CPD seminars are an effective tool for starting a new relationship or enhancing an existing one with a practice.
Architects are required to complete 35 hours of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) each year, other professionals have to meet similar requirements. CPD seminars are a proactive way to introduce your company and demonstrate technical competence. This has the benefit of meeting many specifiers at one time and can often end with a discussion about a specific project. But to be effective the seminar should have good impartial technical content, be approved by one of the certification bodies and be well presented.
Indeed CPD seminars are an ideal way of delivering this information, even if the audience do not need CPD hours.
My 12 step process for developing CPD is as follows:
1. Think carefully about the subject matter
There are over 500 providers therefore try to avoid duplicating existing seminars. Consider what the specifier wants, perhaps consider subjects that receive frequent technical enquiries? Or focus on new issues around Building Regulations, sustainability or product development?
If your competitors offer the same subject you’ve already reduced your chances of success, just based on the law of averages. Look at the topics offered by competitors and manufacturers of complementary products and choose one not covered elsewhere.
2. Develop an attention grabbing title
Next, focus on the seminar title itself. This needs to be short and punchy and make a positive statement about how you can help your audience… but avoid making it sound like a sales pitch.
3. Develop the agenda
Consider your objectives, when developing an agenda it should be interesting and engaging for your audience but also deliver the messages about your product you want to get across. Striking the right balance is important, so the audience do not feel they are being sold to.
4. Write the broad technical message
It is important that as well as meeting your objectives the CPD presentation also delivers on technical content. Making sure your seminar contains relevant technical information will position you as a Trusted Advisor. When you do come to deliver the seminar, make sure that it lives up to your promises and is well presented by someone who understands the technical issues of the subject.
5. Edit to include your hidden messages
Now that you have written title and agenda and pulled together the technical messages it is important to revisit your objectives. Introduce the hidden messages concerning selection and use your product, but ensure that the presentation strikes the right balance between technical content and product information, without a sales pitch. This will mean your audience are happy and you will gain specification enquiries.
6. Format into an interesting and attractive style
Consider how you will deliver the information in your presentation, enhancing your presentation with video or animation, technical handouts, CAD or BIM models and case studies.
7. Get impartial feedback then submit for approval
There is a general requirement for each seminar to be ‘CPD certified’, which means that a body like the RIBA has to have vetted it to make sure that it isn’t an overt sales pitch. Specifiers prefer approved CPD seminars anyway, because the assessment and approval process is a quality kite mark and reassures them they will not be wasting their time. While certification is certainly desirable, it is not mandatory however.
Before submitting for certification deliver the seminar to some friendly specifiers to ensure it is credible. Incorporate their feedback into the design.
8. Develop promotional and support material
Think about what the specifier will gain from attending your seminar – clearer insight into a new regulation, the ability to design better solutions, greater understanding of advanced techniques or materials. It’s the old ‘features and benefits’ concept. You must present enough real benefits to make it a compelling subject, perhaps supporting this with testimonials from other practices that have recieved your seminar.
9. Rehearse the presentation
This may seem obvious but it is important to practice the seminar. CPD needs to be presented in a professional and competent manner but, done well, it will position the presenter as an expert and Trusted Advisor, starting a potentially long and rewarding relationship. Done badly and it will discredit your company and the presenter.
10. Promote the seminar to specifiers and contractors
Do not think that CPD is for architects and engineers only. Just because roles like project manager or estimator don’t necessarily have a chartered requirement to undertake CPD (and some do) they will still be interested in improving their knowledge and ability to do a good job.
11. Develop a comprehensive set of materials to leave behind
This should include a copy of the presentation and any relevant technical papers. In leaving this material you will not be forgotten the moment the delegate returns to their desk. This material acts as a reference source and also a reminder of your product and technical expertise.
12. Set objectives for the seminar
It is not sufficient to just deliver the seminar, the salesman should have a set of follow-up actions. It is important to keep the conversation going, by either offering further CPD seminars, providing further product information, or discussing specifications for example.
Follow the steps outlined above and you could see your seminar bookings increase, more doors open and product specification increase. If you would like further support and guidance on how to develop your CPD programme then please feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
Competitive Advantage can offer a range of support to help you develop an effective CPD programme.