How to Start a Seminar Production Business

Income & Billing

What can you expect to make as a seminar professional? The amount's up to you, depending only on how serious you are and how hard you want to work. One of the entrepreneurs we interviewed for this book brings in annual gross revenues of over $200,000; another brings in more than $130 million. Average annual gross revenues for the industry range from $30,000 to $100,000.

"The business can be very lucrative," advises Gail H. of Fredericksburg, Virginia, "depending upon how good you are on the platform to entertain, motivate, inspire and market yourself to the right clients. It can bring in up to seven figures if you're very good--and certainly in the six figures. I'm in the mid-five figures after two and a half years in the business."

As a newbie, you shouldn't expect to earn big bucks immediately. "Test-drive your talent and your topic area of expertise while you still have your day job," Gail says, "to ensure there's a market for your message and cash flow in your bank account."

Seminar professionals generate income by doing more than just giving speeches and supervising workshops. They also earn tidy sums of money from back-of-the-room sales. These are all the peripheral goodies that participants can buy to take home with them. Rock concert promoters display T-shirts, posters and souvenir programs for enthusiastic audience members to snap up. And savvy seminar professionals display books, audiotapes and videos relating to the program, seminar transcripts, and even--especially in the case of motivational programs--buzzword-emblazoned products like bookmarks, calendars, and yes, even T-shirts.

Public Seminar Pricing

To determine how much you'll make, you have to figure out how much to charge for your programs, and the best way to do that is to first figure out how much each seminar will cost you. Let's give you yet another incarnation and say you're going to do a workshop on "Living The Good Life With Your Own Bed-And-Breakfast Business." This will be a public program at a swanky downtown hotel and, based on your market research, you're expecting about 100 attendees.

For our example, we've come up with a cost per seminar of $3,700. Now let's figure out how much your tickets will have to go for in order to make the seminar pay for itself. That's easy: Divide your cost of $3,700 by the 100 people you expect to attend. You get a ticket price of $37. But keep in mind that this is your break-even price. If you sell tickets for $37 each, you won't make a dime.

If you double your ticket price and make it $74, you'll make a gross profit of $7,400, which sounds pretty good! If your prospective customers will pay this much for your seminar and if they all show up. Your market research should cue you in to whether or not this is a viable price.

If it's not, you'll have to go back to the drawing board and rework your calculations. Either lower your ticket price, say to $50, which will give you a gross profit per seminar of $1,300 (your $3,700 costs subtracted from your $5,000 ticket sales), or figure out how to lower your costs, for example, by negotiating a better site rental rate, cutting down on the refreshments, or going with less expensive workbooks.

Now let's say you've got it down to $50 per ticket, 100 people per seminar, and a gross profit of $1,300, plus that extra $500 in back-of-the-room sales, which means you're grossing $1,800 per seminar. If you do 24 of these seminars a year, or two a month, you'll gross $43,200.

You'll also need to consider whether there's a market for your bed-and-breakfast seminars within reasonable driving distance of your home base 50 weeks a year. If not, you'll either have to add travel costs for taking your show on the road--which will put a major dent in your bottom line--or you'll have to design a series of programs (like starting your own bed-and-breakfast, starting your own coffee bar, starting your own personal concierge service, your own wax museum, etc.). This way you don't exhaust your customer base.

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