Since we’ve received many requests for completed Barbershop scripts, as formats or models for similar club or organization presentations, here is the July 4, 2014, program at the Marin County (California) Fair.
(The live rendition is on You Tube, though the sound capture is fairly poor, being an outside show [in a tent] and surrounded by other live activities, including a giant, musical Ferris Wheel about 150 feet away.)
4th of JULY SCRIPT (2014)
To start the program the group sang “AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL.”
Welcome to our country’s birthday party, Marin County style!
We are the Marin Golden Gate Barbershop Chorus, our director today is Mr. Paul Wren, and I’m Gordon Burgett.
It’s an honor to be invited back, for many years now, to the Ben and Jerry’s Stage on the festive Fourth. We are delighted to see so many of you here today. We’re going to offer a wide selection of American music this sunny Friday, much of it patriotic, plus folk songs and Broadway classics.
Let’s start with a 1957 song by Ricky Nelson: “HELLO, MARY LOU”:
Since we’re on a love-song roll, how about two more songs that have survived the ages.? The first is “I’M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER,” followed by “I DON’T KNOW WHY I LOVE YOU LIKE I DO…”
If you don’t mind, let me point out something sort of odd. (Point at a kid in the audience.) Would you do me a favor? Your name? Would you stand up and look at the audience. Can it be a coincidence that, in our audience today, ____ is wearing the very same thing that the colonists wore at the Boston Tea Party… a t-shirt. Thank you, _____.
Let’s hear a patriotic favorite written three or four times by Irving Berlin, who died a short while ago at the age of 101. He wrote the first version of this song in 1918 when he was serving in WWI, and he rewrote it again in 1938. Here’s the rendition sung for years by Kate Smith: “GOD BLESS AMERICA!”
Our next song was made popular by Nat King Cole, the Mills Brothers, Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, and maybe a dozen more. It’s called “NEVERTHELESS.”
You’re a great audience. Would you like to know how barbershopping differs from other chorale or group singing? Let’s ask Paul, who flew in all the way from England to make us sing, how that works. Then Paul will show how the 4-part melodic blend sounds in another favorite oldie, “CONEY ISLAND BABE….”
[The demonstration, involving four soloists and the chorus, used the song "MY WILD IRISH ROSE."]
There’s also the less frolicksome side of the Fourth of July. Of course we remember and hail our country’s independence, but also we can’t forget, sadly, the many lives lost to win and preserve a more just and a better way of life. It’s somewhat paradoxical that three famous Americans who symbolize and helped define that freedom actually died on the Fourth of July: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (on the same day) and James Monroe. For them, and for the thousands more lost on battlefields and at home protecting our liberty, and for all of you too who have also lost a loved one recently, here’s a beautiful, heart-felt song that conveys our condolences: “I BELIEVE.”
The singers are going to take a short glottal break. It’s my privilege to present Paul Wren again. Paul’s going to share a funny story. If you listen carefully you might detect a slight Oxford accent!
Thank you, Paul.
It’d be hard to find two songs more American than our next offerings: first, “TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME”—baseball buffs are invited to sing along!—followed by the song “TODAY.”
I see a lot of you guys out there humming and moving your lips. If you’ve enjoyed our musical foray and wish you were up here singing, come and join us on Monday nights from 7:30-10 at the First Presbyterian Church at Ross and Kensington in San Anselmo. We’d like to have you on stage with us next year. And if you hurry, we’d love to have you with us on November 2, always the first Sunday in November, in our annual Fall Show at 2 p.m. in the last building back there. That’s the Showcase Theater. There will be information fliers on the stage when we finish. And yes, it’s true: if you join us you too can have your own stunning red shirt!
Three more songs!
You probably can’t believe it to look at us, but we’re almost all married (some of us often), so we want to sing a sweet love song to our long-suffering wives, who let us loose every Monday night to practice—and, of course, for all of you other sweethearts here today…
Here’s “WHEN THERE’S LOVE AT HOME,” followed by a national home song we all share: “HOME ON THE RANGE.”
We’re about sung out, and we want to come down and shake your hands, so our favorite closer is next. First, let’s give a hand to a merciless, imported taskmaster, Paul Wren. And also to the singers of the Marin Golden Gate Barbershop Chorus…
You’ve been a fun audience. We hope we have helped you have a fun fair.
Our closing song always brings our listeners to their feet! Please join us in singing the well known closing stanzas of “THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER!”
