Private client events can have a sizable impact on the success of your practice-helping you build credibility with existing clients and attract new business. Yet many advisors overlook these events or conduct them poorly.

These advisors don't understand that private client events are different from the more typical seminars or presentations that they are used to. Private client events are designed to speak to a small group of select invitees with whom you truly want to work. Presentations, which tend to be aimed at the general public or large groups, are not particularly effective at attracting highly desirable affluent clients and converting them into interested prospects.

"Affluent people won't come to big, public seminars," says advisor Taylor Ranker of the Ranker-Hanshaw Financial Group in Harrisburg, Pa. "Events that are intimate and feel exclusive are much more appealing to the affluent."

An advisor like Ranker should know. He's been doing private client events for a decade, and says they have become an important part of landing clients with millions of dollars in investable assets. "From a marketing perspective, client events lower the barrier, which makes it more comfortable and easy for both prospects and us to make connections." With that in mind, here are some successful techniques top wealth managers use to design and conduct high-quality private events.



The first step: Think about your endgame. That way, you'll never lose sight of the purpose of your events-generating a stream of prequalified, pre-endorsed prospects. "You have to think tactically. Everything you do with and at an event needs to have a purpose," Ranker says.

We have seen some financial advisors spend a great deal of time creating terrific content and lining up amazing speakers for their presentations, while completely overlooking the follow-up-that is, the desired outcome they want to achieve by holding the event in the first place. If you've ever conducted a presentation and felt post-seminar letdown, you know what I'm talking about.

You've just conducted what you consider a successful seminar, but after the warm glow of the backslapping and congratulations fades, you realize you didn't really do any significant business. Why? Because most advisors have only a vague idea that they want more clients, and they get so caught up in the event that they forget why they're there.

To avoid this classic mistake, plan out your event marketing series for the next 12 months, starting with the results you want to achieve and moving backward from there to the actual presentation. For wealth managers, the focus should be on one action-getting qualified prospects to attend introductory meetings where you can evaluate their financial situations.

"Anyone who attends one of our events is given the upcoming schedule for the year. They'll see future presentations and might think, 'Hey, that's a topic that I want to bring a friend to,' " Ranker says. "The odds of someone hiring you on the strength of a single event are slim. But if you give people a year's worth of events, it gives them multiple opportunities to get to know you and feel comfortable. This isn't one and done. You have to make these an ongoing strategy."



As you turn to the task of designing the event, you will have three types of attendees for whom you should have specific goals:

*Clients. Your goals with existing clients are to solidify those relationships and to continue to reinforce that you are the go-to expert for meeting their needs. As I've noted in past columns, 81% of affluent investors have considered switching advisors in recent years. Private events can be a great retention tool.

* Prospective clients. Your goal with this group, obviously, is to allow them to test-drive your ideas in a comfortable environment where they do not have to make a commitment to working with you.

* Other professionals. With strategic partners or members of your expert team, you have two goals. The first is to develop joint business development opportunities. The second is to have the other professionals see you through the eyes of clients and prospective clients. You want them to see the impact that your insights and communication skills have on attendees.



Send invitations to your events only to existing clients or to individuals who are qualified for your service. You have three fertile sources for these individuals:

* Your existing clients. When you invite your ideal clients to your events, ask them to bring along affluent friends or other associates who they think might benefit from working with you. "When we hold a client advocate event, our clients all know that their cost of attendance is a qualified guest," Ranker notes.

* Your strategic alliance partners and your expert team members. You should invite clients of your strategic partners and expert team members. Depending on your arrangement, invitations should be sent directly from your partner or team members, or jointly. These clients should also be welcome to invite friends and associates.

"We had a holiday open house at a four-star hotel and invited every A client and our professional alliances members," Ranker recalls. "Two estate planning attorneys new to our team were there, and both mentioned how much our clients love us. So here's a firm that just partnered with us as an expert team, and they're coming to our events and going 'Wow.' It's a way to provide warmth and strengthens any relationship."

* Affinity groups in your niche. Affinity groups are any associations, clubs or other organizations of people who share a common interest or goal. The leaders of many of these groups are always looking for ways to add value to their members-something you can do through your events-and will be willing to allow you to invite their members.

As you create your invitation list for each event, remember that smaller is better. You do not have to do large events to grow, and smaller groups feel more exclusive to the attendees. Therefore, it's best to limit your audiences to no more than 30 people to create an intimate, comfortable atmosphere. A smaller group will also give you more opportunities to address individual questions from the audience and make personal contact after the presentation.



Weave the concerns and issues of your niche into your presentation content in ways that capture the attention of the audience and show them that you are the wealth management expert for that topic. In today's environment, that may mean a presentation on the major areas that affluent investors are concerned about-such as protecting wealth, enhancing wealth, estate planning and charitable giving.

Don't use prepackaged seminars, even ones designed to appeal to affluent investors. They often appear obviously off the shelf, and they do not properly position you as an expert in your specific market. If you have written any research reports, create presentations from this content and distribute them. This can further enhance your credibility among attendees.

Another way to ensure a great presentation is to make it feel action oriented. Hand out blank personal action summaries to all attendees. As you present your content, encourage them to write down the actions they feel they should be taking to address their financial issues. This will make them more inclined to follow through on your invitation to meet with you. It also will remind them about how much they have to do to manage their financial lives and will position you as the right financial advisor to help them with those tasks.

Private client events aren't the key to success for every advisor. But if you enjoy public speaking and work with a target market that will attend these types of get-togethers, you'll find that private client events help you stand out from the crowd and position you as a go-to advisor among the people you most want to serve.

John J. Bowen Jr. is founder and CEO of CEG Worldwide, a global training, research and consulting firm dedicated to helping advisors become more successful.