Our firm is a four attorney estate planning and probate specialty practice in Fresno, California. We are in our 15th year of practice. In addition to word of mouth referrals from past clients as well as referrals from attorneys and other professionals, seminars has been a major source of new business for the firm. In fact, for the last several years seminars has been our number one source of new client business. As a result of COVID-19 we are no longer conducting seminars and we have concerns that this is going to have a major negative impact on our business both now and even in the future after current stay at home restrictions are lifted. We would appreciate any thoughts that you may have.
While I don’t have a crystal ball I believe that you are correct in assuming that people are going to be guarded and less likely to want to attend such seminars after current stay at home restrictions are lifted. Even before COVID-19 we have been seeing a trend of more and more people preferring to receive information online. For several years now state bar associations have seen their online CLE attendance surpass attendance at live events. More and more college programs are being offered online – either partially or totally. Several years ago I began advising my estate planning/probate law firm clients to begin experimenting with webinars and many firms have being doing them very successfully and have had good results.
I suggest that you look at some of the webinar platforms such as www.gotowebinar.com, www.webex.com, and zoom.us/webinar. View videos from each product as well as their demos and sign-up for a service. Then attend the vendor’s online training for both organizer and attendee so you have a feel for both sides of the webinar tool. Customize settings for your firm and add you logo, etc. Plan the date for your webinar, decide on a topic, prepare your registration invitation, email invitations, prepare handouts, and prepare your PowerPoint. Generally you need more slides for a webinar than you do for a live presentation. Then practice and practice some more. You need to be comfortable both with the webinar tool as well as giving a presentation to a computer screen. I suggest that you have someone serve as your moderator that will introduce the program and the general program procedures, introduce you, review online questions as they come and read the questions to you either as they come in or at the end of the presentation (depending on how you decide beforehand to take questions), and close out the program.
I think you will find webinars a suitable replacement for live seminars and at a lower cost and time investment.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC