{Attorney Interview} Starting Back Your Workshops: Real Feedback

We recently interviewed Blake West, founder of Alabama Estate Planning Attorneys.

In this video, he shares his success in hosting live workshops after easing COVID-19 restrictions. 

How successful is Blake? Nearly all of his attendees are signing up for consultations!

Click the video below to watch or keep scrolling to read the transcript below:

Transcript as follows:

Andrea: Today I’m chatting with Blake West, he is the founder of Alabama Estate Planning Attorneys. They have offices in Huntsville and Coleman, Alabama. Your focus, of course, is on elder law and estate planning. And Blake has restarted his live workshops since this whole pandemic situation and just wanted to get a little bit of information about how your workshops are looking now if people are actually showing up if they’re interested and any insight you can share with us on how those are going.

Blake West: Sure. We had our first workshop after the closings last week and maybe 10 days ago. And we had three sessions over two days scheduled, and we had to stop registration on all of them before the time came. Of course, the venues had reduced the size tremendously because I think it had been about 50, but then we were cut down to 20 to make sure that we were six feet apart and spaced on the tables and that sort of thing. And we had-

Venue Options

Andrea: What venue did you use? What type of place was it?

Blake West: Here in Coleman we used a venue at the Chamber of Commerce.

Andrea: Okay.

Blake West: And it set up for meetings and it’s a pretty good venue. It’s easy for people in this area to find. If you utilize the parking deck, in a small town of Coleman, there are only two parking decks in the whole city so it’s easy to find this one. And if you park on the lower level, you can get into the building without being in the rain, which was important because one day it poured rain all day. And we still had probably two-thirds of the people who had registered attend in the rain.

Andrea: Good. And how was the venue as far as working with the social distancing, as you mentioned, things like that. Were they pretty aware of how to conduct this event?

Blake West: They had our chairs and tables set up and it’s pretty easy. Most of the tables at those talk things are either four feet or six feet and the ones in this venue are six feet long. Now they had all of them… I rearranged them a little bit. They had them all with one chair in the middle of a six foot table, but we had many couples coming.

Andrea: Right.

Blake West: So I moved all of the chairs, the first chair at the end of one six-foot table. Then if we needed a couple, then they would be at the end of the next six-foot table. Then there were four… The room is big enough for four across, and so then just spaced it out based on how far you were up on the next table.

Andrea: Are these rectangular kind of tables or…

Blake West: Yes.

Andrea: Okay.

Blake West: Yes, a two-foot by six-foot table. Well, maybe a 30 inch by six-foot table. We didn’t initially start out with two chairs at any position, but if a couple came in, there were extra chairs available, so then we would just get a chair for them so that they could sit together.

Andrea: Perfect. And did you provide any sort of food and beverage or anything to attendees?

Food and Beverage

Blake West: Yes, not merely the quality that I normally do. Now, we don’t provide a meal, but we normally have some good snacks from a local bakery or things like that. But the things we provided this time are all pre-packaged that we purchased at Sam’s, the local wholesale club and they were all pre-packaged and we normally would have coffee. Often we would have tea that you pour yourself and have ice, but we had water that was pre-chilled and it was still reasonably cold in all individual containers, little bottles of water and everything was pre-packaged and just spread out on the table for them.

Andrea: Okay. So just more grab and go.

Blake West: Right.

Andrea: Single-serve. Gotcha. Okay.

Blake West: And we tried to have a variety, we have some sweet stuff and we had some. One of my favorites for a snack too, is the little trail mix and nut mixed bags. Those were popular also.

Andrea: Okay. Good. And how many people did you say you were aiming for now that the capacities are reduced a bit?

Blake West: Well, the one that you’ve helped us with right when it was scheduled for. Everything in Alabama started closing on the 13th. I was in that same venue leading a CLE on the 13th and everybody kept getting these orders from all the different courts. Courts closed, we’re not doing this. The Alabama Supreme Court did a bunch of those. And we were all more concerned with what probate courts were doing. And we got several orders come in that day while we were at our CLE and it was scheduled for about 10 days after that. So that was canceled. And for those two days, we would have had a total of about 60 registrations so that was going to be great and far better than any advertising I had ever done on my own. Far, far better. Thank you.
But for this one, we were limited to… Their statement was 20 people. We could have had a few more people because sitting two people at some tables that live together, but we wanted to honor what they had said because we didn’t want to get anybody feeling too cramped or anything anyway so we had set it for 20. Now, I think we had maybe 24 people register for one of the three, but we knew that there were several couples, so we weren’t too worried. We had 20 to 24 for each of the three things and we probably had 15… 14 to 15, 16 people at each one of them on average.