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Last week this blog was the core item in my newsletter. I had so much response from it I’m sharing it as a (long) blog too.
Two questions: (1) Why would you even care about selling your books to libraries, much less their lower-priced digital versions? (2) And what’s so different about it anyway? Don’t you pretty much do the same thing you do to sell paperbacks (or even hardbacks)?
Let me touch first on (2), then explain the “why” of the problems later.
Selling bound books to libraries is easy enough because until now bound books have been their stock in trade. That’s what you see on the shelves, catalogued, labeled, checked out, and so on. If you have a professional looking book; it has a specific ISBN for the bound version; you look or approach them like you are serious; the book has substance, some purpose, maybe even some research) in it, and the acquisitions folk think their readership would (or should) at least check it out, they may buy it. (I deal in nonfiction books. I’m told that it is more difficult—sometimes impossible—to sell self-published fiction to libraries.)
But there are two markets where you usually have huge selling difficulties: schools (for anything) and the library if the book is in digital format (an ebook). And both are much harder yet if you are a one-book beginner band, or very small, or unknown, or new.
Let’s go back to (1) and focus on libraries.
Why do you want to sell to libraries? Because selling bound books to them, particularly now, can substantially help you keep your firm alive and growing. There are lots of libraries, they can be approached directly, and the discount they expect is modest or nil. (A sweetener to get the direct sale is to provide free shipping; then mail at the library rate, if you can figure it out and it still exists at sale time.)
We have used the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Assn) public library mailing list for years. (They are the largest group of its kind in the U.S.) Alas, it’s now the Library Market E-Blast, but the targets are the same: 6 times a year they contact 5,000 qualified collection development librarians, and three times each year they contact the same number of (1) K-12 Libraries and (2) College Libraries. In each blast 15 titles are sent containing the book’s image (or cover), a description or key review, wholesale info, and a unique lead-generating link, plus another link to your website (where you can draw them to other publications you are selling).
It costs $199 and you must be an association member to participate, but the membership is an excellent investment and the ISBA publication, the Independent, is worth the cost alone. The blast goes to the largest, best buying libraries in the U.S. (many of which buy many dozens of copies for their branches). A general response rate is hard to evaluate but the mailing usually draws a 7-14% response (400-700 titles). They say that it is the most effective means currently used. They will gladly give you more details about the blast mailing.
We increase our sales by contacting library distributors, particularly Quality Books, and we also make the book available through Lightning Source (or Spark) and Barnes and Noble. The discount you give to distributors is much higher (about 55%). We post the names of all of our distributors on the IBPA flyer (and in-house fliers) so that libraries (or others) that prefer to buy from large distributors will place their orders there. (The distributors also do the one-by-one shipping!)
(An important aside: Don’t include fill-in lines or spaces in your library book, or ask the reader to somehow deface the book [like coloring or connecting the dots]. Once the lines or spaces are filled in, there’s nothing to do for subsequent users, so libraries won’t buy it. How do I know? After I had printed a fat batch of my How to Plan a Great Second Life masterpiece and sent copies to library distributors for a blessing and many sales, I was rather rudely informed that the book as is was unsalable to any library! Gulp. What did we do? Sold those printed books to bookstores and redesigned and reprinted a library edition, with its own ISBN, where we included some 15 pages of charts and fill-in plans, too small to fill in directly but each with a website link where the forms could be digitally copied at home, as often as they wished, and completed then.
Why is it almost impossible to even check out ebooks at libraries, much less get them to buy yours? Because the Big Six (or whatever the number is now in the current buyout flurry) just won’t sell or even rent them to libraries, thus they have nothing to lend to you. (Oddly, if you don’t sell through the huge houses you may still be able to strike up a local library deal. But don’t count on it.)
Here’s the best explanation that I’ve read about the mess. It’s from an E-Content Supplement (twice a year, this dated June 2014) from the American Library Assn (ALA).
** For starters, libraries have had lots of information in digital form for years, but when their users started asking to borrow ebooks they found that the ebooks weren’t available for purchase and lending. There was a business model muddle. Simply, five of the six largest publishers weren’t making their ebooks available to libraries under any terms. Until autumn 2011 only Random House and Penguin were making their ebooks available under the same terms as bound publications (perpetual ownership and reasonably priced). HarperCollins had just shocked all publishers when they changed their acquisition ebook terms by limiting the ebooks use to 26 circulations before the books had to be repurchased. Then all six pulled out, and most of the best sellers weren’t available under any terms at all!
