Saturday, April 12, 2008

Thoughts About Seminars

In the article last weekend, I wrote about education with some emphasis on coaching. I promised to write a little about seminars this week, so here goes. First, let me say that I am a fan of seminars. Much of my trading education came from attending seminars and they probably came second only to reading for me. Not only did I attend many, but also I actually ran a seminar company for a few years so I have a great deal of familiarity with the pros and cons.

Seminars come in several varieties. Brokerage firms like OptionsXpress, for example, may put on seminars lasting two or three days where their own trainers as well as entities like the CBOE and outside vendors make presentations. These programs usually are relatively inexpensive and can be very worthwhile though sometimes the outside vendors overdo the sales pitches during their presentations. In general, though, while you can expect a small sales pitch (why not, they are not being paid to do the seminar), you can get an awful lot of valuable information as well. In addition, some brokers also offer free webinars that are quite valuable and are aimed at differing levels of knowledge.

Some software vendors like Worden Brothers also provide live seminars to teach the use of their products. Right now, they are in the process of releasing a new version of Blocks, a charting service, and are traveling the country giving free demonstrations. These seminars, in my view, are quite valuable.

Recently, I spoke at Traders Expo in New York. Traders Expo is a several day affair attended by many vendors and traders. Seminars are offered all day at these events. The vast majority are free though some of the best known speakers charge a fee for attendance at their talks. Traders Expo makes a small charge for attendance, but my experience teaches that the value received is far in excess of the costs paid. Traders Expo, in my estimation, is a wonderful opportunity for all levels of trader to enhance their knowledge in many different areas, whether it be stock, options, forex, or futures, at a very low cost. Maybe we'll meet each other at one down the road.

There are also a number of companies that are in the business and offer seminars at a price. Often those companies will advertise what I call a "come-on" seminar on a televised infomercial or on the radio. That seminar is ordinarily free and some trading principle is taught, but the primary purpose is to sell another seminar. Often, the seminar that is being sold is relatively expensive and pressure to buy can be high. That is not to say that these seminars are not worth it. In fact, when I started my trading career, after some reading, I attended one of these seminars (it cost $3,400 for my wife and I some 10 years ago) and it literally changed my life. I would be remiss not to credit that first seminar instructor, Doug Sutton, for pointing me in a great direction. Doug is now associated with a pay for seminar company known as along with two other super instructors I had, Ryan Litchfield and Darlene Nelson. If you ever use these folks, please make sure you tell them I mentioned them. I get nothing for plugging them, but I would like them to know how much I appreciate what they did for me.

Normally the paid-for seminars are a day or two and are devoted to an in-depth treatment of a specific topic. I have attended seminars put on by a number of companies and have never failed to have a positive learning experience. While many of these companies also put on webinars, I personally prefer attendance at a live seminar since those events seem to generate an energy that is absent on webinars. One also has the chance to exchange ideas with other traders and learn what some are doing right or wrong.

One serious, but necessary draw back of the paid seminar is the seemingly endless pitch for the next seminar. I have attended the "come on" seminar for what is perhaps the largest company in the field and can attest to a very hard sell approach. I have been told that their seminars are filled with hard sell for the next seminar in the series. Of course, these folks are in the business of selling seminars so they have little choice but to promote their other offerings. It is a matter of balance and approach. I understand and appreciate the need to do some selling, but I am really put off by the "arm-twisting" hard sell approach.

In that same regard, I should note that taking a whole series of seminars can be quite costly. I have been told that taking the whole series offered by one of the very large providers can total $18,000. Though the number is high, it does not necessarily mean it isn't worth it. Obtaining a good thorough education on how to profit in the markets can certainly be worth the money, but we must keep in mind that just attending does not assure profits. Ultimately, it is the work you do that will make the difference. At some point, private coaching, which may even be less costly, may make more sense since it is directed to the trader personally and not to a group.

Education is key. Read, study, watch DVDs, watch webinars, attend free seminars, attend paid seminars and then practice what you learn before putting real money at risk. In this game, the ball is always in your court.

by Bill Kraft, Editor
Copyright 2008, Makin' Hay, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

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Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Bill. One can learn a great deal from seminars. I have attended many and I always learn something of value from them, even the free ones! It is also very beneficial to meet other traders and get their ideas about what is being taught. Great post!


Bill Kraft, said...

Thanks, Mike. Seminars have certainly helped me along the way.
Bill Kraft

Anonymous said...

I attend low-cost semi-&webi-nars. As a rookie trader, my strategy is to settle on a simple, inexpensive service that is more than adequate for my needs. If I participate in too many, I cannot properly assimilate the learning. I need to implement what I learn reasonably soon, or it falls away. I recommend that one take great care for balance in information download volume. The mind is limited in this regard.

Bill Kraft, said...

What a great point, Anonymous. There is a whole lot of information and I have seen traders (new and not so new) jump from strategy without practicing or understanding the one they just tried. Your method seems quite reasonable and is an intelligent approach. There is a lot to learn in this business and we can't learn it all at once. It comes in steps.
Bill Kraft