The mere thought of a business training session is likely to produce the following four-letter-word: "Yawn!" Just contemplating leading one more training session, talking and talking to a sea of bored faces, is enough to make you and your colleagues sleepy. To change everyone's behavior, encourage energetic participation and create a team-building atmosphere, try making your next training session a seminar.
Seminars are an Active Experience
While there are several types of seminars, they all contain some egalitarian element. Perhaps your seminar begins with a single presentation, and then breaks attendees into small working groups, each of which discusses and reports on one element of the presentation. Perhaps you ask several attendees – or all – to present parts of the project for discussion by all. The purpose of a seminar is to create an experience of working together.
One of the main objectives of conducting seminars is to avoid a passive experience – everyone should have a way to contribute. Rank matters much less than in daily work. Secretaries, for example, are not the only people in the room capable of taking minutes or providing refreshments. Your supervisor becomes a different person when she spent last night baking brownies for the meeting and both the boss and the new file-clerk want the recipe!
Everyone's Opinion Counts
Implicit in a seminar-style meeting is the idea that everyone's opinion counts. The purpose of a seminar is less to teach than to share. We've all seen the television commercials in which the lowest clerk in the mail-room provides the solution to the company's biggest problem. This may not happen at your seminar, but creating an atmosphere in which all feel comfortable expressing their ideas is ideal for the seeds of new ideas or points of view to grow.
When to Use the Seminar Format
When does a seminar format work best for a business meeting? Not exactly when you might expect. Since the characteristics of a seminar essentially create a format for problem-solving, a seminar is useful when people disagree. If two participants disagree, their conflict may be best addressed by setting some previous limits on the size or scope of the disagreement so that the whole working group is not overwhelmed.
A seminar is a good tool for department heads or representatives, because each can provide some authority on his side of the problem. Getting them together may be the best way to interrupt an endless "blame-game," in which processing and shipping agree only that each is responsible for the failures of the other!
Having to explain a problem to people with differing points of view may contain the seeds of the solution. Tracking and retaining repeat customers, for example, may need efforts from shipping, advertising, billing and public relations. Giving informed department reps a chance to swap ideas and air frustrations in an atmosphere of give-and-take, rather than blame-and-defend, can produce positive results and new respect among colleagues--who knew the key to this mess lay in labeling? Nobody, till the seminar.
Advantages of Seminar Use
The more employees and their leaders feel valued by a company, the better effects on company performance are likely to be. "Feedback" forms completed at the end of a training lecture are likely to tell the present what he already knows – good info, well-organized, useful handouts, yawn, yawn, yawn. The inch of dust in the bottom of the suggestion box is found in organizations where employees feel their opinions and ideas are ignored.
A seminar will not solve all an organization's problems, but it can directly address issues of sharing information, clarifying communication, and working cooperatively without fear of judgment or loss of status. If training sessions still seem like a dull way to spend the day, consider creating a seminar, and see the benefits of a new way of working together.
When to Seek an Expert
Creating a seminar for your organization can seem daunting. Many kinds of expert help are available. Consider talking with members of any professional association relevant to your business; most have speakers' bureaus and may well offer seminar leadership as well. Professional colleagues may also be good sources of local consultants, especially if they have attended or ran seminars on the topic at hand previously.
An internet search can also yield results. Leading seminars has developed into a huge profession and a search can take time. Listings of motivational speakers are enormous. You can narrow the search considerably by keywording the issue you wish to focus on: team-building, ethics, accounting, financial management and so on. Expert help can made a difference in success and provide you with models to conduct your own future seminars.
Janet Beal has written for various websites, covering a variety of topics, including gardening, home, child development and cultural issues. Her work has appeared on early childhood education and consumer education websites. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Harvard University and a Master of Science in early childhood education from the College of New Rochelle.