The leaders of the ALA (and the AAP) met with the key publishers and found out that libraries and publishers lived in two different worlds. Much of the confusion centered on anti-trust laws. “As library leaders, we came from a world that generously shared success with one another. In the publishing world, sharing was at worst illegal and at best not a wise business practice,” said Molly Raphael in “EBooks” Getting There…But Not There Yet.” A small break came in the impasse when other groups besides publishers and aggregators began making ebooks available to libraries, like authors, author groups, agents, booksellers, and smaller publishers.
** It’s not as hard to sell ebooks in the school library market is the point of “School Library EBook Business Models.” The library/publisher relationship is more congenial too. The market is much more diverse, more centered (most items are bought for K-12 educational uses), much larger in sales than the library market, and the K-12 publishers aren’t the Big Six but rather smaller independent firms that work far closer with the school systems to survive. (My Education Communication Unlimited imprint is one of those K-12 niche specialists.)
I’m certain that most of you don’t sell in this venue, so rather than bore you, let me share the five different business models that make our marketing much stronger here: (1) unlimited simultaneous access, (2) one-to-one licenses, (3) pay-per-use rentals, (4) subscription services, and (5) online retailer platform models. Two more things are also involved in selling to K-12 buyers. Most of the successes are based on nonfiction books and there is more use of DRM.
** In Laura Clark’s “EBook Discovery: The library/publisher “sweet spot,” she talks more about libraries, publishers, and others in the ecosystem teaming up to find the best fit for their tastes.
Hers is a first-rate article that focuses on using the strengths of libraries themselves to determine and meet their own needs. That as brick-and-mortar stores disappear, the library becomes a physical space for discovery beyond the home and workplace. The library can be a magnet for ebook discovery and a distribution platform for helping authors self-publish… The article mostly broadens our awareness of how a library and its expert staff can help ensure that the right title finds the right reader at the right time—and how the considerable research expertise can help deepen and strengthen the research in the book.
** In “Beating the Odds: Building a Publishing Maker Culture,” Peter Brantley sees the library’s ebook position as improving, through persistence, p.r., and hard negotiating. But he sees the tremendous centralization of consumer traffic to platforms that want to monopolize the user ebook buying, like Apple, Google, and Amazon. He also sees strong selling from those who directly buy ebooks from niche vendors. “But integrating (your ebook selling) into library(ies) is not for the fainthearted.”
Brantley says our selling our bound wares is much harder because of the increasing trend to purchase goods online. If the physical bookstores fold (probably including Barnes & Noble) and the Big Six consolidate into a Big Two-and-a-Half, where will books get the number of visual impressions needed to create bestsellers?
On the other hand, our ability to ride the “open publishers” into free publishing and to emerge on Twitter, You Tube, and the rest opens huge opportunities for us. He stresses that big books can be restructured into shorter and probably more profitable novels, and those into novellas, and/or into serial segments. And that libraries can assume a pivotal role of local publisher-guide by creating community publishing initiatives that can integrate all book formats, bound and digital, into the larger library world.
Conclusion? We’re not selling our ebooks to libraries right now, particularly if we are being published by the big houses. But smaller publishers can get on library shelves, and my thought is that soon there will be grouping units that will do the linkage for us. If we rented our books by contract at $1/week or $1/borrower, a digital text widely used might zoom to the top of our income stream, without the books wearing out or having to be handled or shipped. So while a lot of what these articles suggest is discouraging right now, it’s likely that our ebooks will prevail. It gets back to marketing: we have to let libraries know that we have published something they need or want to know that is well written, looks professional, and is easy (and perhaps fun) to read. Library ebooks might ultimately (in a few years) become gilded providers.
What do you want your book to do?
Probably (1) get bought–or at least read; (2) make you money; (3) if self-published, get snagged by a “big house” and do more of  and ; (4) establish you as an “expert” or “authority” in its topic field; (5) get potential readers to want to know more about the topic, and (6) make the world [or at least America] swoon at seeing your name and wisdom in print. Forget the swooning; save it for fiction.
Of the six rewards, (5) probably pays the best and generates the most of the rest. If there are enough eager readers who want the benefits and new knowledge, just knowing that your book and you exist can lead to invitations to write another book and/or one or several articles, speak to gatherings, consult, offer classes or programs, create a related product, join a faculty, and so on. It usually depends on how many benefits you suggest that can be realistically accomplished and how unique they are. If, for example, your book explains a how-to process that will (effortlessly) double the readers’ income, and you seem to be the kind of expert who can speak well and informatively, or can carry out the other invitations, your book can be your best spokesperson if you get it in front of enough of the right people.
