes a discount. And, frankly, seminar marketing does save you a lot of time that you might otherwise spend meeting individually with each attendee, going over all the same information. I actually explain this time savings to attendees as the reason for the discount. Additionally, I only offer this discount for people who book the appointment at the seminar and come in within two weeks of the seminar. The more quickly your prospective clients come in after a seminar, the better your chances of them engaging you when you meet. Those attendees who want an appointment a month or two away from the seminar are the most likely to lose interest or continue to procrastinate and put off their estate planning.

Seminar Marketing Mistake #15: No Q&A Session.

A Question and Answer session at the end of a seminar is not just intended to help answer the attendees’ questions; it’s a key part of the call to action and appointment-booking process. I use the Q&A session as a means of crowd control so there’s not one big, mad rush of people to the back of the room when I finish. Throughout the Q&A session, I repeatedly encourage attendees to complete their response form and see my staff in the back and book their free appointment. When personal questions or issues come up during the Q&A session, I may give a brief, general answer, but then I will also say that this is the perfect kind of question or issue that will be discussed with them in more detail at their private one-on-one meeting, and then instruct them to be sure to go to the back of the room and book their appointment right away.

Seminar Marketing Mistake #16: Not Enough Facilitators.

The general rule that we have in my firm is that at least one staff member will attend for every 15 people registered. However, it’s always advisable to have a second person too (even if he or she comes at the end, just before the appointment-booking process). This way, if one staff member gets tied up helping a person make their appointment, the other can be monitoring the door, making sure to collect response forms and encouraging anyone trying to leave without booking an appointment to stop and take advantage of the discount that’s only available if they book an appointment before they leave.

Seminar Marketing Mistake #17: No Appointment Cards at the Seminar.

Appointment cards are a simple way to streamline the appointment-booking process. Appointment cards have available dates for the next two weeks and are laid out on a table, close to the staff member who will be collecting response forms and booking the appointments. This way, there are no difficult to read calendars, no unintentional double-booking and not nearly as much confusion in the appointment-making process.

Seminar Marketing Mistake #18: No Follow-Up After the Seminar.

As mentioned above, the response form is a great way to follow up with leads after the seminar. Sometimes people turn in response forms, but they don’t want to immediately book their appointment. Now that we have their response form, we have a legal and ethical means of following up with a phone call and trying to book appointments. Additionally, we include information on our response form about signing up for our free monthly e-mail newsletter, which many prospects do and even if they don’t book an appointment or become clients right away, they might months (or even years) down the line because they continue to connect with us.

Seminar Marketing Mistake #19: Not Testing.

A successful seminar marketing process is not possible without testing. You have to test what works in your market and with your target audience. You have to test marketing pieces, locations, days, and times of seminars, etc. Everything we’ve discussed can be tested – – but be cautioned against merely tossing away something because it isn’t working well. It may only need to be “tweaked”. Which leads us to the final mistake…

Seminar Marketing Mistake #20: Giving Up Too Soon.

Last, but not least, one of the mistakes attorneys make is they give up on seminar marketing too soon. They do one seminar or one seminar sweep, don’t get the desired result and then never do seminars again. Or, I’ve seen some attorneys successfully do seminars, then only look at the cost and not the great return on the investment, and quit doing them! It may take some time to tweak all of the details and steps involved to successfully hold seminars, but as you do, you can create a reliable and predictable source of new revenue for your firm!

So, how are you doing?

Are you making any of these seminar marketing mistakes? That’s okay. Seminar marketing wasn’t something that you were ever taught in law school (or even in most practice management, business or marketing classes). These mistakes are all things that I’ve had to learn through the “school of hard knocks” over the years. Hopefully, you can now avoid my mistakes and make your seminar marketing efforts more successful.


If you are interested in some helpful seminar marketing resources available for estate planning attorneys, including an individual consultation and review of your own seminar marketing efforts, you might be interested in the following products and services:


philip-kavesh-authorAttorney Philip J. Kavesh is the principal of one of the largest estate planning firms in California – – Kavesh, Minor and Otis – – which has been in business since 1981. He is also the President of The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc., which provides a variety of training, marketing and practice-building products and services for estate planning professionals. If you would like more information or have a question for him, he can be reached at or by phone at 1-866-754-6477.


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