What is a Seminar?
A seminar may be defined as a gathering of people for the purpose of discussing a stated topic. Such gatherings are usually interactive sessions where the participants engage in discussions about the delineated topic. The sessions are usually headed or led by one or two presenters who serve to steer the discussion along the desired path.
PURPOSE OF A SEMINAR
A seminar may have several purposes or just one purpose. For instance, a seminar may be for the purpose of education, such as a lecture, where the participants engage in the discussion of an academic subject for the aim of gaining a better insight into the subject. Other forms of educational seminars might be held to impart some skills or knowledge to the participants. Examples of such seminars include personal finance, web marketing, real estate, investing or other types of seminars where the participants gain knowledge or tips about the topic of discussion.
Of course, a seminar can be motivational, in which case the purpose is usually to inspire the attendees to become better people, or to work towards implementing the skills they might have learned from the seminar. For instance, a business seminar with a financial theme could be for the purpose of teaching small business owners how to pitch to investors or to write a solid business plan, and to motivate them to get started right away.
Sometimes, seminars are simply a way for businessmen and women, or other like-minded people, to network and meet other attendees with similar interests. Such seminars provide opportunities for the attendees to make some potentially valuable contacts that can help them move to the next level in their careers or endeavors.
A trade seminar brings a wide cross-section of the community together, such as government officials, businessmen and women and the general public. Such seminars often consist of workshops and the presentation of white papers. They are usually held for the purpose of networking with various vendors and making new connections.
SEMINARS VS. WORKSHOPS
The main difference between seminars and workshops is that seminars are usually more academic and less hands-on than workshops. Seminars are events that are mostly geared towards educational topics and usually feature one or more experts on the subject matter. On the other hand, workshops are generally less formal and require more attendee participation than seminars. The main thrust of workshops is for the participants to gain new skills during the event under the guidance of the instructor.
PLANNING A SEMINAR
The first step towards planning an effective seminar is to determine what the purpose of the seminar will be. Think about the target audience who will participate and what they stand to gain from attending the seminar. Every seminar must have an agenda, so determine what the agenda will be. Set a budget for the seminar and work within this budget, and don’t get too carried away with the selection of venue and other considerations that could potentially cost money.
BEFORE THE SEMINAR
Find speakers for the seminar through an analysis of the subject matter and the speakers who can best fit the occasion. Such speakers may be professional speakers, or just people with the requisite knowledge and authority to effectively convey the desired message.
You also have to find a proper venue for the seminar. This process can be simplified by utilizing the venue finder here on eVenues. Some of the things to consider when choosing an event venue include the availability of the necessary technical infrastructure to support the event.
For example, the venue should have audio-visual facilities and communication equipment. Depending on the season, the air-conditioning or heating should be functioning properly. Find out if they have a stand or dais for the speaker and if they offer catering services. Another important consideration is the availability of ample parking for the seminar attendees.
Send out invites to those who will attend the seminar and engage in active marketing of the event through various means. For instance, the numerous social media sites are an excellent method for marketing the event. Facebook events, Eventbrite, Lanyrd, and other such sites can help publicize the event and keep the prospective attendees up to date regarding developments. Prospective attendees can also indicate their willingness to attend the seminar by accepting the invitations sent to them through these channels.
Confirm the number of attendees to the seminar since this information is necessary for logistics like accommodations, seating arrangements, car pick-ups and even the catering arrangements. The confirmation of the willingness of the keynote speakers to attend is especially important very early in the planning stages since this will help in the designing of the logos, brochures and other promotional materials.
Select volunteers to help with activities like guiding and helping the seminar attendees. If they need training to familiarize themselves with their expected duties, ensure that they receive such training well ahead of the seminar.
AFTER THE SEMINAR
Analyze the outcome of the seminar, including the response of the attendees and their feedback in order to discover whether the aims of the seminar were met. You can also send out thank you notes to the attendees through emails and any other follow up, such as upcoming seminars.
Planning a Workshop
Learning how to conduct a workshop is important for educators, business leaders and other professionals. A successful workshop provides participants with new skills, information and a sense of accomplishment. Workshop delivery involves several steps that begin with planning and end with evaluation and follow up. Here are some strategies for conducting a workshop.
Step 1: Define the Goals
Every workshop must have a goal. Do you need to improve your company’s hiring procedures? Do you want to teach managers how to be better organizers? Do you need to do some team building with a newly formed team?
Many workshops are a waste of time because there’s no clear goal kept at the center of the discussion. Without this clear goal, there’s really no point in getting people together.