Of course, when they see the book, its title, sub-title, description, cover messages, and all related promo information must draw their eyes to the benefits and your expertise. That can be helped by getting testimonials from recognized authorities in that field, or at least from people with the kind of titles that should be given to legitimate authorities.
I know that this blog is mostly common sense. But how many books do you see that neither carry nor imply authority on part of the author? Or fail to tell you what good could occur if you grab the tome and get reading?
So let me say it another way. If you want others to pay you well and often, you must devise and explain a way that, if done by them, will change their lives (and all they touch) in a magically positive way. And that you, the author, have the tools to be their guide. Those tools are in your new book available right now…
If this helps you, fine. It is provoked by a spate of books I’ve seen lately that did almost none of what I suggest here. There are no promises or anything in them that even suggest that I should open the cover. Or that I would benefit by doing what the authors say. I’m a court-of-last-resort book editor and I can only imagine that the books are just as poorly researched and written. What a shame. Why didn’t they study a few similar books that did succeed? I hate to see time and hopes lost. The most bewildering element seems to be the authors’ timidity or fear of stepping out and making an honest claim for why a buyer (or reader) should read the pages. And how what’s on those pages could change the readers’ lives–and many others’ too.
Whew! A rare rant.
Since seminars are offered about everything from stuffing sausages to unstuffing fatties, it is difficult to devise a master format for contents and organization that will work for all.
Let’s share some steps and guidelines, though, that apply to most. Like making certain that what you promise in your title and description is what you give to your listeners.
To do that, convert your title into a question. Instead of “How To Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar,” ask “How Does the Participant Set Up and Sell His/Her Own Seminar?” Then list all of the questions that come from the working question: why does he/she want to offer a seminar? when? where? what should he/she charge? how can others be made aware? what should the seminar contain? and so on…
If you do that to your seminar, asking all of the questions that your participants would/should ask, it is difficult not to meet at least most of the needs.
The quality of the answers given to the questions will be the difference between a passable and an exceptional program. Two things particularly enhance that quality: research and clarity of thought and expression. (Humor is invaluable too.)
Learning from a personal experience is the basis of many seminars. Yet few experiences are so comprehensive, despite the years over which they spread, that research couldn’t add depth, breadth, and sharper perspective.
An annotated bibliography is particularly useful to help the participant fit one person’s experience into the broader readings in the field.
In responding to the working question(s) one must constantly seek the clearest forms of expression. To paraphrase Winston Churchill (the gall!), “Use short words rather than long, old words rather than new.” Explain terms not commonly used, simplify to make your points, and use examples and quotations to vary your presentation. If your seminar still isn’t understood by everyone there, clarify more.
Audio-visual aids often show far more clearly than words can express. Videos, Power Point, slides, and charts/display boards are usually the easiest to integrate into a presentation. Whatever form is used, it must add enough to offset the time for the required set-up and dismantling. (To reduce that time, audio-visual displays are usually best used before or after a “break.”)
As for organization, the most common is chronological (in time-order). That is sometimes mixed with a set of explanations which must first be understood before they are presented chronologically. Another form is developmental: do this, do that, then this, etc.
Others isolate parts of the whole, explain each, and tie them together at the end. This seminar is an example. A similar structure is used in industrial seminars that focus on one phase of an operation, then integrate it into the larger process.
There is no single form of organization that always works for every program. The working question, and its answers, will dictate the way that the contents should be presented or organized. The result must be a seminar that does what it promises, is interesting and clearly understood, and leaves the participant eager to attend another program that you offer.
All that I’ve said seems logical and obvious. Alas, I don’t know how many programs I’ve endured were neither. Save us, please!
From Gordon Burgett’s audio CD version of “How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar,” with a digital workbook and audio text summary). Produced by Communication Unlimited. For further information, check here.
However you book your seminar, the sponsors and participants must know what you will talk about; thus, a concise description is your most important calling card.
It is either part of the opening correspondence to get booked at a business or corporation, to explain the kind of program or training you can offer, or it is part of your submission process when offering public or school presentations, where the attendee pays for the opportunity to hear you speak.
In either case, it must be written around the benefits that participants will receive from (lovingly) hearing your orations. “What’s in it for me?” is what the readers ask themselves. And “Is it worth the time, hassle, and cost?” Then mix in the who, what, why, where, and how–plus prayer, if you are so given.
