View Full Version : Hosting a seminar

30th April 2003, 17:48
I am hoping to receive tips on hosting seminars, hopefully hearing from Mr. Wolfe as i have heard many great things about his events. I am interested in hosting a teacher of koryu jujutsu. Things like structure and promotion would be helpful.

Robert Wolfe
30th April 2003, 19:11
Erin --

As it happens, I've been planning to write an article on just this topic, but that particular item is far enough down the "to-do" list that I'm not even close to getting it accomplished any time soon.

What I will try to do sometime this week is jot down a few general thoughts, and maybe with the help of others we can bat things around enough to build a fairly comprehensive thread.

-- Bob

Joseph Svinth
1st May 2003, 03:01
Rule 1: Expect to owe money when you get done. Thus, Rule 2: It's usually cheaper to travel to somebody else's seminar than to host your own. Once you accept these rules, then all you have to do is backwards plan, same as you'd do for a business function.

Something to consider, though, is that the longer the Kahuna is in town, the more tiring all this gets for you, the host. No problem if Kahuna comes in Friday and leaves Sunday, but if he's there all week and you're playing tourist guide during the day, hosting Party Central every night, and training in between, you'll be dead by Monday.

A good way around this is to farm Kahuna out to different folks on different days. That way, everybody gets all the face time they could want, and you get to do things like sleep or do necessary work/family activities.

Even for shorter trips, if possible, have Kahuna fly in on Thursday, with Friday as a tourist day. That gives him some break time, and you get your face time. Then, Friday night, you have a social get-together. I'd suggest a no-host bar, otherwise you will definitely go broke. Alternatively, it's BYOB, with you providing the munchies and the cleanup crew. (The Missus is not part of the cleanup crew. Trust me on this.)

The real reason for the get-together before training is that it breaks the ice, and Saturday's session is a lot more fun.

Saturday night is then a dinner. Coordination with the restaurant is required. Flat rate the tips, and try to keep the numbers round -- $15 is a good price for a major feed. Much more than that, and the folks will plead poverty.

Sunday, try to wrap up fairly early, so that folks who have to drive a couple hundred miles can get home safely.

For housing, unless you have a really big house with no kids in it, consider renting rooms at the local inn. I know, the standard is to kick the kid out of his bed, but this doesn't make anybody happy. Also, if Kahuna is there for a week, this can be pretty cheap, especially if you're not right downtown. A week in North Seattle, for instance, costs about the same as 2 nights downtown, and the facilities really aren't that much different.

A possibility here is to arrange housing at a local place, and then suggest that folks bring their spouses with them for a family vacation. Obviously, this works better if you're hosting a seminar in Seattle than in Moses Lake, but you get the idea.

One other thing -- whatever you promise to pay the instructor, shut up and pay it. Doesn't matter if only 3 people show up, you still hand over the check. Lots of cheapskates out there, and while that may be good business, it's not good budo.

1st May 2003, 05:51
Mr. Svinth is 100% on the mark. I have hosted two seminars and would gladly do more except for rule #1. Because of rule #2 I have enjoyed two seminars in Texas. Not only is it cheeper but more importantly I am able to get to know more of my Roppokai family members.

I would add rule #3. Dont expect outside interest to equal the actual attendance. Things always come up in peoples busy lives and not everyone lives to be thrown down onto a mat by a master.

I guess you have to decide if you are doing the seminar for profit or fun and training. If its the second the just make sure your guest is warm and comfortable with his fav food and drink and then relax and learn what he or she has to offer.


1st May 2003, 18:53
I would host the event for fun and good training. Thoese were some great ideas!

Neil Yamamoto
2nd May 2003, 19:26
To add to Joe’s post:

Assign duties
The devil is in the details. Give tasks for set up, spreading the word, etc… to stupid people, er, students willing to help. Make sure those you assign duties to can be trusted to do as they say and are asked to do. Give them a discount on the seminar cost too if needed for helping. If you ain’t sure of someone’s reliability, make them someone else’s assistant on a task.

Make any announcements repeatedly no matter how simple it seems.
BAA RAM EWE! Hosting these things is like being a sheepherder. Bunch of small brained animals wandering in the field aimlessly until the wolf and the two legger with a stick comes to direct them. Smart people become amazingly clueless at these things for some reason. Be very clear and concise.

