The Seminar Test: A Simple Way to Discover if You Have a Viable Idea

Portrait of a businesswoman in conference

Today we are going to explore something I devised as a way to evaluate an opinion or approach to a particular issue. I came up with this method of determining message validity after years of hearing opinions expressed in media, business and even in the church.

For lack of something more compelling, I title this method, The Seminar Test. The concept is simple. Take any strategy, opinion or approach to a subject and imagine if you could see it presented to a group of people as a seminar and try to guess whether it would be considered valid by an audience of peers.

“The best way to manage your personal finances is to get as many credit cards as you can, charge them up the limit and then declare bankruptcy.”

Take this concept and put together a seminar and you’ll show Dave Ramsey who’s boss. For sure.

“Good leadership is about telling people what to do and fire them if they don’t comply.”

When you present this one at the leadership seminar, I want the cameras on the crowd because I want to watch their reaction. Priceless.

“A successful marriage is based on a strong husband telling the wife how and when to do everything. Use physical intimidation if necessary, and sometimes when not necessary, just to show who is boss. Do not let the wife have any input at all.”

Um, I think we’ll have Gary Chapman and Emerson Eggerichs do the marriage seminars in our church.

Sadly, I’ve heard all three of the above opinions expressed in one form or another. Now you can see how I came up with the concept of The Seminar Test. It actually makes bizarre opinions a little humorous, or else they would just be sadly real. Yes, I admit, it’s my defense mechanism against bad thinking.

I know that in the marketplace of ideas that we are told, “there are no bad ideas”, but I beg to differ.  Some ideas are just stupid.

Now, let’s flip this around to something constructive.

When you are writing a non-fiction work and even fiction, be thinking about an outline or key points that would make for a good public presentation of the material.

Part of the marketing of your book is going to be presentations of the material, from radio and TV interviews to blogging or speaking engagements in front of crowds ranging from a few to a few thousand.

If you think that this isn’t important, then think of this:  One of the key elements of publishing is the book description that is sent to online retailers. Whether you are published by a traditional publisher or self-publish, you will need to have a succinct and compelling description of your work that will motivate and inspire, laced with key words and phrases that people remember and search.

The best way to get that strong description is to identify key points throughout your manuscript that indicate the purpose behind why you wrote your book.

The final outcome of that product description is when you stand in front of a group and present your findings or your story in a manner that makes sense and is above all, memorable.  It is in the public view that you will either pass or fail The Seminar Test.

Three things to do:

  1. When you are in the process of writing, whenever you write something that surprises you and think, “Oh, that was good”, highlight it.  Don’t be modest.
  2. Even if you don’t use an outline to guide your writing, make one after the fact, this will give some structure to your “seminar”.
  3. No matter what you write, you should be able to point to one main point of your work that could be the main message of your seminar. “God is forever faithful”, “No matter what you do, a good friend is always there”, “The Bible is true”, etc.

Since most readers of this blog are writers with a Christian message, I don’t think that it is too much of a stretch to apply 1 Peter 3:15 to support the need for writers to employ The Seminar Test:

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”. (NIV)

Your turn.

6 Responses to The Seminar Test: A Simple Way to Discover if You Have a Viable Idea

  1. Chris May 20, 2014 at 10:35 am #

    This was good. Thank you.

  2. Kathy May 21, 2014 at 4:28 am #

    Thank you. This is a great tool.

  3. Nancy B. Kennedy May 21, 2014 at 5:55 am #

    That’s a valuable idea about presenting your book using searchable key words. Thanks!

  4. Jeanne Takenaka May 21, 2014 at 7:57 am #

    I couldn’t get on here yesterday, but I’m so glad I was able to click here today. What a great post, Dan. I’m a plotter, so I know the big story points of my book. But, making an outline of the key points? Never even thought of that. And to use it also to think through a presentation, great suggestion. Thanks for this!

  5. Angie Wagner June 2, 2014 at 5:55 am #

    Such practical, simple guidelines. I love it. Bonus:As a speaker, I love thinking in these terms! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Johna6 June 5, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

    I appreciate, cause I found just what I was looking for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye aeakkkeekbed

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