Corporate or business presentations will be serving a different master. “What’s in this for the company or sponsor?” is the orientation of their description.
For public programs the description is usually part of a catalog or like announcement that explains the program’s location, the time, and ways to register. You must add to that why the readers’ registration would bring them hard-to-find or hugely desired benefits from a person with tested qualifications and experience.
A much-used format in a public description is to begin with a lead, a catchy opener, that tells why they should attend, what valuable information or skill they will learn, and how long the program lasts.
Segue into a short, bulleted list of the most important take-aways. Three-five items are best, and asterisks are much better than numbers or letters separating the benefits in the list.
If the registrant will receive a workbook, describe what it contains and if it is free. Often the presenter’s qualifications are part of the closing copy, which reinforces the benefits already shared.
Very important is that the seminar-giver adhere to the description length required of each description, so part of the gilded message isn’t unkindly clipped or compressed before it is shared with potential registrants. Very often the maximum length is four compact paragraphs, including the list of benefits. Make certain the sponsor will not change your title or alter the text without informing you.
The sample that follows is a college extended education description about this very topic that I used throughout California for more than 20 years. Study closely the other descriptions in sponsor’s seminar catalog to see what will make your topic unique and sought by likely participants who need to know what you are sharing.
HOW TO SET UP AND MARKET YOUR OWN SEMINAR
Want to earn a healthy income selling your know-how to others? Or convey knowledge to clients or prospective customers at free, informative, image-enhancing gatherings? Seminars meet the bill. In four hours you will learn the essential ingredients of seminar success:
* how to give your first seminar with no financial risk
* why topic definition and the right title are crucial to success
* which key words most titles should include
* what promotional strategies work
* what four key questions seminar-givers must be able to answer about sponsorship or selection
A 24-page free workbook includes an organizational calendar, a current bibliography, two sample news releases, and a model evaluation form, plus guide sheets about publicity, mailing lists, locations, flyer/brochure preparation, budget, content and organization, and how to get scheduled at colleges and universities.
Even more, Gordon Burgett, California’s most prolific seminar-giver with over 100 offerings annually, will explain what he is doing as he does it, tying together form and content in one fact-packed program designed to provide you with the basic information and tools needed to get you speaking (and banking) quickly, confidently, and permanently.
(This information accompanies the description and is used by the booking office for their records.)
SEMINAR LENGTH: 4 hours
MINIMUM COST: $50, including workbook
Gordon Burgett, 185 Shevelin Rd., Novato, CA 94947
www.gordonburgett.com / (800) 563-1454
Soc. Sec XXX=XX-XXXX
From Gordon Burgett’s four-CD program, How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar , with digital workbook and audio text summary).
Here is a checklist, in rough chronological order, of the key steps to organizing and programming your own seminar:
(1) Write a one-sentence topic for a seminar.
(2) Concerning that topic, write answers to the following:
What problems will it solve?
How and where else can the same information be found?
How much time or money would the participant save by attending your seminar?
Why else would people attend it?
Do other seminars about your topic exist?
What do they cost?
What’s their approach?
How long do they take?
How often are they given?
Where/how are they booked? Subsidized?
(3) Write a seminar description that includes objectives, benefits, who should attend, and why.
(4) Write a dozen titles. Select the best.
(5) Evaluate the resources for your seminar preparation. While checking the resources, compile a bibliography for your workbook. Later, in using the resources, select the best and annotate them.
(6) Prepare your budget: itemize expected costs and anticipate when the money will be needed; list the possible unexpected costs by source and date; list anticipated income and when expected; plot your income and costs on a calendar; evaluate your need for a reserve fund, the amount and when needed; list your financial reserves: amount and when available; list the ways to increase income and reduce costs; determine the method(s) of participant payment: pre-registration only, discount for pre-registration, higher fee at the door, cash, or credit cards, etc.
(7) Determine the minimum payment you will accept for offering the seminar, factor in the cost for its presentation, then establish its cost to the participant.
(8) Plan your speaking schedule: dates, hours, cities, sites; check feasibility of travel as scheduled; contact sites, book facilities, make hotel/motel reservations.
(9) Plan your promotional campaign: list target audience, from the most to least likely to attend; list ways to best appeal to each potential audience; establish an operational budget for the most effective promotional approaches; prepare the time/method list for promotional activities; implement your campaign.
