Why seminars are dead /// by: Alec Baulding - alldaybjj

Why seminars are dead /// by: Alec Baulding

Recently there was a post on Facebook about how the seminar circuit is a dying business model.
This post got a lot of attention and a lot of comments.
It really opened up a lot of topics that I would like to cover in future posts.
I’ve been lucky enough to be on both sides. Setting up seminars as well teaching them.
There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes and each one has been a different experience.
But back on topic.
Are seminars a dying business?
Before I answer, lets first examine what currently constitutes a seminar. Specifically here in the U.S.
A seminar is often a class covering a broad range of topics or one singular topic over the course of a period of hours. Typically between 1 to 4 hours over the course of one day or over a few days.
Seminars are often taught by an outside instructor or an affiliated instructor. With prices depending on the skill and popularity of the instructor. That could range between $20-$200 per attendee.
Seminars are usually marketed in advance of no less than two weeks up to a few months. The higher the cost of the seminar. The longer an academy will market the seminar in advance.
I think I should also talk more about the difference between hosting an outside instructor versus an affiliated instructor for seminars. Because there’s a huge difference between the two that a lot of people might not know about.
Affiliated Instructor
Affiliated instructors are as you’ve guessed. Instructors associated with the academy hosting the seminar.
Often an affiliated instructor is the head of an association. Able to grade students and instructors to the next belt levels, stripes, etc.
Most academies are under an association or team.
The big ones that most people know are: Gracie Barra, Alliance, TLI, Gracie Humaita, Check Mat, Atos, Cicero Costa, Brasa, Pedro Sauer.
For instance I train at the Headquarters for the Alliance USA team.
Underneath the Headquaters are the official Alliance affiliate schools. These schools are able to use the branding of Alliance and have access to the resources that come with being a part of the team.
These resources often include access to world class instructors and world champions, business consulting, and wholesale pricing not normally available to smaller academies.
In exchange for access to the resources of the main school. Academies will often have to pay an association fee. This fee can range between a few hundred dollars per month to 5+ figures yearly.
In addition to this, academies will often have to host a yearly seminar with either the head instructor of their association or an affiliated instructor.
Sometimes the seminar is included in the fees that the hosting academy pays to the head association. But often it’s not included
This means that many academies have to pay out of pocket for these seminars. In addition to the other fees that they pay.
Unless the academy is well off financially or has the student population to back these seminars. Many academies are not in a position to host anyone not affiliated with their already established team.
This is often the case with many academy owners that I know personally.
Not to mention any other rules and guidelines that would make it hard to host up and coming talents or instructors with other affiliations.
Affiliate instructors often pay a percentage of their seminar fee to their association. This percentage can range between 10%-30%. So if the cost of the seminar is $1000. The association will take its cut of up to 30% or $300 before the instructor sees the remaining $700.
Outside Instructor
Outside instructors are instructors not affiliated with the team of the academy hosting the seminar.
Outside instructors usually belong to a team or affiliation but this does not affect their seminars outside of their team.
This means that the outside instructor will keep all of their seminar fee.
Academies will often bring in an outside instructor with a unique style not found with in their association or a popular athlete with widely recognized skill.
There’s really no difference between an outside instructor and an affiliated instructor otherwise.
Instructors will schedule seminars wherever they can.
It’s just that most academies will have a preference or obligation to first go through their association when it comes to setting up seminars.
This can often make it seem like there are not a lot of academies that would like to host seminars.
Pain Points
I’ve been working more on developing my business skills and one really important thing that I have worked on is identifying and analyzing pain points.
Pain points are anything that affects your experience as a user or customer. For example I go to Whole Foods a lot. But when I go there, their water dispenser is broken. This was okay the first two times that this occurred. But they still haven’t fixed it. This makes me not want to go to that particular Wholefoods any more. Which means they lose out on a loyal customer that could potentially spend $$$$$ there over the course of a lifetime.
That’s my example of a pain point so now let’s look at some common pain points that goes on during seminars. Both for the people setting them up as well as the students that attend them.
In no particular order here are some common pain points.
Seminars are too expensive
My academy is too small to host a seminar
I don’t know how to set up a seminar
Seminars are too long
No one attends seminars
The instructor’s style doesn’t fit what our academy focuses on
We already have a black belt instructor
We can just use youtube, an online site or a DvD to learn new techniques
Seminars are too expensive
Yes. Some seminars can be expensive.
When I was younger I remember sneaking into a famous world champions seminar once. While I don’t recommend doing this it just goes to show how badly that I wanted to attend.
In my defense the seminar was being hosted at the academy where I taught and I just happened to stay after teaching my class.
Regardless, if you see the value in learning an instructor’s technique and you know that their style has something to offer your Jiu Jitsu game. Then you will find a way to get in.
One little detail or a different approach to a specific position is all it takes to boost your game.
If you’ve invested so much time in learning Jiu Jitsu then it makes sense to also invest in seminars as well. Especially when the instructor is great in an area of Jiu Jitsu that you might not be strong in.
You can attend the vast majority of seminars for under $60. For a few dollars you have access to what might have taken years of training and competing to achieve. Sounds like a steal to me.
Any seminars over this pricing will generally be marketed for a few weeks or months in advance to allow for people to get their finances in order.
If all else fails you can try to sneak in haha.
My academy is too small to host a seminar