In your event announcements, make sure you have:
Dates and Time
Clear directions to dojo/venue from major freeways
Cost and where to send payment
Contact names, phone #’s, email addresses

Little things count
If putting Kahuna in a hotel, check to see if you can get a place with a fridge, microwave, and a coffeepot in the room. Stock it with some beer and soda, coffee and tea, some snack foods and fruit, that sort of thing. If Kahuna likes a certain type of food or booze, make sure it’s in the room. Same applies if he’s staying at someone’s home, stock up on some things he likes. If the hotel or your home is in a noisy area, put a pair of earplugs on the night stand.

For attendees, Offer a shuttle service from Kahuna’s hotel with some students helping out. It encourages people to stay at the same place that way. Set 2 pick up times and stick to it. Takes maybe $5-$10 in gas per car and earns a lot of gratitude from those attending.

List some restaurants of varying types close to the hotels, within walking distance if possible.

Vitally important!
Make sure there is toilet paper in the bathroom. Clean the bathroom too. Make sure you have a working water supply with cups or bottles of water available. A seminar is no time for macho. Make sure there is someone with first aid supplies around. Give frequent breaks to take notes and get water. You and your dojo mates may be tough, most of the people attending to see kahuna won’t be and will break easily.

Smile! And ask “Ya need anything?”
I tend to end up social director for stuff, and these things are important to make sure the seminar is a success. People remember how they were treated, even if they forget what was taught at the seminar.

Along the lines of Joe’s suggestion of socializing and doling Kahuna out to others, You are the host, even though you are tired, it’s your job to make sure Kahuna and any attendees have basic needs + addressed. Try, try, try, to be pleasant and helpful to anyone there and make sure you have enough other people doing the same no matter how tired you are. Sometimes seems impossible, but ya gotta make the effort.

The Friday night social time is an idea Joe and I came up with and I believe this works better than anything else for making mat time go well with no social awkwardness. Well worth doing. It takes any big egos down to size, makes everyone warm and fuzzy since they have had a chance to talk and share a wee dram or pint prior to the seminar.

The Saturday night preset dinner is the easiest way to entertain your guests. Negotiate with the restaurant a preset amount, including the tip in the amount. Collect money in advance of the dinner from those attending. It solves the “Who didn’t pay” problem after dinner and makes it easier on your pocket book. I can guarantee you will end up short on cash if you don’t since some people always pay short, or leave out any tip, and then sit there looking innocent.

Starting time for a seminar is just as important as ending time. Why start at 8AM? No one’s really awake then anyway if they have been out late like most martial artists tend to do at workshops. Start at 10 or even 11. We tend to start at 11 or 12 and go until 5 on Saturday. Sunday, go 11 to 4. This still gives about 10+ hours with Kahuna.

Whew, long winded ain’t I?

Joseph Svinth
2nd May 2003, 19:53
Some additional random thoughts.

The training schedule within the class is Kahuna's. Your mission is to provide the venue; what he does with it is his business.

Don't plan on doing a lot of training during the seminar yourself. Your job isn't to train, but to make sure everyone else is.

Toward this end, try hard to match up seniors with juniors, and to break up buddies.

Keep the sheep moving, in other words.

That said, outside the class, you're responsible for everything. So, make up a written training schedule, and give it to everyone involved. On this schedule, state to within a general time frame (Friday AM; Friday Afternoon; Friday Evening) roughly where Kahuna is going to be at all times, and who, by name, is assigned as his dogrobber.

I emphasize -- Have this assigned, in writing, well in advance, and have back-up plans in case somebody can't make it.

This is done partly to delegate authority. As Neil says, do not assume that people will figure out what to do on their own. Instead, state, "You do this. You 2 do that." Otherwise, nobody will do it and everybody will be unhappy.

Now, once you've delegated the authority, don't micromanage. If somebody doesn't work out, fire them later. For now, smile and fix the problem. Toward facilitating fixing problems, be sure to pass out lists showing home phone, cell phone, and e-mail for everyone involved in ferrying, meeting, greeting, and housing, and make sure you carry multiple copies of this because somebody's going to forget it in their other hakama.

Your assignments need to indicate, by name, which of your local guys are going to run the shuttles from the hotels to the dojo and or restaurants. That way, you have designated drivers who know where they are going. Please make sure that they really do know where they're going. The scenic route is fun if it's intended, but not fun if you're truly lost.

BTW, junior students are often thrilled to be assigned the task of ferrying Kahuna and his uke. It's fair to them, too, as they're the ones who need to hear the story. (After a couple days, you will have heard the stories so many times you're bored, but Kahuna on the other hand appreciates having new audiences.) You, on the other hand, should volunteer for ferrying the Big Ego Tightwads from out-of-town, as there's no point in ruining good kids by exposing them to the Super Sokes too early in their careers.