(10) Determine who will be your local contact at sites; establish responsibilities, method of reporting results; devise a method for recording and posting names of registrants to your mailing list; provide all needed promotional materials to your contact; determine who will handle/help with door registration and product sale, etc.
(11) Determine the kind/amount of non-promotional printed material needed: workbooks, evaluation sheets, door registration forms, receipts, product sale forms; set up a production schedule: writing, typing or typesetting, paste-up, printing.
(12) Prepare your seminar; plan, integrate audio-visual aids into the presentation; arrange for and schedule any outside speakers; evaluate the need for your own microphone, amplification, projectors, etc.; practice your presentation, opening and closing remarks; break the seminar into segments, including breaks.
(13) Plan and purchase speaking attire that visually reinforces the seminar’s objective.
(14) As the day approaches for final cancellation of facility fee for full/partial refund, decide if the seminar will be given.
(15) Review all promotional activities as the presentation day approaches.
(16) If scheduled, give radio/TV and newspaper interviews.
(17) Check the presentation site, the day before if possible; review the activities and provisions needed for the site personnel.
(18) Arrive at least an hour before the seminar, set up equipment, review the activities and responsibilities of the helpers, dress.
(19) Smile, take a deep breath, and give a super seminar!
(20) Read the evaluation sheets to see how the next seminar can be given better.
SOME ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR YOUR SEMINARING BUSINESS
(1) Select a business name.
(2) Complete the fictitious business statement process.
(3) Get necessary city/state licenses; if selling a product, get resale number from state taxing board.
(4) Open a business bank account.
(5) Check into credit card use at a bank for registration/sale of products.
(6) Stock business stationery and needed supplies.
(7) Investigate joining business or professional associations.
(8) Familiarize yourself with single proprietorship and receipting responsibilities.
(9) Keep records and receipts for all income and expenses.
SOME CONSIDERATIONS WHEN SCHEDULING THROUGH ACADEMIC EXTENSION
(1) Contact colleges/universities at least four months—six is better—prior to the start of the quarter or semester to present your seminar(s) and yourself for possible inclusion in the next program, sending the title and description plus an outline of each seminar, a list of likely participants (by kind, vocation, description), and a resume—with a cover letter.
(2) Offer to assist with promotion: news release preparation, radio/TV spots, etc.
(3) Coordinate your workbook preparation with the extension office.
(4) Prepare the necessary paperwork for later payment.
(5) Maintain contact with each school prior to traveling there to offer the seminar(s).
(6) Familiarize yourself with door registration procedures and evaluation forms.
(7) Return all funds and forms to the sponsoring school promptly after offering your seminar(s).
Use all three categories as appropriate and needed. Because it is impossible to know all of the elements necessary for all seminars, or the exact order of elements needed for any seminar, the three components should be used as a guideline, with items moved, deleted, or added as exigency dictates.
From Gordon Burgett’s How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar (audio CD version, 2009, with digital workbook and audio text summary). Produced by Communication Unlimited / 185 Shevelin Rd. /
Novato, CA 94947 / (800) 563-1454 . For further information, see www.gordonburgett.com/order3.htm.
Let’s see how offering seminars on your own differs from offering seminars with academic sponsorship, where you give up about 40-50% of the gross income paid by attendees in exchange for the school listing your title and description in a catalog, providing a room, and giving very little additional promotion.
Nobody else must approve where you offer your own seminars, when you do it is up to you, and you will never suffer because the institution can’t tell the difference between a news and a jail release.
That’s because you do all the work yourself or hire somebody of your own selection. There’s nobody else to blame. You also get to keep 100% of the money, after paying only the expenses necessary to make the program work.
The ORGANIZATIONAL CALENDAR (the next blog in this series) will tell you, roughly, what is done when. The toughest and most important thing you must do in advance is pick your topic, write a tight and alluring description, create a title that the interested “must” attend to hear more about, and then find the market that you can reach with your limited resources.
Choosing a site, a date, and setting up the structure are the easy parts. Getting others to pay and attend to hear what you have to say, plus, you hope, buy some of your back-of-the-room products you sell later, are harder. They might be even harder for beginners because they start, probably wisely, in their home town where others know them.
Promotion is how you fill the hall. It can cost you more than you’ll make, it may not work, and you must pay for it up front. That is made harder for newcomers because too often they cringe at having to laud their virtues in public print, particularly if they haven’t given their program yet and they aren’t quite sure what those virtues are. There’s no cure for this dilemma short of plunging in, planning with prudence and common sense, being frugal and showing boundless enthusiasm when selling the worth of your offering to others. Make it clear that you want to help them define and solve their need. Exude confidence, and others will help pass it on.