The size of an academy doesn’t really factor in too much when it comes to setting up seminars.
Of course, larger academies can leverage their student population to help cover the cost of a seminar more easily.
But with proper time and good marketing. A smaller school can host most of the top guys in our sport.
If this still doesn’t feel doable. Remember that there are a lot of less well known black belt instructors and lower belt world champions that are available for seminars. Often for a fraction of what the top guys charge.
I don’t know how to set up a seminar
Most academies don’t know how to properly set up and market a seminar.
Communication is key.
For the top guys you will need to contact them directly or through their staff.
While many of the guys starting out will contact you directly.
After contact has been made you will need to coordinate with their schedule and of course deal with their pricing.
Both parties will agree on a set price. Usually to be paid after the seminar but some instructors will ask to be paid upfront including other perks such as housing and transportation.
Everything is negotiable.
The more well known the instructor and the more titles that they have. The more resources you will have to invest in order to bring them to your academy. This could run anywhere between a few hundred dollars to upwards of five figures depending on the instructor.
Once you have an instructor and a date then you’re in business.
I see a lot of academies will mention their upcoming seminars maybe once or twice and then leave it at that.
To effectively market a seminar you will need to tell everyone about it constantly.
Tell your students.
Tell your staff.
Tell your followers on social media.
And keep telling them!
People have so much going on in their lives that it will often take hearing your message multiple times before it really sets in.
You should also invest in flyers that you can use in your digital marketing as well as physically in your academy.
I’m a big fan of also involving the instructor in your marketing efforts. Have them write a post about the upcoming seminar or maybe film a teaser video to help boost interest.
Setting up a seminar involves a lot of communication and planning. But if done correctly can be a great way to promote your academy to new students while also adding value to your existing students.
Seminars are too long
There is nothing worst than a 3+ hour seminar.
Let’s face it. There is a limit to how long the average student can focus on doing techniques.
Even as a black belt, I find it hard to work more than two or three techniques before burning out.
It might be best if you settle on a time less than two hours to allow your students enough time to practice and enjoy the techniques that they are being taught.
Or if you you must go longer. Think about adding a short break in between to keep your students energized.
No one attends seminars
Again, this is more an issue of marketing. Most students are excited to learn techniques and interact with a new instructor.
Let your students and everyone know that you are hosting a seminar.
Make it affordable.
Give them enough time to budget and fit it into their schedule.
Keep marketing up until the day of the seminar.
It’s not rocket science!
This is one thing that I really appreciated training at a large academy. We would get a lot of visiting instructors showing us the latest techniques. It was super exciting. We learned a lot and it opened our minds to different styles of Jiu Jitsu.
The instructor’s style doesn’t fit what our academy focuses on
This is even more reason to host a seminar with that instructor.
It doesn’t matter how advance your technique is unless you constantly update yourself on the new techniques being developed or you will find your game is not as effective as time passes.
Recently there was a well known black belt that publicly demoted himself to purple belt. In the past he was a legit black belt and still is but when you take a long break from Jiu Jitsu you will find that it will quickly pass you by.
As a student of Jiu Jitsu you should have an open mind and seek to develop yourself outside of what you know and what your strengths are.
We already have a black belt instructor
Learning at black belt doesn’t stop. In fact I think black belts are some of the best students. The humble ones know that while they do know a lot there is so much in Jiu Jitsu that they do not know.
The best black belts in the world continue learning new techniques. Adding to their games. That’s how they stay on top.
We can just use youtube, an online site or a DvD to learn new techniques
While these are great resources and have helped spread Jiu Jitsu to an ever growing audience.
There are a lot more gimmicky techniques being pedaling for likes and views than actual useful techniques.
I bet if I posted two techniques online right now. One a technique I use everyday in training and in competition. The other a super flashy move ending in a berimbolo.
The latter technique would get more views and shares than the one that would be more beneficial.
There is so much content out there that it’s getting harder and harder to filter the good from the bad. Especially with more impressionable lower belts.
Plus there is no comparison between watching a technique on a screen versus experiencing that technique live in person being done on you.
You can watch Lucas Lepri pass all day on flow grappling. But actually rolling with him and experiencing his passing is mind blowing.
So are seminars dead?
I say no. But they are not getting any easier to set up.
The top competitiers and instructors will always be in demand for seminars.
And associations will continue to serve as a fast track for their affiliated instructors to do seminars while also testing and grading students.
I believe that there will be more competition with in the seminar circuit especially in the U.S.
This is the current state of California thanks to the number of high level instructors as well as the sheer number of schools.
This means that academies hosting seminars and the athletes not as well known will have to work on differentiating themselves and of course market themselves better. Maybe even venturing into newer, developing markets.
The new crop of instructors are constantly on social media promoting themselves and looking for opportunities to teach their craft. Making a name for themselves and establishing themselves within the seminar circuit.
While more established instructors are differentiating themselves through creating their own associations outside of their team affiliation. I think we will see this more and more as the current world champions and top athletes will seek more security outside of their competition careers.
So while seminars are by no means dead, they will become more competitive and hopefully better as instructors will try to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Lea Young
 

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