Step 2: Decide Who Will Attend
Knowing who will attend directly relates to your objective. For example, if your workshop’s goal is to develop a detailed solution to a problem, then you probably want 10 or fewer key attendees. If your goal is centered on education, then you might be happy with a much larger group, which divides into smaller groups for discussion.
Make a list of who needs to be there. Try to be as specific as possible, but leave a few openings for last-minute additions.
Step 3: Choose the Right Location
If you have 10 attendees, then the conference room down the hall will probably be just fine. But if you have 50 people, you may have to find an outside location that’s large enough.
Think about the logistics and practical details of your workshop when you choose the location. Will everyone be able to see your visual aids? If you need a certain technology, like teleconferencing, will the location support it? Are there appropriate facilities for breakout sessions? Will everyone be able to reach the venue? Will you need to organize accommodation for people who are coming from a long way away? And what catering facilities does the venue provide?
Step 4: Create an Agenda
Now that you know your primary objective and who will attend, you can start to develop an outline of how you’ll achieve the workshop’s goal.
Main points – Create a list of main points to discuss, and then break down each larger point into details that you want to communicate to your audience.
Visual aids – List the visual aids, if any, you’ll use for each point. If you need technical support, this helps the people providing it to determine where they need to focus their efforts.
Discussions and activities – Take time to list exactly which group discussions and activities you’ll have at which point in the workshop. How much time will you allow for each exercise? Make sure your activities are appropriate for the size of the group, and ensure that your venue has the resources (for example, seminar rooms) needed to run sessions.
Remember, the more detailed your plan, the more you’ll ensure that your workshop will run to schedule – and be successful.
Step 5: Develop a Follow-up Plan
The only way to find out if your workshop was a success is to have an effective follow-up plan. Create a questionnaire to give to all participants at the end of the event, and give them plenty of opportunity to share their opinions on how well it went. Although this can be a bit scary, it’s the only way to learn – and improve – for the next time.
It’s also important to have a plan to communicate the decisions that were reached during the workshop. Will you send out a mass email to everyone with the details? Will you put it on your company’s intranet? People need to know that their hard work actually resulted in a decision or action, so keep them informed about what’s happening after the workshop has ended.
During the Workshop – Getting People Involved
Once you have a solid advance plan, figure out how to bring some excitement into your event. You know the topics that you want to cover, but how will you make the information fun and memorable for your team?
Getting everyone involved is key to a successful workshop. If you stand up and talk for three hours, you’re just giving a lecture – not facilitating a workshop. Everyone needs to participate.
Creating group exercises is different for each workshop. Keep these tips in mind:
Many people are nervous about speaking up in an unfamiliar group. If you plan group exercises, keep the size of each group small, so people are more comfortable talking and interacting.
- Mix up different types of people in each group. For example, if several departments participate in your workshop, don’t put members of the same department in their own group. By encouraging people to interact with other departments, they can learn to look at things from different perspectives.
- Determine how you’ll record the ideas from each group. Will participants shout them out while you write them down? Or will they write down their own ideas and then give them to you? This is a small, but important, detail that’s often overlooked.
- If you have five or fewer groups, spend time allowing the entire team to evaluate the ideas from each smaller group. This is a great way to narrow down your list of ideas, and let the good ones really shine.
- Remember, spend as much time as you can creating fun and interesting group exercises. These will likely keep everyone interested and participating.
Overall Workshop Tips
Here are some more ideas for running a successful workshop:
- If you plan the meeting, you may want to facilitate it as well. Learn how to do this effectively in The Role of a Facilitator .
- Start the meeting with a few icebreakers to get everyone relaxed and comfortable.
- If your workshop’s goal is to address a difficult or sensitive topic, it’s especially important to get the group comfortable before starting. One way is to tell a story that’s loosely related to the topic before you begin discussing the difficult issue.Sometimes, not everyone has to stay for the entire workshop. For instance, the CEO might be too busy to attend the whole session. Identify which sections your busiest participants need to attend, and suggest in advance when they might want to arrive and leave. They’ll appreciate your consideration.
Where possible, avoid holding your workshop after lunch, between 2:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon. For many people, this is their slowest, most unproductive time of day. Your group will probably be more energetic if you schedule the event in the morning or late afternoon. (If you have to run the workshop in the early afternoon, make sure there’s plenty of strong coffee available!)
If your workshop’s ultimate goal is to make a decision about something, the more people who attend, the less likely it is that you’ll reach a decision. Here, try to keep the number of people attending to a minimum (for example, by issuing minutes after the event to people who are just interested.) It’s also important to become familiar with the different strategies for team decision making.