We will discuss using the media in coming blogs; use it wisely. One of the best things about putting on your own seminars is that you can aim specifically at those most benefited by your program, almost personally directing quality promotion at them. Study telephone selling. Talk to local groups, speak with directors and supervisors, tell your friends, get on a radio talk show, speak with the feature editor at the newspaper and show why what you have to say will interest his/her followers—in short, you have a chance to do far better on your own because you carry the promotion, mostly in person, to those who will most profit from hearing what you have to say.
Not much else differs from the college seminars: content, handouts, actual presentation, BOR sales. Whatever the sponsorship, you must show your professionalism as you grow into it. Wear the suit until it fits. The nicest thing of all? It’s your suit, every thread of it. You created and caused the success. And there can be plenty of reward—for plenty of work.
But it’s a real risk to start your speaking career by first giving seminars on your own. You can earn a bundle or you can lose your shirt. It probably makes more sense to begin seminaring through institutions, like colleges or hospitals. Or offering workshops to and through businesses. (I tell more about each later in this series.)
From Gordon Burgett’s How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar, the audio CD version, with digital workbook and audio text summary. Produced by Communication Unlimited, P.O. Box 845, Novato, CA 94947, (800) 563-1454. There’s more information here.
I think of top-selling two ways. The most obvious is to sell more copies of your book than any other book like it in the market. If you sell 10,000 copies of the book, you outsold a person who sold 5,000. Duh.
The less obvious way is to measure the effectiveness of your book’s sale. If the purpose of your book is to create a core for an empire, starting with the book and spreading into other information dissemination means, a book that sells 150 copies but generates 50 $1,500 speeches, spinoff books, keynotes, and lots of crelated consulting, and so on, is a huge deal too. (But “huger” if you sold those 10,000 copies here!)
The latter is much more safely done by writing books in niche areas where you zero in on key problem-solvers or frustration-reducers, the kind that every practioner in the niche will bottom-line benefit from by reading your words, process, or direction. Once they see that your words come from tested expertise that should work well for them too, they will also be asking you to speak to their niche gatherings, write for their newsletter, and most of the rest.
The way to reduce the risk and assure that a high percentage of the nichefolk will buy your book (at your price) is to pre-test the book to a small selection of them with a note, a flyer, and a return yes-no test postcard. If you need an 8% positive response to earn $50,000 (pick a starting target), then if that or more say yes on your quick two-question return postcard, you know they want your book–or at least they want to read more about your title, they like the format (paper or ebook, or both), your premise and promises, they want to see what you (or the the author) has to say, and they will buy it from you by direct mail or through regular marketing venues to the niche.
The other way is to write a dynamite book to general markets where the title alone gets them so say (better, shout to the heavens) that they’d be a blubbering bobo not to buy your book the moment it is out.
I’m talking about books for adults. I’m not sure if kids clamor much for nonfiction books now, though I do see top fiction sellers for them. But since I don’t know what I’d say to them that even I would want to read, I leave that field to others.
Look for books here for how-to details about niche pre-testing and publishing. There are many other good books that will tell you how to publish and sell to the general market.
The very first step for both, though, is to find a title that provokes a lusty “wow!” The rest is writing the same “wow!” book and making its existence well known to those who need and want its message.
For more than 30 years I offered 2000+ seminars, workshops, and conferences in California, with more than half given at the California State University system (now CSU, formerly CSUC). Since I spoke at all but four of the 23 campuses then, let me focus on that structure to explain how one can get booked by the college extended education system.
(Most of the other programs I offered were at community (junior) colleges; a few were through the UC system.)
For those unfamiliar with the CSU system, it is the largest educational system in the world. It is comprised of institutions at the fol1owing locations: Arcata (Humboldt), Bakersfield, Carson (Dominguez Hil1s), Chico, Fresno, Fullerton, Hayward (East Bay), Long Beach, Los Angeles, Martinez (CA Maritime Academy), Monterey Bay, Northridge, Pomona, Rohnert Park (Sonoma), Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Luis Obispo, San Marcos, and Ventura (Channel Islands).
