Facts, opinions, and the real story behind Mary Kay Cosmetics.

Confessions From a Director Who Hates Seminar

mary-kay-seminar-stageThis piece was written by a Premier Club director who dislikes seminar with a passion. And it seems that her dislike for the fake recognition and the manipulation isn’t all that uncommon.

From the moment you join Mary Kay, you are indoctrinated to believe that seminar is a non-negotiable “must” for your business. “Everyone who’s serious about their business goes.” is the common mantra. To boil it down for you, only LOSERS don’t go. Death and Dilation are the only acceptable excuses. So you go. Year after year after year……

I cannot even begin to describe the anxiety I feel leading up to each seminar. First, it’s the registration fee. I never complain because after all, that’s only a skin care class, right? And besides, as a director, complaining about this amount would certainly be embarrassing. (Because I’m the only director in MK with “money issues,” you know.)

And then, if you don’t live within driving distance of Dallas, you’ll be paying for a flight. And if you’re like me, you’ll procrastinate, so you’ll end up paying more than you’d like. If I’m good, I spend $250 to $350. If I’m not early enough, it’s upwards of $400.

Then there’s the hotel. If you go through Mary Kay to book your hotel, you’ll be spending more than if you book it yourself. Trust me. Mary Kay wants you to book through them not because you’ll be getting a better deal, but because they want to develop and maintain good business relationships within the Dallas area, and booking large blocks of rooms that they promise to FILL does just that.

So, call the hotel on your own. Do NOT tell them you’re with Mary Kay, and see what kind of rate they’ll offer. There are other rates you may be eligible for: Military, AAA, Senior Citizens, State employees, etc.. But the MK rates typically run $150-$200/night. And these expenses are just the beginning.

As the final months of the seminar year approach, the pressure to “Finish Big!” is tremendous. Finishing big is just a euphemism for:

  • Order more to finish one of the courts of sales (Company, Area, or Unit)
  • Order more to finish a challenge. (“Sell 36 xxxxx and get a ribbon!”)
  • Activate your recruits to finish one of the courts of sharing (Company, Area, or Unit)…and we all know that it can be challenging to “encourage” your team members to order. When you’re up against a deadline, the temptation to place their order for them is huge.
  • Finish your Unit Challenge (whatever your director is promoting for the final push. It usually involves ordering, though)

You see, if you’re at all recognition-focused like I was, then not having ribbons on your name badge is devastating! People like me will do “whatever it takes” to get some! So, in addition to the basic costs of seminar (registration, flight, and hotel), you’ve got the extra costs of finishing big. (Yes, the worth of many directors is determined by how long the ribbons on their name badge hang!)

Once I deal with the fact that I’ve already spent more than I can afford (usually mid-June), my mind goes into a panic trying to figure out the logistics of what to do with the kids while I’m gone. The babysitters, meals, transportation to and from their various activities, etc. I, like many others, do not have family nearby to rely on. And my husband’s job is quite unpredictable, so unfortunately, he’s not always available to pick up the slack. The stress of getting these details nailed down is considerable. Not to mention the guilt of hearing “Mommy, why are you leaving AGAIN???”

I usually manage to leave the house with a small amount of confidence that nothing or nobody will burn down or get lost in my absence, and the flight is usually uncomfortable enough to divert my attention from any impending disaster back at home. But if everything goes well (no delays, no lost bags) I arrive in Dallas in one piece. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. But it’s just beginning.

Grab your luggage and get ready to be escorted onto a shuttle bus with 12 other LOUD women. (The heat is oppressive. My ankles start swelling almost as quickly as my hair starts falling.) You each will be delivered to your respective hotels, but not without almost losing your life in the process. Hold on. Without exception, each shuttle bus driver I’ve had has been reckless.

You arrive at the hotel and you think you can relax and start your seminar experience. Um, not yet. You see, if you booked through Mary Kay, you will join the already 20-deep line to check in, abandon your luggage with a 19 year old bellhop, and wait. And wait. You’re trying to stay positive, so you don’t entertain the thought that they may not have your registration, or that the bellhop might take off with your jewelry. You just smile, and wait.

Every year I swear that the next year I’m going to get my own room. I don’t know how it happens, but every year I’m rooming with someone. (boundaries, boundaries) When I get to my room, all I want to do is go to the bathroom, but either someone’s in there or I’m too embarrassed to do what I really gotta do!

Man, I hate seminar. Soon, the perkiest roommate exclaims “We’ve got to go to packet pick-up!” YIPPEE, I think. So in an effort to look sharp, I pull myself together and pack myself onto another bus (bigger and usually air-conditioned) to ride over to the convention center. And wow, those ribbons sure do look GOOD on my name badge! For a brief moment, I’m so proud to be a director and I’m so proud of all my “accomplishments” this seminar year. But then my husband calls. The credit card bill arrived. And he wasn’t supposed to open THAT one. Jerk.

Next on the agenda is usually the Director’s Meeting with our National Area. This is where the Big Girls get to wear their panties proudly. This is where we gather and talk about how great we are, and how blessed we are to be so sharp and so smart, and to be living the dream that every other woman in the world wants. I’m starting to feel smug at this point. (I can’t wait for my unit to arrive because I’m really going to bless them this time with my incredible insight and wisdom.)

The next morning comes quickly. Up at 5:30 because there are 3 people to shower and get ready! What do you have to look forward to? Meal time. You will stand side by side like hungry heffers outside the dining hall waiting to be herded in to the appropriate table. You can’t choose your own spot. You must follow the line. And if you venture off, you WILL be redirected. It’s humiliating. And the food is mediocre. But it’s free! “Isn’t it great?” you convincingly shout out to your unit across the table. This ordeal will repeat itself each day.

