People attend seminars and lectures for a variety of reasons. Some attend because it’s mandatory, and others because they need continuing education credits. Some attend merely to be seen. However, if you attend, you might as well learn something. Invariably, after a seminar, one hears certain attendees raving about some aspects or the entire seminar, while others complain. Still others appear to have been bored. While certain seminars are uninspiring and/ or boring, one hears complaints or signs of boredom at otherwise well done and inspiring seminars. Since one is taking the time to attend the seminar, regardless of the reason, it only makes sense to get the most benefit from being there. Having attended hundreds of seminars, and conducted more than a thousand seminars, conferences and training programs in the last three decades (plus), I believe that if an attendee follow certain basic steps that the experience will be greatly enriched.
The following are steps that an seminar attendee can follow to enhance the benefit they derive from their attendance at a seminar:
(1) Turn off your cellphone. There are always breaks during a seminar, and you can check your messages during the break. People are used to getting cellphone messages (voice mail) because of gaps in service, so returning the call, rather than being interrupted, will permit you to listen more attentively.
(2) Turn off any type of Personal Data Assistant (PDA) such as a Blackberry, I-Phone, or any other data or e-mail device. There is no e-mail that cannot wait until the break, and these devices are irresistible if they are on (Why do you think many people refer to them as “Crack-berries.”)
(3) Do not open or use your laptop or netbook. When one has either of these, the temptation to be distracted, and to begin to peruse e-mail, Facebook, etc., is, at best, an unneeded distraction.
(4) Do not be a back-sitter. Sit where you can easily hear, and see the speaker and whatever audio-visual that the speaker is using for the program.
(5) Have a small dedicated notebook with you. Listen and take notes. Jot down ideas. Jot down key phrases.
(6) Ask the speaker, before the program, if you may audio-record (tape) the seminar. If permitted, do so, so that you can re-listen, and perhaps hear something that you may have missed initially.
(7) Pay attention and listen attentively. Do not just sit near friends, and chat and tell jokes, etc. during the presentation.
(8) During any break, take advantage of that period by going up to the presenter, and asking for any clarification or question that you might have.
(9) During the Questions and Answers programs, be prepared. While you are listening, outline any area or areas that are in any way unclear to you, or for specific examples, that would benefit your learning. Ask meaningful questions, and pay attention while others ask theirs, as well.
(10) After the program, take the time to discuss the contents with other attendees. Ask others what they thought was most relevant or beneficial.
If you enjoy a presentation, you learn much more from it. If you approach a seminar from a positive point of view, looking forward to learning, there is a far greater likelihood that you will benefit from it.
If a seminar is particularly well presented, let the organizers know that you feel that way, and that you would hope that future seminars were as beneficial. If you think a particular presenter was really worthwhile, and that presenter does seminars on other topics, you might want to urge the organizers consider asking that individual back to do another seminar.