Lessons Learned From My First SEO Workshop

Last month I had my very first search engine optimization (SEO) workshop in our nation’s capital, Ottawa. Excited as I was, the first couple of weeks of promotion almost had worried about cancelling the event. For this workshop, I was only going to have a small group of 6 people. Why 6? I feel you can get a lot more questions and answers in, and with a smaller crowd most people are more comfortable raising their hands.

In the end, I felt like the workshop was a success. I received positive feedback from all of my attendees. A couple even asked if I was going to hold a more advanced course – heck ya! I will likely building that deck out in the new year, so stayed tuned!

While it all sounds goods and dandy, I had a few challenging moments while trying to my costs down. One of my learning lessons is definitely doing all my research ahead of time! Here is the breakdown of my sales and expenses for everything related to the first training:


In the end, my expenses amounted to more than half of what I made. For most people, they’d be pulling out their hair.

Whether you’re planning a training event, seminar or conference, I hope that these takeaways will help you in one way or another:

Staying organized and planning

A lot of my friends and family say that I’m too meticulous, clean and organized to a point that they are annoyed with the things I make a fuss about. One of the thing that I knew I could have done a better job at here is planning this workshop better. But like any new event or product, one must put it out into the market to see how people react to it before you invest more resources to better, or even yet, try to perfect the product. Let this be one of those times. I’ve concluded that there are a good number of people (small businesses and even students) who want to learn search engine optimization. M y plans are to improve the curriculum and offer training on more specific topics like Local, Multilingual and E-commerce SEO.

Cost of printing slides

You’re probably laughing at me right now. In this day in age, we’re still printing slides? Yes. It is still one of the best ways that people learn in the classroom. I offer handouts because I want my students to take notes, LOTS OF NOTES!

Learning lesson – don’t leave printing to the day before your training. I’m the type of person that will spend hours revising my old work. I’ve learned that there’s a fine line when it comes to making all those small changes and simply making sure I covered all the important components. Edit and polish up your slides early enough so you have ample time to print them without a bit of worry.

If you’re looking for quality colour printing in Ottawa, I recommend uOttawa’s docU centre. They are opened late, their paper quality is above average, colours all come out nicely, they will bind them and even give you a nice clear cover. Here is how mine turned out:

SEO Workshop Ottawa Handouts

Promote your event on as many *free* channels possible (more so the places that you engage on)

Everyone’s schedule is busy. If their Twitter feed is cluttered with news in the middle of the day and that is when you’re sharing information about your event, good luck. The key is to not put all your eggs into one basket. Spread your word through a variety of channels, to your networks (friends, colleagues, etc). Here are just a few suggestions for promotion your event:

  • Local meetup groups that are relevant to your event – outreach to organizers and see if he/she will promote your event. You may need to build some rapport first, so start making friends and contacts before doing it on a whim.
  • Local directories – some directories like Kijiji can be a great way for people to discover your event.
  • Use a service like Eventbrite – Eventbrite has a directory of its own. If your event is free, it cost you nothing and it goes right into the Eventbrite database.
  • Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn – these are the four major social networks that I target. You might have a different set. The important is to get the word out to the people that matter.
  • Venue website – if your venue has a website or event list, check to make sure all the information is correct. If there is a missed link opportunity, ask for it! It will be good for your organic visibility in the long run.

Of course, that’s not a complete list but a decent one to go off of to get things rolling. And look at what it can do for you…

Meetup group promotion (organizer outreach)

I’ve found local meetups to be one of the most effective outreach tools – yet it is one that most people probably don’t think of or think of it too late. Getting your event endorsed by the organizer is no easy task. It requires you to get to know the organizer, at least meet him/her once and attend a couple of events at the very least. An endorsement by a meetup organize to a group of 500+ means a free eyeball on your event page if he/she shares it with the group!

Let Eventbrite handle everything, but account for all fees

This is the first time I’ve ever used Eventbrite for a paid event. It was seamless. What I thought was going to be a lot of time spent dealing with logistical work, Eventbrite handles nearly all of it for me. As I stated earlier, my fees through Eventbrite was ~$20 + ~20 for processing fees (PayPal). The more you charges, the more you get dinged. Just keep that in mind.

One of the biggest advantages for you, if you use Eventbrite, is your event gets added to the Eventbrite directory. That means, any user that searches or browses the site might find your event. Free marketing!

Research early on your venue

My first workshop was at TheCodeFactory. Ian’s great – he even helped me promote my event! (thx Ian!). I chose this venue for a number of reasons:

  • Central – this venue is located downtown so it’s not far east nor far west of the city
  • Projector – the room included a quality projector so I didn’t have to lug one in myself
  • Powerbar and WIFI – all were provided with the room
  • Space – overall, the room was big enough for a 6-8 person workshop, no bigger (the sides were a bit narrow)
  • Privacy – we were in there on a Saturday so it was quiet and noise as not an issue
  • Cost – the cost to rent this room for a half day workshop was $130 + taxes (it was a bit expensive for me, but not over the top like some other places that I called)

Here is what the setup looked like:

SEO Training Ottawa Classroom

I can’t express how much joy I have when I get up to the front to share my knowledge and experience working in this space. Little did I know when I first stepped into studying search marketing that I would be teaching everything I’ve learned (and learning).

I hope for some of you who have not been exposed to SEO or want to learn to do better SEO come out to my next course on December 7. Hope to see you all there.

If you have any wisdom of your own, I’d like to hear it.

It’s currently… 1:27AM. Lights out.

Jackson Lo

Jackson is the Analytics / SEO Manger at adjump media and MENU.CA. His expertise spans from digital marketing (search engine optimization, local search marketing) to digital intelligence (digital analytics, data analysis). Very passionate about what he does, he also has big interests in photography and travelling.

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  • http://benjaminbeck.com/ Benjamin Beck

    Hey Jackson, Thanks for walking us through this!

    It sounds like it was a success and I think I might have to start doing these.

    Did you have to turn people away once you hit 6? Are you going to start growing this into bigger groups?

  • http://jacksonlo.com Jackson Lo

    Thanks for dropping by Ben.

    My registration capped at 6 people, so anyone attempting to register after the class was full could not do so. I had ~3 inquiries about the next event because they missed out on registering the first time around.

    I like working with smaller groups, because I feel everyone gets more out of the Q&A than listen to me go on and on with my material. So I’d say maybe 15-20 would be may max. I haven’t reached that point yet. My next one will be for 10. We’ll see how it goes :)