Choose seminars that fit your needs

Business workshops and seminars are predicted to be one of the hottest new growth industries. In the next four years alone, an increase of 30% is expected.

John Naisbitt and Patricia Aburdene, in their new book, "Re-inventing the Corporation," expect to see a continuing demand for personal growth. In fact, the authors say that corporations smart enough to devote time and money to employee development will attract and retain high-powered talent. Let's be smart about this. There are a lot of people waiting to take your money.

Here's a consumer's guide to choosing a seminar that will give you what you want:

One size fits all. Be suspicious of any seminar that promises too much. Goal setting, time management and conflict resolution can easily stand alone as seminar topics. A day long session that covers all three can be nothing more than a general overview. These once-over-lightly seminars are packaged for the impulse buyer.

They use the latest buzzwords to describe familiar concepts and promise to cure every management ill in "one dynamic day for the low price of $45!"

Who are they kidding? Apparently a lot of people.

Narrow down the skills you want to learn or improve. You're wiser to spend your dollars on a specific topic in which you're really interested.

"This seminar is for anyone interested in..." No it isn't, and don't be fooled. That is another clue that the seminar is too general. They will attempt to hit the middle of the audience - which usually results in boredom for the other 75%.

The smaller the price, the larger the audience. The larger the audience, the more likely you are to hear lectures. Ugh. Look for seminars that offer a variety of formats - group discussion, video-taped skill practice, case study. Adults learn by experiencing.

And your instructor is...Your fate is in the hands of your instructor. Never attend a seminar if the instructor isn't even mentioned on the brochure.

Better yet, call the number on the flyer and ask to be called by the instructor. Ask him (or her) questions about the topic, who he has worked with in the past, what his background is. A quality instructor would welcome your questions and respect you for asking them.

The quick fix. Seminars have taken the place of on-the-job coaching, much like TV has taken the place of day-to-day parenting. Many managers miss the whole idea. For example, if Tim has been getting his reports in late, he may not need a time-management course. What he may need is simply more emphasis or reinforcement from you.

After exploring the situation with Tim, you may discover that he could use a better time-management system. A seminar is only part of the solution. The rest comes from on-the-job coaching. Making it stick. If you spend time and money on an employee's development, he or she must be accountable for the results.

Spend a few minutes with your employee before the seminar. Discuss the reason your employee is attending and what he or she hopes to get from the session.

A smart manager asks the employee to present pertinent information to the rest of staff (or you). Not only will everyone benefit, but the participant will retain twice as much because he or she will have to teach it.

The best situation is one in which the employee can apply what he or she learns directly to the job. Reinforcement from above is essential for the new skill to become permanent. A seminar cannot do what a boss will undo.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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