The View from the Training Room Part 2 – Why Being Taken Away from the Office Can Be a Good Thing

Last week I started the first in a series of blog posts looking at training from the perspective of someone who has been attending the types of events posted at IEO.

In that post, I looked at what it means to go on a training course for a day – but this is just one of the many types of events available that could benefit those of us working in financial services.

This week, I want to look at the topic of seminars. And the first question I had to ask myself was, what really is a seminar? And then, how does it differ from a training course?

Seminars explained

Do a quick Google search on the word “seminar”, and the first definition that comes back I think sums it up reasonably well:

“a conference or other meeting for discussion or training”.

Except there is still a little bit of confusion, because of the use of the word “conference”.  In our industry, as in many others, we have what we like to think of as Conferences with a big C – the big ticket one or two-day gatherings where keynote speakers deliver very important addresses using large projectors to reach hundreds of people in big conference rooms. And I’ll talk about these types of conferences in a future post.

For now, the best way to think of a seminar is as a sort of mini-conference. The fundamental structure is the same, in terms of a number of people being gathered together in one place, but with one key difference.

In a seminar, the focus is to impart knowledge of a specific subject or skills in a certain area of work, to the attendees.

Take a look at any of the searches for events, and you’ll see a very heavy emphasis towards specific subject areas – whether it’s an introduction to a particular topic or function, or training on a particular law or set of regulations. Either way, the intention is for the delegates to come away from the seminar having learned something that they did not know beforehand.

Another form of training course?

There’s no doubt that there are a lot of similarities between seminars and training courses. From experience, the one big difference between the two is that seminars generally tend to have slightly more emphasis on the imparting of knowledge rather than towards making sure delegates acquire a new set of skills by the end of the course.

So, taking this all into account, what value do seminars give to those taking time out of their busy schedules to attend them? The problem with going along to these, as well as any other events, is that time spent away from the office means extra time spent catching up afterwards – so they had better be worth it.

A focused learning environment

The first major benefit is that, regardless of whether they’re just for a couple of hours, a half day or a full day, seminars allow those attending to learn about a subject in an undisturbed environment, from trainers who know their subject well. This is particularly beneficial for those who need specific learning, for example, an introduction to a particular subject or material of a highly technical nature. Whilst this does result in inconvenience in terms of being taken away from the day job, there is the trade-off that, in this type of environment, knowledge can be acquired quickly and efficiently; perhaps more efficiently than if the delegate tried to acquire it for themselves.

This is a particularly useful attribute for those who need to apply the knowledge either on the job or as a precursor to a program of studying.

Small groups

Whilst there are exceptions to every rule, seminars by and large tend to be geared towards smaller groups of delegates. This is often because that’s the best way for delegates to achieve the learning objectives in a relatively short space of time. Too many delegates, and it becomes difficult for those attending to be interactive, ask questions, and make the most of the trainer’s knowledge and expertise.

Interaction with others

As I alluded to above, there’s also the benefit of being able to interact with fellow delegates and share their knowledge and experiences, as well as best practice tips. That way everyone can learn from each other as well as the trainer, and can support each other in their learning.

My experience of seminars is that they can be quite nurturing environments, where people feel comfortable sharing their experiences and knowledge with others, and aren’t afraid to admit when they don’t know so much about a specific subject.

Hot topics

Seminars can also be a great way for particularly important subject areas in an industry to be discussed, and information imparted. Regulators, for example, can use seminars to explain a particular piece of impending regulatory change to the industry.

Product providers and consultants can use seminars to provide information and insight into specific topical subject areas – and if they manage to promote their products and services at the same time, then all the better!

Marginal time

Seminars can often be structured in such a way that they provide as little intrusion as possible into the working day. As a result, breakfast seminars or briefings are a very popular way of engaging with an audience, allowing them to go to do their full day job straight afterwards.

Also, seminars can be held after working hours which suits some people too. Either way, these are great opportunities for information and learning to be imparted in a comfortable environment.

Fitting into the plans

So the question to be asked is “how can seminars help my training plans?”

This can be answered in one of two ways.

Firstly, if you have a specific subject area in mind, you can search for this to see what events are available.

Or alternatively, you can just keep your ear to the ground to see what events are coming up that may be of interest.

Either way, seminars are a great training tool, and can be a very powerful tool in personal and team development.

Martyn Oughton    

By Martyn Oughton a Professional Member of the International Compliance Association (ICA).  Martyn now writes a regular blog for Industry Events Online focusing on the importance of training in all aspects of compliance. Read Martyn's other publications at Martyn's Writers' Residence website.

To keep up to speed with new events and blog posts sign up to the Industry Events Online weekly newsletter.