by Bob Beranek
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In the last post we discussed the pros and cons of open discussion training. This week I would like to discuss the training seminar. A seminar is usually a one subject presentation with a question and answer period at the end. It will frequently include an audio/visual component to enhance the program and keep interest high. This is by far the most common formal training exercise. It is used as a method to transmit information such as technical procedures, sales presentations, or management directives.

The formality of the seminar format is one of its principal benefits. Because seminars require advanced planning, a defined time, space and agenda, they demand attention. Those attending usually come predisposed to learn something. The seminar presentation is enhanced by the addition of:

  • Agendas – An agenda is the program clearly laid out and should be brief and generalized. Do not give the program away with too much detailed information or the audience will not listen to what you have to say;
  • Notepads – Notepads encourage the audience to take notes and ask questions but don’t forget a pencil or pen to write with;
  • Handouts – A handout is a great idea but do not give out the information until the end of the presentation or your audience will be reading the handout instead of watching and listening to you; and/or
  • Guest Speaker – If the presenter is a visiting speaker rather than a familiar person, the likelihood of increased interest is further enhanced. The new face and new way of dispensing information seems to make the point better and more memorable.

So, what are the drawbacks to seminars? Mostly it is the time and money spent on organizing the program. Whether you design and deliver the curriculum internally or hire out the presentation to a professional, the time and resources it takes to develop the event can cost more than a box of donuts or a few pizzas. You will need:

  • A method to deliver the audio/visual presentation:
    • Laptop;
    • Software;
    • Projector (LCD or Overhead);
    • Screen; and/or
    • Flip charts, whiteboard, or chalkboard and writing implements;
    • Someone to research, outline, write and design the presentation and handouts;
    • A comfortable location to present the program. The more uncomfortable the audience the less information they will retain. If notes are expected to be taken, tables or writing surfaces should be obtained;
    • An agenda, brochures or other ways to communicate the particulars about the seminar to the potential audience; and
    • Depending on the length of the seminar, there should be refreshments and frequent breaks to keep their attention fresh.

If you decide to outsource your training to a professional, then some of the above will be handled by the presenting organization but the hosting items are still yours to coordinate.

If you decide that the training you want to conduct is a good fit for a seminar style of delivery, make sure you know what you’re getting into. If not planned properly or delivered professionally, a seminar can be an expensive, time-consuming gaffe. If done right, it can be a very efficient training method that will earn you respect and pay you back in increased productivity.

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