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Hosting a Seminar

liv42dy

New Contributor
Nov 6, 2007
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I'm organizing a seminar for local filmmakers that will cover topics like preparing a business plan that will attract funding, the different kinds of funding options available to filmmakers, and the process of producing a feature film and a television series, from conception to completion.

I've got a "hold" placed on my location, and the speakers are all lined up; so I started sending out the invitations last week with an "early bird" discount to those who signed up before a certain date. But no one has signed up yet.

It could just be that I'm not giving it enough time, but I would like to know from those of you who have organized a seminar or conference of your own what I can expect. Are there a lot of last-minute sign-ups? Or do you experience a steady stream from the time it is announced?

Also, when you are looking for presenters what is your approach? i.e. Have you waited 10 days for a possible presenter to return your invitation to speak before you approached another person, or did you ask as many qualified people as possible so that you could check the presenters availability, fees, etc. and then chose the one that responded first (but also fit your budget)?

Most of the producers I contacted responded to my invitation within 48 hours, were great to talk to, and were flattered by the invitation (even if they had to decline it). But there was one Hollywood big shot who was so annoyed with the fact that I didn't wait 10 days for his response before I filled his slot that he claimed I was jerking him around and was a bad business person because of it. (Then promptly hung up on me.)

Inspite of this, I'm still planning on putting on another seminar in the summer to teach the local investors about investing in the film industry, but I would rather not experience a repeat performance of being called a bad business person by a possible presenter.

Your input and advice is greatly appreciated...and thanks for being patient with the fact that I'm a newbie. I wish I had more wisdom to contribute to this great forum! (Hopefully soon.)
 

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mglshark

New Contributor
Oct 18, 2007
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Been there before - sometimes they are a bust, sometimes packed. What you need to do is get the word out 2 months before, one month before, one week before (last min. warning). Personal mailings 1 - 2 months out, followed by oversize blazing yellow rod postcard one week before. E mail / fax (with "permission") and phone calls help too. Create a buzz with press releases as well. If you get local paper, radio or TV in on it even better.

Pricing is important too - free sells easier and packs the room, however anything sold in the back of the room needs to be cheaper as well. More expensive seminars attract less people with more $$$ to spend! Give early bird discounts as well.

Best way to jump start the seminar crowd is to JV with someone else that has a big mailing list with influence, present to his group first, even if you give the sales to the list owner. Then video the seminar and get attendees on tape (with their permission) talking about how great your seminar was. Perfect back end product to sell on the Net.

Like to hear how your next seminar worked out!

Marc
 

Diane Kennedy

Bronze Contributor
Aug 31, 2007
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Whew - tough market to break these days.

Everybody's seminar numbers are down in my industry. I'm doing one in 2 weeks and I think it might just be last one for a very long time. I know what I'm doing in marketing and I've had to pull out every trick in the book to fill this room...and we're still barely making our room guarantee.

On the other side of that, the people attending are going to love it because they will get lots more attention...so I'll do a little better than break even and get some loyal clients. And that's always good.
 

Jill

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.. I'm doing one in 2 weeks and I think it might just be last one for a very long time. I know what I'm doing in marketing and I've had to pull out every trick in the book to fill this room...and we're still barely making our room guarantee...
If it's any consolation, it isn't for lack of good marketing (at least in my case). I got the marketing email and was getting out my credit card to pay until I noticed that it was the same weekend as Beer & Pancakes. Any chance you'd consider changing the dates?
 
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liv42dy

liv42dy

New Contributor
Nov 6, 2007
48
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Sounds like it's gonna be a crap shoot, depending on the industry. My seminar is in May, and I have sent out the invitations to all of the major talent agents who represent writers and actors who want to become producers, so several thousand people have received it so far. I've sent the invitation to local film schools, film commissions and other film organizations, and asked them to pass along the invitation to the members on their list. One of the organizations I sent the invitation to was kind enough to respond by inviting me to a private screening and a meet-and-greet of Dr. Jane Goodall. And another organization has to get the approval of their Board members before they will send it out.

I have to charge a fee for this seminar to cover the costs of the room rental, food, and to compensate the speakers. I'm sure if it were free I would have close to 300 people signed up by now.

It's nice to know I'm not the only one experiencing problems getting people to sign up. I just thought it would be nice to hold a seminar that would answer the questions I get asked several times a week, and to prepare them to get their materials ready for a speed-pitching event in August. So I thought for sure people would be lining up to attend.