Andrea: Okay. For all the workshops you’ve had since reopening essentially, it sounds like… Or you tell me I guess, about what percentage of people are actually showing up versus those that are signing up online?

How Many Registrants Are Showing Up?

Blake West: I would say we had about 60%, but one of those days we had a terrible rainstorm and people still now… I gave them instructions of how to get in without getting really in the rain. But we had… I would say 60 to two-thirds of the people who had registered show up. Maybe it was 50% on the rain day, but I mean, it was a lot of rain. It rained hard while we were there, so that keeps people away all the time.

Andrea: Definitely. And how do you feel that the attitude of the people attending? How was that?

Blake West: We had a few people in masks. We had some masks available if someone had asked, we had extra hand sanitizer available and at this venue, the restrooms are very convenient for handwashing if anyone wanted that. No one mentioned it specifically, one person was going to sit… The tables were perpendicular to me or what I would call perpendicular to my facing so we had one person who was going to sit real close to the podium and where I had my computer and we had a big screen projector. I did say, “Listen, why don’t you slide down one so that I wouldn’t be so close?” And it was a fairly elderly gentleman and he was fine with it. Now, we didn’t do any handshaking and no one offered, no one seemed bothered by not handshaking, certainly.
And typically I’m there as people are coming in. And I like to meet people, “Hey Andrea, how are you? I’m Blake,” and just greet you. We did that a little differently and people were in conversation, people didn’t get as close as you typically would. I think people had it in mind, but not to the point that it was keeping them away.

Andrea: Okay. So I mean, if they showed up, that means they in some sense are wanting to get back out there and get this information that you’re sharing. So that’s good stuff.

Blake West: Everyone seemed very interested. And the thing that was really good is I believe that for all three events, we had a 100% sign up for an appointment.

Andrea: Wow. 100% sign up for an appointment of the people that came to the event. Wow.

Blake West: If it was not 100%, we were only missing one.

Andrea: Wow.

Blake West: But those are still coming in, we haven’t seen all of them yet, but yeah, everyone wanted an appointment.

Andrea: Great. I mean, what is an appointment like that worth to you? Some people obviously are going to buy your service, some people may have an appointment and then end up not so kind of on average I mean, what do you feel like each appointment’s worth?

What’s An Appointment Worth?

Blake West: If we get one trust, then the ETA pays for the place, the food, the advertising. Yes, all you need is one.

Andrea: Okay. So just one would cover your costs.

Blake West: Yes.

Andrea: Anything on top of that’s just gravy.

Blake West: We have had one guy come in who is single and he doesn’t have very much, and his wouldn’t cover it all because his is going to be very low because he needs help so we’re going to make sure we help him.

Speaker 1: Of course.

Blake West: But any of the typical trust, one of them we would be at break-even I think.

Andrea: Wow.

Blake West: Yeah. One of them would be breakeven.

Andrea: Wonderful. Okay. So obviously, whatever you’re discussing gets people really interested and they want to learn more and come and talk to you one-on-one. What kind of things do you talk about that you find really is resonating with your audience?

What Should You Talk About?

Blake West: I’ve used the same presentation again. And my presentation is I go through some scenarios with… I use old TV people and we start out saying, “Here’s what would happen for Barney? Barney was a deputy. What happens if Barney dies?” And we go through it that way. We cover four different families and we have some other little… Sometimes a little story thrown in here and there and talk about what wills do and what wills do not do. There’s a lot of people who are confused about that and not really understanding that if you have child number one as a joint tenant on your bank account, the bank is going to give that child the money. Your will says, “Split it three ways.” No, the bank’s going to give it to one of them and then what’s that one going to do? Most likely keep it. So we talk about those things, but we could go through just some different scenarios of no planning is bad, lots of planning is good. Is the theme.

Andrea: Okay, great. Well, I thank you again for your time and for giving us this information, hopefully this gives people the confidence to start these backup and get back out there. It sounds like people in Alabama at least are ready and hopefully in other parts of the country as well.

{End transcript}

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