Unless you are conducting seminars on a regular basis, chances are you might not be as prepared as you think. For many people, giving their first seminar is probably the hardest, because presenting might be a scary thing. The interesting thing about fear of public speaking, is that it is something even seasoned presenters still have. In my capacity as a marketer, I have had to make a lot of presentations which are like seminars on a smaller scale.

First tip on giving a great seminar is that there is no one correct way of giving one, so do not get hung up with trying to do your seminar the way that you have seen others do theirs. When preparing for your seminar, it is important to remember that there are lots of different styles that suit various presenters’ personalities. What works for some people may not work for others. When starting out as a presenter, decide what works best for you and develop your own style; don’t try to be someone else and emulate their style.

Whether it be sales, training or just a discussion, anyone who has given a seminar or presentation knows that the most successful seminars have a few things in common. One of the components of a successful presentation or seminar is the flow and structure of the presentation itself. In planning your seminar presentation, be sure to start off with an introduction to the topic of your seminar. This is a very important aspect of your talk, because it sets the tone. This gives your audience a first impression of you and your topic. This is where you give some background, history and the big picture behind why this seminar is important. As you deliver your seminar points, do not be afraid to add in references to how they fit into the big picture of your seminar.

In my experience, starting with a broad overview of the subject is the perfect introduction, as it gives a clear indication of the subject and enough basic information for all audience members to find the seminar useful. Your introduction and opening slide (in a slide presentation) are the most important elements of your seminar because you can lose your audience attention quickly if they do not understand the topic of the seminar. You should try to keep the information and opening statements as simple as possible by employing the KISS strategy (Keep It Simple Stupid) in the introduction

After the introduction, most seminars, training sessions or presentations have goals. So it is a good idea to fulfill your goal by stating your hypothesis for a discussion or training seminar (or the benefits of your product or services for a sales seminar) by telling the audience exactly what your specific topic is. Between the introduction and the statement of the goals for the presentation, your audience should be engaged and ready to pay attention to the rest of the seminar. Essentially, if you have not engaged the audience at this point, then chances are that it is not going to come.

Next in the structure of the seminar is where you give the audience the meat and potatoes of the seminar or presentation hopefully to an engaged audience already eager to hear your pitch. When planning a seminar you need to choose your media. Are you going to use a computer and Powerpoint presentation? Maybe you are going to show a video or use handouts. But what are you going to do when they video ends? How are you going to keep the attention of your attendees? If part of your presentation involves a lecture, be sure to have visuals.

Public speaking is not a skill that you are born with, but an art and a skill that you develop over time. You need to speak to your audience and not at them, so talk with confidence and do not read notes off a prepared speech. Note cards are great for reminding you of the next topic or point. They are also good for having specific statistics or points. But don’t let them be the only part of your presentation. When you speak to your audience with conviction and passion, they will become engaged and actively listen.

Some additional points about public speaking, If your audience can’t hear you, they will either get frustrated or fall asleep. You want to speak in a loud and clear tone, but you don’t want to shout at them. Your intent is to engage your audience, which means making eye contact with them. Staring down at your notes or speaking to the floor will lose the attention of your audience.

Finally, end the presentation with a summary and conclusions. This is also the place to include the strongest points towards achieving your goals. It allows the audience to see how the current work fits into the big picture, and it may stimulate them to ask questions or inquire about the service or product featured in the seminar. It is okay to script your seminar, but you are best not to memorize it. A script is great as a guideline, but ideally you want to deliver your seminar in a way that your audience believes that you genuinely know what you are talking about. It is very important to remember if you are animated and speak with enthusiasm in your own voice, you will have a better chance of keeping your audience engaged. If you don’t seem interested in the topic of the seminar, how do you expect to have your audience appreciate it?

So where are you going to conduct your business seminar? The more professional the venue, the more professional you will look. Holding a seminar in the back room of a coffee shop does not tell your audience you are professional. If you do not have a space to hold your seminar, consider renting out conference and seminar training rooms at an office business centre. Not only does this give your seminar a professional look, but business centres have other resources that will help your seminar work better. This is especially true if you forget something while leaving your office or home that is necessary for your talk. In our post How to choose the best venue for your seminar or training blog, there is information that will help you pick the best venue.

The final tip here is plan, plan, plan! Having a plan is very important to the success of your seminar. The more you plan, the less likely you will forget key aspects of your talk or seminar. Having the right graphics, aids and responses to help with  potential questions, will ensure that your audience believes you to be the expert that they wanted to see. Don’t forget that part of your planning is knowing your target audience and what they will be expecting. Another key component of a successful seminar is getting a full house for your seminar, so also consider How to create and promote your SMB or startup with Seminars and Training for information on promoting your seminar.