Seminars worth our while

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TERESITA TANHUECO-TUMAPON

GROWING interest on continuing professional and personal development (CPPD), be this be through seminars, workshops, conferences, etc. have come to the fore. A number of entrepreneurial groups, including professional associations, conduct review seminars for licensure examinations, IELTS and for other purposes. Known experts are flown not only from the national capital and across the country but also from across borders. One remark you may have heard is that lectures in some seminars are usually a repeat of the text on the power point slides, though differently worded. In cases where the slides are in complete sentences, the so-called seminar turns into a reading session. But first things, first— what are the major features of seminars worth our while?

What is a seminar? A seminar may be defined as “a gathering of people for the purpose of discussing a stated topic/s. Such gatherings are usually interactive sessions where the participants engage in significant discussions about the seminar topic/s.” Sessions are “usually led by one or more presenters who serve to steer the discussion along the desired path.” <http://www.evenues.com/event-planning-guide/what-is-a-seminar>. In an academic setting, a seminar is usually composed of a small graduate-level class of up to 15 students and runs from two to three hours for a day or two. (The web sources give out various class size from two students to not more than 15.)Seminar topics and related questions and references are assigned ahead for students to read. Thus, in a seminar, activities and discussions run throughout the session which encourage interaction between the students and the professor as the lecturer and discussion moderator. Sometimes, a visiting expert on the topic, guests the seminar. Also, students may be assigned to present an aspect of the topic and discussions follow. <http://askus.ecu.edu.au/app/answers/detail/a_id/686/~/what-is-a-seminar%3F>
Purpose of a seminar. Academic seminars aim for the students to gain a better insight into an academic subject. Other kinds of seminars aim to satisfy a personal interest. An example is a seminar for potential entrepreneurs who wish to gain knowledge and understanding of a topic or topics on start-ups. Or about personal finance management, or rearing children with disabilities, or web marketing, etc. A third purpose is for networking.

“Sometimes…businessmen and women, or other like-minded people,” [attend seminars]“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 fourth purpose is for policy dissemination. This is usually conducted by government to reach major stakeholders to solicit collaboration in policy implementation. This should not be confused with consultation meetings –a governance mechanism, where the purpose is to obtain reactions (e.g. comments, insights, suggestions) of specific sectors to a proposed law or policy. A fifth purpose is to motivate employees to perform their work better.

These seminars are meant to improve their knowledge and skills and even poise, good grooming. This could verge into a seminar cum workshop. A sixth purpose is updating professionals in their respective professions required to renew their licenses, or updating academics in their craft. For the latter, seminars for academics are conducted regularly by formal teaching and learning centers maintained by their universities.

Features of a worthwhile seminar. Having registered for the seminar, you receive the seminar brochure. It lists the seminar objectives with several focused and provocative questions that the seminar aims to address. The seminar begins with the lecturers’ introduction of seminar objectives relating each topic in a brief, clear, interesting manner spiced with good humor. Slides on power point, the commonly used medium, outline the presentation into keywords or phrases. Slides are simply worded, not complete sentences but use key words or phrases to present ideas. Physical-wise, no fancy fonts are used; font and background are in light and dark colors; figures, pictures or symbols relate meaningfully to the notes on the slides.<https://www shutterstock.com /…/tips-on-how-to-make-effective-beautiful-power point->. Lecturers clearly discuss the topics as outlined. They pause at significant segments of the outline to seek reactions from the audience. Pronounced interaction is obvious. Presenters offer further explanation as needed by the audience. In concluding, they reiterate the relationship of the whole presentation to the seminar objectives. Seminar venue, meeting rooms, rest/comfort rooms, presentation equipment, accessories and paraphernalia, sound system, air condition, lighting are well maintained and functional. Assistance for clerical and other tasks and seminar materials are readily available. Timeline for activities schedule, food, other amenities, and seminar fee are reasonable.

Seminar dynamics. Techniques to encourage significant discussions are utilized such as grouping and regrouping participants, provoking interaction among and between individual participants and groups. Facilitators avoid giving their own assessment of a group’s work. Instead, they invite other groups to react on another group’s work.

Facilitators allow breaks without disrupting intensive discussions. Games are meaningful, enjoyable, elucidate ideas and convey messages relevant to the intended topic. Groups present in plenary their synthesized discussions in an open forum. At the concluding session of a seminar, participants are invited to volunteer to share their reflections on their experience and how learning gains may be utilized in their respective settings.

Volunteers invite suggestions. At end of seminar or through email, synthesis of the main ideas during the proceedings are given or sent to seminar participants.

The foregoing considered, participants’ evaluation at end of sessions of the extent the seminar met its target goals, would likely show that the seminar was indeed worth their while.

Email: ttumapon@liceo.edu.ph

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