No one else is doing this kind of event in my state...they do them quite a bit in California, but nothing here.

______________________

As for a question I posed in my previous post, is it considered bad business to look for another speaker when the one you orginally invited hasn't responded to you within a certain amount of time? (I waited five days before I filled the spot, and he called me 10 days after receiving my request.) Because he didn't respond, I thought he was too busy to attend. How long do you normally wait for a response?

Many thanks to all of you for your input!
 

Z5 FILMS

Contributor
Aug 13, 2007
462
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The Woodlands, TX
No one else is doing this kind of event in my state...they do them quite a bit in California, but nothing here.

You said you sent the invitations to middle men, not the actual people. Is it possible most of these agencies or film schools are not passing the message along?

You mentioned you are charging an upfront fee, but did not mention price. Is is possible the fee is too high?

Also, what the State?
 

mglshark

New Contributor
Oct 18, 2007
36
5
14
Good point about going through the gatekeepers ("middle men"). Lot of top sales pros use various methods to make sure the message reaches the right person! Personal and confidential snail mail, overnight FedEx, unusual containers of mystery are some of the ways. In the future find some sales info ( like Brian Tracy) get to the right people. Do follow up if possible with these people personally and see if they got your invite.

With speakers you got to get a commitment and follow up by phone several times making sure they are still coming! Of course if they have something to gain (like back of the room sales, good PR, etc.) that does help. Again, the phone call direct to them is the best.

Since you are working the Hollywood crowd maybe getting the buzz out through the media that by NOT attending they will be missing out on the "secrets" of the century.

Heck if your info is that valuable why not sell it direct via DVD to people that want it? Add in personal coaching and you got a niche business!

Marc
 
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liv42dy

liv42dy

New Contributor
Nov 6, 2007
48
6
0
Since you are working the Hollywood crowd maybe getting the buzz out through the media that by NOT attending they will be missing out on the "secrets" of the century.

Heck if your info is that valuable why not sell it direct via DVD to people that want it? Add in personal coaching and you got a niche business!

Marc
Great idea! I'll have to see how much it would cost to put together.


You said you sent the invitations to middle men, not the actual people. Is it possible most of these agencies or film schools are not passing the message along?

You mentioned you are charging an upfront fee, but did not mention price. Is is possible the fee is too high?

Also, what the State?
I know that the middlemen sent out the invitations because one of my speakers, even though he now lives in California, still has connections to a local agent, who sent him an invitation. He called me laughing saying, "Looks like I'm committed to this now!"

My fees: early bird discount is $250 for one person and $450 for two people, and goes up to $350 after March 1. This is for an all-day seminar (8-5), and they don't have to pay for airline or hotel because it's all local. (Utah) According to my research, this is the average price other conferences of this nature charge in California. Although, I will be attending one in April that is a two-day event and much more expensive all around, i.e. cost to attend is about $1,000, plus airline, hotel, food, etc. Overall, my seminar is a very good deal!

I've also thought about writing a news article to get more attendees, since the orginization I'm trying to help with this event is trying to re-stimulate the film industry in Utah. Maybe that will get more attention.

Thanks for your input! Keep it coming...
 
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liv42dy

liv42dy

New Contributor
Nov 6, 2007
48
6
0
Thanks for the info...I'll take a look at it. At first glance it looks like people are still having to pay for travel and lodging if they want to attend.

And, you're right, my seminar is not about teaching filmmaking, it's about how to get funding. And the $250 fee I'm charging is a lot less than the hourly consulting fee my speakers normally charge. (Maybe I'll put that in my marketing.) I'll have to play around with it. Thank you very much.
 

Z5 FILMS

Contributor
Aug 13, 2007
462
75
48
The Woodlands, TX
Here's something I got in my email. Alex Ferrari (terrible name :) ) made this short film called "Broken" for like $7,000. It's pretty good for $7K. Anyways, he sells it on DVD over the internet. Lots of good "how to" bonus footage on it for indie filmmakers.

He now obviously has this "workshop" DVD he's promoting. This might be another angle you could approch. Sell you're "seminar" on DVD. Even if it's staged and the 200 people in the audience are all friends and family. It might be something to think about. I also noticed his hands-on workshop there in Hollywood is only $45.




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