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Seminar materials: 10 cheap ways to prevent theft by photocopier

John Kuraoka, a project of www.kuraoka.com

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Seminars can be great marketing tools for your small business. They introduce you personally to your community, and promote you as an expert in your field. Many professional service providers use seminars as part of their marketing and promotional efforts: real estate agents, attorneys, financial planners, counselors, and even (yes) small business marketing experts, to name a few.

One challenge concerns the materials you provide as part of your seminar, such as workbooks, manuals, reference guides, and other hand-outs. If you created them, you know how much hard work you put into them. Yet, anyone with access to a photocopier can, at the press of a button, copy your seminar materials for friends or business associates. This under-the-table copying is a bigger problem if you charge fees for your seminars, or generate income from selling your seminar materials.

The copying of your seminar materials without your permission is copyright infringement and theft of intellectual property. However, the immediate effect, from a business and marketing standpoint, is that each copied document represents either a lost sale or a lost opportunity to make a sale.

A copyright notice, no matter how strongly worded, can’t prevent people from photocopying your printed materials. And, if your copyright notice is threatening enough, and prominent enough, it could repel the people you’re working to attract! There are anti-copying papers and other anti-counterfeiting technologies out there. But, they’re relatively pricey and you’re on a website called Tightwad Marketing.

So, with Tightwad Marketing in mind, here are ten specific, real-world tested, relatively cheap techniques you can use on your printed seminar materials, to prevent or reduce illegal photocopying.

1. Bind your seminar materials in a way that won’t lie flat when opened. For example, perfect-bound instead of loose leaf. Velo binding (which uses flat plastic strips to clamp together the bound edge) makes for less-convenient photocopying than comb or coil binding, especially when combined with stiff covers. Also a permanent binding makes it harder to disassemble your seminar materials for automated photocopying.

2. Print on both sides of the pages. The added cost of two-sided printing is somewhat offset by reduced paper and binding costs. And, once your seminar materials are bound, two-sided printing makes it considerably harder to automatically photocopy on most office photocopiers.

3. Use colored paper in sections. In particular, goldenrod or red paper photocopies black with most office photocopiers. Use this paper for key pages, like review sections, self-quiz answers, chapter summaries, or external resource pages. This also can add value by making the organization of your seminar materials highly visible.

4. Insert oversized pages that fold out, particularly for complex tables, explanatory charts, and even text sections like case studies and resource lists. Having your 8-1/2” x 11” seminar manual contain a few fold-outs that are 11” x 17” can at least slow down someone who’s copying the work. When you use an oversized fold-out page, make sure you fill both sides with relevant information. Don’t just make the font bigger - your font sizes should remain consistent throughout your document. Also, remember that the fold-out portion needs to miss the binding, so you’ll have to trim the flap portion, Z-fold it, or roll-fold it so it fits neatly.

5. Use colored illustrations and charts. For example, dark blue and red often photocopy the same in black and white. At the other end of the spectrum, light blue and screens of yellow often don’t photocopy at all. Combine both in a bar chart, and you almost assure that a photocopy will lack data that is in the original. For added security, use a color key instead of identifying each charted group directly within the chart.

6. Use reversed text, colored backgrounds, and screened backgrounds to identify key text passages. For example, yellow highlighting often photocopies black. Also, gray or red screens - particularly ones with irregular patterns - behind text can block up when photocopied and prevent easy reading of the text. The same goes for reversed type (white on black). Use these ideas only as they enhance the organization and appearance of your seminar materials.

7. Encourage systematic color-coded highlighting during your seminar by giving away multi-color highlighter packs or promotional three-color highlighters with your logo. For example: yellow for key points that relate to marketing, blue for key points that relate to advertising, pink for key points that relate to sales promotion. Come up with something that makes sense for your seminar. Not only does this make your printed materials interactive during the seminar, but you've also presented a challenge for most office photocopiers in the highlighting. Depending on the brand of photocopier and highlighter, one or more of those highlight colors will probably photocopy opaque.

8. Design your materials with worksheets or fill-in-the-blank sections to be completed at the seminar. This works especially well if the worksheets are designed to draw out a specific problem the participant is facing, the more personal the better. This can be a valuable, powerful component of your seminar. And, people will be less likely to copy and distribute seminar materials that contain their own problems, in their own writing.

9. Footnote the very bottom of every page with a tidbit of useful information, in addition to your copyright notice. For example: My Seminar. May not be copied or distributed without express permission. TIP: when cooking pasta, adding a bit of oil to the boiling water prevents bubbling over and keeps your stovetop cleaner! Make your tips relevant to your seminar, of course. Most photocopiers enlarge images just a bit, so information that’s close to the edge of the page will probably be cut off.

10. Address the issue directly at the end of your seminar. For example: “By the way, a lot of your co-workers are going to ask you for copies of the manual that’s included with this seminar. I’d prefer that you advise them to take the seminar themselves, and get their own copy. Partly because this is what I do for a living; anyone making a photocopy of the manual is taking money directly out of my pocket. But, mostly, because I’d like to think that you got enough value out of me today that you’ll believe - as I do - that attending this seminar is critical to understanding how to use the information presented in the manual.” In addition, you could sell your seminar materials separately, at a price that covers your costs and offers a small profit margin while still being attractive to people who might otherwise be thinking of spending considerable time in front of a copying machine.

Yes, some of these ideas add cost. But, that cost may be small compared to the returns. If you charge for your seminars, you could recover hundreds of dollars in fees from additional participants. And, if you use free seminars as part of your marketing and promotional efforts, additional participants mean more sales opportunities. More money, and more opportunity, with less expense. That’s what you get when you make your seminar materials hard to copy, on a marketing budget that’s easy to afford.
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