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How to Build Your Business with Free Workshops

Updated on April 10, 2017
SMD2012 profile image

I'm a business communications coach who teaches writing, speaking, and leadership skills to adults in the midst of a career change.

Find out why giving free workshops is a smart, affordable solution to market your business and establish your credibility. Then follow this step-by-step guide to plan your next workshop.

Show the public that you have the know-how to meet their needs.

Demonstrate your market expertise by hosting a free workshop or seminar.
Demonstrate your market expertise by hosting a free workshop or seminar.

For freelancers, entrepreneurs and consultants who want to build their business, offering free, fun and informative workshops are a great way to attract new clients. Learn the basic steps in planning and delivering a high-quality, value-added seminar to meet new clients and promote your business or consulting services.

Free workshops are a great way to build your business.

Small business owners, freelancers and consultants are starting to recognize the value in hosting free seminars to expand their client base, build their business and establish themselves as topical experts in a specific niche market.

Just as article marketing, webinars and blogging are effective ways to establish yourself as an expert in your field, so too can hosting free workshops and social events.

Don’t sit at home behind the computer while other entrepreneurs and freelancers are out and about socializing, building their networks and demonstrating their expertise in your niche market.

Start planning a free event to build your network and cultivate new clients!

Start by planning your workshop.

No meeting has ever been successful without a detailed to-do list. Here are some things you should include on your planning checklist:

  • Who will you invite? Existing clients? Anyone on your email subscription list? Can guests bring friends and colleagues? Develop a clear idea of who you want at your event so that you can create a targeted invitation list that will have a higher response rate than a blanket invitation. You want your invitees to feel like they were handpicked to attend your event.
  • Where will the seminar be held? How much will the venue cost to rent? Is it close to transit? Is it wheelchair accessible? Community centers often have rooms available to rent for very affordable rates. Community centers are always wheelchair accessible and are usually quite close to public transit.
  • What does the agenda look like? Prepare your event program from top to bottom, with a minute by minute outline of how the event will play out. Be realistic about how much time you can afford to give to each activity so that the event neither drags on, nor proceeds at a hurried pace.
  • What is the topic of your seminar? List the goals and objectives and make sure you have a clear vision for what you want your guests to get out of your seminar. Itemize all the materials you will need including audio/visual equipment, white boards, markers, handouts and name tags.
  • Will you be serving refreshments? If so, take a look at your budget and decide what you can afford to offer. Coffee, tea and water should be offered at the very least. (You wouldn't allow someone to visit your own home without offering them something to drink, so do the same at your event.) If you decide to go above and beyond serving tea and coffee, consider buying deli trays or hire a caterer.

How do you plan on promoting your free seminar: by regular post, email, print advertising, or word of mouth?
How do you plan on promoting your free seminar: by regular post, email, print advertising, or word of mouth?

Market your workshop and send out invitations.

Use your fabulous copy writing skills to create an invitation that excites your guests and urges them to RSVP right away.

Written invitations should be sent out at least three to four weeks prior to your event date. If your event is on the formal side, send invitations by snail mail.

For casual events, meetings and seminars, you can send invitations by email or by using one of the many online invitation management programs. A few suggestions are Evite, Event Brite, or Constant Contact. Prices vary by the number of invitations being sent out, but with all the built-in management features these programs offer, you might find that spending a little bit more money is well worth it.

If you want the event to be open to the public, by all means use all the social media tools that are available to you: create a Facebook event page, tweet an announcement, issue a press release. Just be sure that if you do open it up to the public, you have chosen a venue big enough to accommodate a large crowd. Keep in mind that even though you are inviting the public to your event, you can still require people to RSVP, noting that tickets are limited and are available on a first come, first served basis only.

Don't forget to include clear details about the event date, time and location. Add a Google map to help guests find the event. If there are any exciting features about your event, (refreshments, door prizes, live music, etc) include those details in your invitation too.

Being a workshop leader is a position of trust. Participants are presumably drawn to the subject and our claimed expertise in it. They deserve the best that we can deliver.

— Bruce Klatt, The Ultimate Training Workshop Handbook

Create a welcoming environment at your workshop.

Get ready to greet your workshop attendees. The invitations have gone out. The guest list has been finalized. The refreshments ordered. Today is the day of your event!

  • Make sure that you have given yourself plenty of time to set up your event before your guests arrive. Always allow for early birds; they're inevitable.
  • Don’t go it alone. Recruit several volunteers to assist you on the day of the event. If you have friends or colleagues who are also trying to build their business, offer to give them all the support they need when they host their next meeting.
  • Personally greet your guests as they arrive. Express your sincere gratitude for their attendance. If your event looks like a few guest are missing, don't fret about it. The event has already started. You don't want your guests to feel like you're watching the door waiting for some VIP to walk through. The people that are already at your event are your VIPs.
  • Have one of your helpers take pictures at your event. If you have a Facebook page or blog, event photos always add a social element to your business.

When the event is over, be sure to personally say goodbye to each guest and thank them for coming. (You can't do this too often.) Let them know that you want to keep in touch and that you will be contacting them soon.

After the last guest has left, sit down and quickly write down all the follow-up calls you promised to make. Look at your guest list again and as you read each person's name, picture their face and any conversation you had with them. Write down any important details from that conversation that will help you with your follow-up calls. What did you learn about their business goals? Did they share any particular personal interests or hobbies with you during small talk? Make note of things that you have in common with the other person.

By taking the time to personally remember and reflect on each guest that attended, you'll be able to offer them customized services and help them meet their goals. After all, isn't that why you became an entrepreneur: to help others by offering personal service and high-quality products?

What is the main reason you would attend a special event hosted by a local small business?

See results

Good planning will ensure your workshop is filled with eager attendees.

Depending on the size of your workshop, you may be able to hold it your office's board room. This will help cut back on event expenses while offering seminar attendees a sneak-peek into your organization.
Depending on the size of your workshop, you may be able to hold it your office's board room. This will help cut back on event expenses while offering seminar attendees a sneak-peek into your organization.

© 2012 Sally Hayes

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  • SMD2012 profile image
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    Sally Hayes 5 years ago

    Thanks Leah. I'm glad it was helpful!

  • Leah Helensdottr profile image

    Leah Helensdottr 5 years ago from Colorado

    Excellent hub, SMD--full of useful and practical advice. If I ever decide to hold a free seminar, I'll certainly use your hub as a guide. Voted up, interesting, and useful.

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