A quick, sad insert here. There have been key changes in the California extended ed offerings in the past five or so years, with single programs (mine were usually four hours long) usually replaced by certification programs. So booking with these colleges today will likely be less satisfactory. However, in other major system nationwide, the process and bookability hasn’t changed much, so what I’m sharing here is the way getting booked is still widely done elsewhere. The CSU system was the most comprehensive and reliable system I used (when I also spoke in five other states) so the way to apply and perform where you live and work (except in California) shouldn’t be much different than what I am sharing.
While there were policies that tied all 23 schools together, most operated independently, particularly where seminars were concerned. The office you contacted was usually cal1ed the Office of Extended Education (or Programs), sometimes the Office of Continuing Education. A call to the school or a look at the current college catalog (check the listing in front under Administration) wil1 give you the proper name–and the name of its director.
Some extended education offices had relatively free control over the type of programs they offered. Others were tightly controlled by the academic faculty at the institution. The latter is the case everywhere when the seminars you suggest were identical to or significantly overlapped academic classes given (or logically included in an academic program) at the institution. Thus you had the best chance at all CSUs if your program was different from what that institution offered or was some phase of practical application of theoretical academic programs. If you had an idea for a seminar and you were unsure, however, a call and discussion with the extended education director or staff would quickly tell you if your idea would be considered or would be acceptable.
The traditional approach was either to call or write a letter to the director suggesting a possible seminar or seminars, with a brief explanation of your qualifications, the seminar’s title, a brief description of its contents, and the length of time it lasted. The director would tell you if it was being offered in a similar form now or planned to be added in the near future, as well as whether it fit into their particular extended education format. The director might also have indicated whether he/she wanted to include it in the next bulletin or catalog.
At a later point more information would be required. (Some preferred to approach the director with a full project at the outset that included all that would be required.) This would include a concise letter of introduction presenting yourself and your seminar idea(s). Regarding yourself, it should tell who you are, why you should offer the seminar, past experiences enhancing your qualifications and a copy of your resume or dossier. For each seminar idea there should be a title, brief description, possible scheduling dates and times, a suggested cost to the participant, and the kind of audio-visual equipment needed or used. A seminar outline was highly desirable. A suggestion of who would want to attend the seminar and why, with perhaps an estimate of approximate attendance, would help sell the program to the director.
If you had given the seminar elsewhere, by all means indicate the dates, locations, and the person (and college) through whom it was scheduled (so the director could check the reference). Favorable comments made by the participants at earlier presentations should also be shared.
Pay varied widely throughout the CSUs but generally it fell in the 40-60% category. That means that you received that percentage of the income generated by pre-registrations and at-the-door payments. For that percentage you paid all of your costs, including transportation and room/board. Preparation of handout material was usually arranged with the director. Sometimes they picked up the tab if the handout isn’t excessively long or complex. When academic credit was awarded for participation, your payment was almost always based on the number of units given rather than on attendance. With BRN and other credentialing credit, it varied. The director handled all publicity, inclusion in the bulletin or extension catalog, room and audio-visual arrangements, support paperwork, pre-registration and other services. If your idea wouldn’t draw a minimum attendance, in the director’s opinion, he/she usually rejected your idea at the outset.
If there was the likelihood that your offering would attract sufficient participation the director would likely offer the seminar on the condition that if it failed to attract sufficient registration, it would be cancelled. Thus the minimum number needed to keep the seminar “alive” should have been decided with the director beforehand.
I found that by working with directors to provide additional publicity for your program, you could help attract more participants. This was done by preparing press releases and lists of groups or people who should be sent the bulletin or a flyer, plus offering to give interviews on radio or TV about your seminar. All of the promotion had to be clearly synchronized with the director so your activities and theirs were complementary.
Timing was also very important. To be included in the extension bulletin you had to contact the institution at least four (better, six) months before the start of the quarter or semester during which the program would be offered.
While cross-scheduling with other CSU schools in the same area at the same time made no sense, you could book your seminar at the University of California schools, community colleges, church groups, recreation programs, and other civic organizations and clubs. CSUs usually paid the best, unless you offered a self-sponsored seminar nearby. (They were far riskier so I never overlapped that way.)
The take-away here is to contact the colleges where you want to speak and follow the process explained above. Be prepared from the outset to “sell” your program(s) to the extended ed leaders and staff. The whole procedure is rather confusing the first time or two, but after that it’s a triple win: for you, the participants, and the extended ed program.
Thus is blog #5 of 15 blogs, one appearing every 7-10 days, about “How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar.” (We also have an audio cassette/workbook program available about the full topic.)