False Advertising, Exaggerations, Omissions and Little White Lies



The strong, direct nature of graffiti helps tell a story. In this case, someone believed that the fifty cent paper they purchased contained lies. So, they vandalized the paper box with graffiti to let their displeasure be known.

The IMPACT OF Not-as-Advertised

Still, it just goes to show you if you disappoint someone, chances are they will try to tell a bunch of people. The statistics we used to use were that dissatisfied customers will tell at least 10 people. Now, I would hazard to guess, they’d verbally tell a few of their friends and then they’ll use social media which potentially could reach tens of thousands of people. (How to handle a dissatisfied attendee/student is a discussion for another day…)

While I may not tweet how upset I am after a speaker wastes my time (and doesn’t deliver on his/her promises), it is still a pet peeve of mine. I have seen cases where the marketing copy and the content are light-years apart. Probably because someone drafted the description before they developed their material and no one thought to update the advertising. While that is an explanation, it is not an excuse.

I’m not alone. Others have complained that a TOP WEBINAR MISTAKE is not delivering as advertised. If you advertise a “live” event, you should not broadcast a recorded session.  If you advertise that you are 100% content, then don’t give a 60 minute product or services pitch.

Here is the catch: Once you lose an attendee, (because you are ‘not-as-advertised’),  you’ve just been branded ‘not-as-advertised’. You’ll lose that attendee for a LONG time before they’ll ever give you a second chance (if ever).

WHY AIM TO BE As-Advertised?

Bad news travels, but so does good news. This blog post from Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management discusses how word of mouth converts sales at 78%. So, if the attendees to your sessions are happy, the chances are that they are going to tell their friends (and you’ll reap the benefits).


Now to be fair, there are plenty of subject matter experts who really know and show (or share) ‘their stuff’ via seminars or webinars. However, these folks may have never been formally trained to pull together a description for a session (let alone how to design and deliver an effective session). [That is where this blog fits: trying to help those new to teaching and training.]

In order to set expectations for a session, here are my advertising rules or guidelines (without getting too detailed or technical with instructional design ‘speak’ or instructions):

1. Name your session wisely and accurately especially when targeting beginners (use  ‘Introductory’, ‘101’, ‘for Beginners’, etc.) or experts (use ‘Top Gun’, ‘Masters Training’, ‘For Experts Only’, etc.).

2. Define WHO your audience is.

  • Who they are: professionals, students, volunteers? Do they have a certain skill level (be as specific as possible)? You don’t want to have to define common acronyms that someone in the industry would know.
  • What are the prerequisites? Specify if this is an ideal follow-on session after having attended another session.
  • Is your session aimed at those with certain interests or problems?

3. TELL them WHY they should attend. You don’t have to go into the detail that someone trained in instructional design would by formally outlining the purpose and objectives. Instead, tell them what are you going to help them achieve? Outline what knowledge, skill, insight will they have at the end of your session. OR what questions will be answered at the end of the session. If you can outline how that will benefit them that is ideal; however, be careful, if using  metrics! Will you really deliver on making them five times as productive as they are today?

4. Optionally, include HOW you are going to accomplish your promise. Give your audience an idea of what to expect: lecture, demonstration, group discussion or moderated panel. Including an agenda or rough outline will help, just keep it very high-level as you may change it before you deliver the session.


Once you have written your advertisement your your session and delivered the content, it is always wise to test your promises. Did you deliver as promised? Did you deliver a session with great value, but your marketing copy failed? OR did your content fall short? You need to understand if you need to adjust your advertising, content or both advertising and content.

Once you get all that great feedback, you can feature it in your marketing copy. [For more information on what feedback questions to ask, you can click on the Strategic Feedback System on the right hand side of this page.]

Whether free or fee: try to be clear and concise in defining what you will deliver and to whom. Don’t tell any lies, not even the little white ones.

Until next time…


Flickr Creative Commons Image by LauraFries.com