The next 2 days are extremely painful as my feet are slowly resembling ground beef. (but my heels are still on because I am looking sharp!) I’ve worn my director suit each day and everyone around me is starting to smell ripe. That “smell” is most noticeable in the bathrooms. I don’t know how else to say this but to just say it. (If you’ve been to seminar, you know what I’m talking about.) It’s that female smell. And if it’s not your own, it’s nasty. But you will be subjected to it the entire 3 days. Over and over again.

Some advice:
Guard your wallet closely at seminar. Not because some thief might make off with it, but because you will be tempted to follow the crowd toward the vendors. DON’T GO. It’s a bunch of over-priced garbage that you think you “need” to build your business. You don’t need any of it. Don’t go. And when your roommate comes back with 2 bags full, just remember that HER credit card statement will be arriving in HER mailbox soon too.

If your director did exceptionally well, you will be in a seat closer to the stage. But if you’re like most of us, you’ll be sitting in nosebleed. I consider myself to be coordinated and pretty good on heels, but climbing up and down those steps is a feat.

If your director tells you that you’re all going to the National Area Awards Night, opt out. Another event that’s usually not worth your time or money. These events are usually $75+ per consultant. Excuse me, but how in the world can we keep expecting this out of our consultants??? They can’t afford to attend seminar, let alone all these extra nonsense events! You are paying for the room, not the food. The food will NOT meet your expectations.

Unless you’re up for a major award, don’t go. JUST SAY NO. And speaking of awards, the final night of Seminar is “Awards Night.” Do NOT buy an expensive gown. If you’re not crossing stage for anything that night, opt for a simple black dress. There’s probably already one in your closet. I can’t tell you how many times I bought a gown, only to drag myself up those steps in the arena to sit down and wrinkle it. And every year I ask myself “WHY?” My answer is always “Next year I WILL be on that stage. I WILL be the queen.” And I spend the rest of the night visualizing myself onstage next year.

Aaaahhhhhhhhh…….I BELIEVE!

Better yet, instead of all my advice of what NOT to do at seminar, why not this: DON’T GO. Add it up and you’ll easily spend over $1,000 on this even. Don’t do it. There is nothing there for you that is worth the money. Tell your director “I’m not going.”

When she asks why, simply respond “Because I don’t want to.” You’ll save yourself over $1000 and your family will love you for it. Take away all the rah-rah, the ridiculous Cadillac marches, and the teary “I love me” speeches and you’ll be missing about 60 minutes of solid training.

You want training?


All the training you need!


  1. VAgirl

    My 1st Seminar was my last. I was waiting for valuable training and sick of the “I Stories” that were more and more embellished each year. And I don’t know why MK thinks that loud music and flashing lights is a good thing at all! I just got a headache and wanted to leave. Never again. What a waste of time, money and energy.

  2. AnonyMouse

    Seminar is ridiculous and overhyped and overpriced. The one redeeming thing about the only Seminar I went to is that I had the BEST roommate. We both prioritized being on time and getting enough sleep. So we peaced out of every event as soon as it was over and went to bed. Our director was like we were gonna take a group picture where did you guys go um we went TO SLEEP. ?

  3. Charles

    Sounds pretty awful but at least it’s only once a year, or so I am led to believe. With Amway, you could go to one of these stupid “conventions” almost every weekend if you wanted to and spend far more money where you just listen to the same crap over and over. I assume that Mary Kay’s seminar, much like Amway, has events that run well into the night so you end up with minimal sleep, and we all know about sleep deprivation and cults.

    Does Mary Kay have other events (i.e. regional, other training) during the year besides Seminar that people get pressured into attending. I’m not talking about the weekly group meetings, just other events that you might have to go by car and spend money on a hotel.

  4. Heather

    I got to a point where I started to cringe when even thinking about Seminar, even as a SD. The meetings, the money we were expected to put up for “prizes and recognition,” the standing and walking…. just UGH. I stopped staying at our NSD’s hotel because it was waaaaaay too expensive and started staying at a smaller, boutique hotel around the corner (which incidentally was part of my rewards program – free room upgrades, cocktails at happy hour, and more). The savings were significant. A couple of times I skipped the dinner part and went to the hotel for the awards night crap. I would often claim a headache or something and “miss” the dinner part, where a ticket was like $55 for mediocre food. I also have an aunt and uncle who live in the Dallas area, which meant I would sometimes skip out on a few things.

    I just got tired of it all. Seminar was costing a couple of thousand EVERY year, and I didn’t feel like I was getting anything out of it. It was even worse when we were stationed at Pearl Harbor, HI and I flew from Honolulu to Dallas. Those Seminar trips easily ran $3-5,000 (which is part of the why I started staying at the boutique hotel).

  5. Data Junkie

    Just like everything else in Mary Kay, seminar is paid for by the reps…in this case, those who choose to attend. I am pretty sure Mary Kay corporate does not spend a dime on Seminar. Seminar is designed to benefit Mary Kay and the up-line at the cost of the attendees. This pattern is true with everything Mary Kay does…provide a vehicle to produce cash flow from the bottom up, while fooling the rep into believing they are getting something of value in return.

    Nothing at seminar makes it easier for a MK rep to “sell” products to actual outside customers. It’s all about getting the rep to “buy”!

    You have to put on quite a show to hide this reality, and Mary Kay has mastered it!

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