When a free seminar is good

When a free seminar is good

I am a self proclaimed seminar junkie. I love attending seminars, workshops, lectures and more. When I first began my self employed journey, I googled and attended as many seminars as I could find. The topics varied: how to set up a business, marketing, accounting, networking, angel investment, trademarking, and more. 

One thing I noticed was the free versus paid for seminars could often vary. I remember attending a few free seminars and thinking “wow, I could have taught that better” or “that was a waste of time because I didn’t learn anything new”. Well, duh! It’s free. The point was for the presenter to showcase a small amount of free information, on the hope that you would hire them for more.

 I saw this a lot when I gave free seminars at City Business Library. It encouraged me to teach seminars there myself, and I did for three years, but I vowed to be different. I would provide a seminar with at least 5 things that could be implemented immediately. I used each session to make note of the questions they asked, thus creating new seminars. I also honed my teaching skills, develop teaching methods, and learn how to answer questions. The one thing I didn’t do was oversell my services. My philosophy was “if they like me, they will hire me for consulting, and if not, that’s fine.” It worked, as I often had students reach out for private tutor sessions. 

However, I stopped teaching there for two reasons: first, they started charging £5 for their seminars, but I was giving my time for free. They didn’t pay the speakers anything, so the customers had a false sense of where the £5 was going. Second, they didn’t police their other speakers, who used the time to promote their business and offer little practical advice that could be used by the attendees. I remember paying £5 for a seminar on speed reading, only to be told that if I attended a £600 weekend course, I could learn speed reading. We got no free info. I was livid!

This inspired me to seek out new venues, and work with other libraries like Westminster Reference Library, Church Street, Victoria and Kensington Central Library to offer my seminars. Again, I offer my time for free, the seminars are free, and the attendees always walk away with some tangible information they can implement immediately. It all harks back to when I myself was sitting in the seminar audience, hoping for any kind of free advice to help further my journey of self-employment. Libraries are a very underrated treasure chest for new business start-ups. They have enormous resources, databases and access to paid content that cost nothing to users. Working with libraries, i can offer free seminars to an audience who needs the information but has limited or no budget. Plus, if my seminar helps them to discover the resources at the library, it’s a win-win situation. 

Based on the reviews and feedback I have received, the attendees of my seminars benefit from my conscious decision to provide good, free, useful information. Since doing these free seminars, some of the libraries have found budget to provide me a small compensation for time and travel. This allows me to expand the content, offering more premium information to attendees. I love it, because people walk away feeling inspired and ready to take action! 

My free seminars typically run between September and February. Keep an eye on my website to see when the next seminar will take place, and book your free space! If you know of a library or other venue that would want me to provide a free seminar, please get in touch. 

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