We’ve hosted our annual CSP Fall Seminar seven times since 2012. In that time, we’ve accommodated more than 1,000 attendees, 15 different presenters, and a whole buffet of unanticipated headaches.
A lot of things have changed since we first opened our doors for an event of this nature, including many of the faces on our team, fitness trends in general, and the ease with which event coordinators can fill seats.
Putting bodies in the room gets harder every year. However, this doesn’t mean that hosting an event is a bad idea. You just need to accept the fact that filling the room will present a challenge, and take a deliberate approach to promoting outside of the same old Facebook advertising spending spree that everyone else seems to fall back on.
Assuming you do accept the challenge of organizing a seminar, here are ten common hurdles in the process that you may not have anticipated or planned for:
1. Website – If you want your seminar to feel legitimate, it would be a good idea to create a website outlining the event. A simple flyer posted on Facebook and Instagram isn’t going to get the job done. List your presenters, provide details on presentation topics, outline the time table, and offer a platform to process registration payments.
2. Merchant Services – Speaking of paying to register, you can’t get away with “cash on arrival” events, and nobody pops a personal check in the mail anymore. This means that you’ve got to accept online payments, and it’s going to take some sort of a merchant services account to do so. Be warned: Processing credit cards will run you somewhere in the vicinity of 2-4% of each transaction.
3. CEU Application – Many of your attendees are going to be looking to accumulate continuing education units in exchange for attending your event. Unfortunately, offering CEU’s isn’t as simple as declaring the number of credit hours you intend to deliver and mocking up your own certificate. You’re going to need to fill out a CEU provider application, and you can expect that part of the process to cost you more than $100 depending on the organization. Wait until the last minute, and you can expect to pay some sort of additional accelerated processing fee.
4. Printouts – Your guests may anticipate printouts of presentation slides. This will prove to be a headache for two reasons. First, you can expect at least one or two of your featured presenters to drag their heels on submitting material in a timely manner, so delivery to the print and copy center is sure to go down to the wire. Second, these things aren’t cheap, especially if you’re trying to keep it classy and offer spiral-bound material.
5. Chairs – How many gym owners own more than a handful of folding chairs? Expect to find yourself renting seating for guests, which will run you $1-$2/chair, plus the cost of delivery, a damage protection fee, and tax. Side note – we picked up 30 chairs from Costco a couple of years back and they’ve proven to be immensely valuable, especially when hosting smaller mentorship-style events.
6. Projector / Microphone – You’re going to need to showcase those beautiful PowerPoint presentations, so a projector will be a must. Those babies typically start around $400, and are probably worth investing in if you intend to make a habit of hosting events. If you’re anticipating a larger crowd, amplifying the volume of your presenters will be a need as well. We picked up a Bose PA system to take care of this problem, and also invested in a wireless microphone of our own. Neither of these were cheap, but are now worth it after years of use.
7. Registration Assistance – Things move quickly when it comes time to actually welcome guests through the door. Plan on having multiple staff members available to check people in, confirm payment has been made, deliver CEU’s, and point out things like restrooms and places to put personal belongings. As the owner of the gym, you’ll have more distractions than you can handle at this moment, so steer clear of trying to handle this piece of the process entirely by yourself.
8. Presenter Wages – The best way to put butts in seats will be to fill presenter slots with speakers who can attract a crowd. The influencers who can fill a room don’t typically come free, and often live a flight away from your space. If you’re going to entice “a name,” plan on budgeting for airfare and accommodations at the very least. Speaking fees may also be a reality, so address that matter up front in the planning process. This will drive your registration pricing strategy.
9. Follow-Up Materials – We’ve never hosted a seminar at CSP that didn’t feature multiple attendees requesting electronic versions of the slides. Some want access to videos, and some would rather not have to revisit their printouts for takeaways. Either way, expect the requests to roll in, and the least you can do is assemble all of this material in one place and make it easily accessible. I typically save the presentations in a single PDF, and then reduce the size of the document using SmallPDF.com.
10. Feedback Collection – If you intend to turn your seminar into an annual tradition, it would be a good idea to collect detailed feedback from your attendees. We send a survey to all of our guests immediately following each seminar and ask for specific reviews and ratings for the event. This information helps us to improve future events, and to gather topic ideas to use moving forward. The free survey services on TypeForm.com are perfectly sufficient to get the job done here.
A Bonus Tip
Setting a Future Date – I mentioned earlier that seminars are getting harder and harder to fill, and this is because of the abundance of competing events flooding the market. Every weekend seems to feature a new option. The earlier you can establish a date for your upcoming event, the better.
With all of this information on your radar, you’ll hopefully find that your first seminar moves a little smoother than it otherwise may have. Also, you might feel better equipped to budget appropriately for the event.