Be Wary of “Open Forums”

Sometimes when you look at all of the messages which bombard us on a daily basis, it is hard to separate the “gems” from the clutter.  The messages all begin to blend together like a higher form of white noise and nothing is distinguishable. Every now and then a “gem” of an item makes it through the filter of your firewall, spam blockers, and the mental screening mechanisms of your own interests and you say “Hey, what’s this?.  Sometimes that “hey what’s this” isn’t about a diamond in the rough, it is an “I know what they are up to.” or “I figured out what they’re selling.”

Pitch or Pretence?

Making a pitch for your product, service, or technology is what you are in business to do, and that is expected.  Presenting what you can do in the best light possible is also expected.  Disguising or misrepresenting that pitch as “unbiased” advice however, is unethical.

The stories are in the news.  You can read about them in books, magazines, and articles.  Some become best selling horror stories of what goes wrong with businesses.  Others are stories that are small, personal, and costly.  No one writes about them.  No one rushes to get the people back on their feet financially or emotionally.  The victims recover according to their own efforts and abilities.  Some never truly recover.

Credible or Incredulous?

The advisors can pose as investment counselors or business consultants.  They may call themselves brokers, dealers, finders, or many other names.  They may provide you with free services to help you decide what type of business you should buy.  They may provide assurance that this business is solid, has $X value, and so on.  Then they ask you for a deposit on the purchase, earnest money, a set fee for representing you in the deal, a percentage of the funds you are raising, and so on.

They invite you into a hotel meeting room, a pay-by-the-day office, or some conference room.  They surround you with the urgency to act now or lose the opportunity.  This business is for you.  This is the route for you to get FREE Money!

I agree:  ACT NOW…RUN! RUN! RUN! And keep your hand on your wallet!

Information and Education Opportunity

When you go to a legitimate free event, the purpose of the event is to

□        Educate you about the topic

□        Introduce you to the sponsoring and presenting companies

□        Provide a forum for you to meet the experts

□        Provide an opportunity for you to decide if you want something from the companies or people involved

□        Make a connection without pressure to act immediately – unless that is what you need to do

Free events are about marketing and business development.  They are about opportunities to be educated on topics of interest, opportunities, options, and about potential products, services, and technologies that the host, presenting, or sponsor companies want to get in front of prospective clients.

Limited Time Offer, Today Only…

Free events should NOT be the following:

□        Dishonest

□        High pressure sales pitches

□        Twist your-arm-and-empty-your-wallet gimmicks

□        Taken as the whole truth and nothing but the truth

Legitimate Marketing Practice

As a business owner and a consultant, experience tells me that free events for prospects are valuable marketing events for my business.  What these events provide is an opportunity to showcase expertise, make a personal connection, and provide meaningful information to the attendees.  No sales pitches.  Instead a presentation of information that attendees can use – no strings attached.

Inevitably everything we do has some element of self interest in it, whether we are doing it because we believe in the cause or because it makes us feel good  Where we must draw the line is when what we do becomes all about “us” and nothing about the “attendee.”  It must be about providing unbiased and accurate information which allows someone to make an informed decision, not providing information in a manner that slants advice toward “us,” not what’s best for the attendee.

Screening the “Free” Events

If you are going to attend a free event, look for events that meet these standards:

□        Are provided by reputable experts (credentials, experience, etc. – not just an ad in the paper)

□        State sponsorship clearly:

  • Presenters and presenting companies
  • Host companies
  • Sponsoring companies

□        Provide additional information about the people and businesses involved

  • through websites
  • in the flyer or marketing materials
  • through other mechanisms

□        Provide you a forum for getting information without disclosing confidential information about what you are doing

A few more things to be cautious about:

□        Any forum about investments, money, loans, and financing which ask for information your current assets

□        Disclosing or discussing in open forums information that is confidential or critical to your business operations and competitiveness.

□        Taking advice on the best way to go into business – when the “answer” is the same for everyone – buy a franchise, become a licensee, buy this existing business.

□        Talking about intellectual property (technology, inventions, written materials, artwork, etc.) when you don’t have an agreement with the other party to keep the information confidential and to not use it in anyway

□        Talking in an open forum with a “mutual” agreement of everyone present that everyone will keep everything heard confidential and not use any information to their advantage, etc.

Copyright ©2006 FOCUS Resource, Inc.

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