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January 15, 2009


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FMF, I have a question for you and your readers.

I'm going to be starting my own fee-only, hourly or flat fee financial planning firm, and part of my marketing plan is educational seminars. I have a passion for teaching people about personal finance, and I feel it will build my reputation over time.

However, I don't want to be lumped in with these scam artists and the brokers who give "free" seminars with a "free" dinner. How do you think I could differentiate an educational seminar (that really has no strings attached at all) from these "free", hype sales pitches? What would convince you to come listen to me?

Paul - I've been to a few seminars like you're talking about doing and you can tell the difference between those and the sales pitches described in the blog. You should be OK as long as you don't go for the "hard sell".

Good luck with the venture.

The "don't miss out!" is so stereotypical. Whenever I see that phrase, alarm bells go off. ("Don't miss the upcoming market recovery!")

That's pretty remarkable...and appalling. I always see those ads but have never thought twice about going to one because it's so clearly a scam. It's terrible that it still speaks to such a large crowd; why are we so easily decieved by get rich quick schemes?

Paul - I agree with Kevin, if what you're doing is genuine, it will most likely sound genuine and not get lumped together with scams. Speak honestly and don't push too hard. Good luck :)

My wife and i got invited to one right after we got married. It was like they looked up the marriages that month and invited all of them. They pressured us hard to buy these excellent pots and pans. We said no and took there "FREE TRIP VOUCHER". Little did i find out that you couldn't use the voucher for anything but at least i got a meal out of it.

Paul - I agree with others that it should be obvious your intent. I would also market it differently, maybe with smaller groups in a more intimate setting (obviously you won't be having thousands of people in an arena telling them to get their credit cards ready). Maybe offer a class at your home or a church and only charge a minimal fee for materials if you want.

I went to an all day motivational seminar of which one part was one of these spiels. I clearly knew to stay away but many of my coworkers flocked to the tables to sign up even when I told them (nicely) how dumb it was. Even if I am tempted, I tell myself that I can always buy it later through their website or something. It's not like they are going to refuse, so I don't give into their pressure to hurry up.

The one I went to was endorsed by Donald Trump. They had a lot of really good information in it, but I could tell right away that it was a sales pitch. I took notes and applied the information they gave me at the "seminar," and did it on my own for free.

I guess the reader only saw the lemons. I used the seminar as an opportunity for networking, got some good knowledge, got a free lunch and Trump's latest book. I also realized that there are a lot of suckers out there who buy all four of the $3,000 seminar packages.

No offense, but why would you want to "network" with people goofy and/or desperate enough to go to these seminars? Frankly they'd be stamping themselves for me as people you'd not want to waste your limited networking resources on.

My very first exposure to the concept of "financial freedom" and "financial peace" was three years ago. I'd read a book and received a free pair of tickets to one of those seminars. I went with a friend.

It was an amazing (and frightening, in hindsight) experience because I learned that I could be wealthy. Up until that point, it never occured to me that I could.

It was a frightening experience because there was a lot of pressure to buy the main speaker's products and classes. What the author said in the article is true. There were thousands of people. For three days, we sang together, held hands, listened to and repeated the speaker's words (when instructed). People dashed to the back of the convention hall and whipped out their credit cards in droves when he offered "discounted" prices. Our hopes were raised to the stars. We were told that we could do anything, and we believed.

I'd deliberately left my credit card at home (I commuted daily to and from the seminar). However, by the third day I'd remembered the number somehow and signed up for two of the courses. One was $900+ and the other was approximately $2,000.

After the seminar ended, I was on a high. But when I sat down and look at my financial situation, I realized that I couldn't pay for the classes and pay down my student loan debt. I felt like a total loser when I called to cancel the classes within the one-week grace period. We were told over and over again that only fools would not take advantage of the offers that were presented. I felt relieved afterwards. I was a happy "fool."

About two weeks later, I ran into someone from the seminar. He'd signed up for one of the $3,000+ classes because he wanted to get out of debt. He wanted my assurance that he had done the right thing. I actually don't remember what I'd told him, but I remember the fear rolling off him. He was terrified for having spent so much money when he was already in debt.

99% of us who attended the seminar were hypnotized by the speakers' talks of "financial freedom." We were never really given any concrete means of achieving that freedom. Instead, we were led to believe that we had to attend the once-in-a-lifetime, too-good-to-pass-up discounted, yet still expensive, classes to learned the secrets. Some, like myself, fell for the con and handed over our credit cards and hopes. Fortunately, some of us regained our senses and cancelled the subscriptions before the charges went through.

Sounds like a service in one of those evangelical churches

Hmmm. reminds me to Shop to Earn. I was coerced by a friend to check it out, listened in on the telecon, decided not to join after identifying red flags in the program (turned out to be an MLM) did a post about the downsides of the program, started getting "cease and desist" notices and legal threats from their head counsel. Quite an ordeal. I'll have to do an update on that one, it's been a few months. Thanks for the reminder...and thanks for highlighting to readers that nothing in this world is really free!

Thanks for the suggestions all! My initial thoughts were the same as yours. People will see that my intentions are honest and I'm actually being genuine. It'll just take me longer to really get going. However, once word starts spreading it should snowball from there.

I feel for people who fall for those scams though. Those cons work off your emotions. Most people who go to those seminars are either not emotionally prepared to make a decision or they're in a financial situation that makes any "opportunity" seem golden.

I'm hoping real financial education through free seminars will allow me to fight against these scams and help people make good decisions for their future.

I'm always suprised by the amount of people who succumb to such nonsense.

I also went to the Donald Trump one, the free one where they give you his free book. I went with a friend and we were both aware that it would be a sales pitch. I told my friend that if I actually fall for it and decide to waste my money, that he talk some sense into me. We were actually kind of interested in watching how they would pitch it. After the seminar we talked about how that was such a great sales pitch. You can learn a lot about selling and delving into people's emotions from these seminars. There was some good information given too. But you have to be aware of their intentions before walking into one of these things.
Usually, even a free seminar is a ripoff because it is not worth your time.

Do that many people really buy into these things? I always saw them as so cheesy.

Paul, I agree with the others. I think if you market in a different way, not hawking free money, but teaching a lifestyle change you'll stand out as legitimate.

I agree the notion on nothing is really free in this world.

However, when i first started out on my financial edu journey, i did not have the money to attend paid seminars. I tried attending free seminars, which are actually the prelude to a paid edu programme or product.

From the experience of attending so many free introductory seminars, i cannot help but noticed that in order to entice the participants whom were attending the free seminars to sign up or buy the "hidden" products embedded in the seminar, the speaker usually does offer at least one workable idea.

I pick up at least one free idea in each of the free seminar i'd attended previously. It works well for me.

For shairing, pls.


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