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Seminars provide smaller agencies name recognition, says Brenda Medlock, a producer at McNeill-Patterson Insurance, an independent agency in Spartanburg, S.C.

"Our name gets out there even if people don't come to the seminars," Ms. Medlock said. "That would have to be the biggest benefit, but that's not why we do it. Our agency tries to educate the public about the insurance industry, not our services. We tell them ways they can reduce their insurance costs."

McNeill-Patterson has hosted three seminars in the past 18 months and is planning more for the future.

There is only one major drawback associated with the agency's seminars, according to Ms. Medlock. "The only disadvantage is the time that it pulls you away from daily agency activities," she said.

The 19-person agency has never hired an outside company to assist with planning seminars, though the idea is being considered, Ms. Medlock said. "We set it up from here, but we don't have a separate staff that does it, so (organizing seminars) pulls us as claims adjusters and risk control managers away from what we normally do."

Generally, two or three people organize the seminar. "Whoever we need to pull away (from their desks) to get it done, that's what we do," she said, adding that, as a producer, she usually is involved in seminar planning.

McNeill-Patterson distributes evaluation slips after its seminars, which it usually holds at country clubs. Among other questions, guests are asked their opinions of the seminars' topics and speakers. Guests also are asked to suggest future topics.

The agency said it does not monitor the number of clients the seminars have generated or retained. However, Ms. Medlock said she does not think seminars are effective in attracting new business, because few prospects attend. "Maybe it's because when they get invitations from insurance agencies that they haven't been dealing with, they are less likely to come," Ms. Medlock guessed. The seminars, however, are helpful in maintaining clients, she said.

"We have accomplished what we set out to do (with these seminars), but we would like to see a higher attendance rate," she said.