How to Get the Most Out of Live Workshops and Seminars

How to Get the Most Out of Live Workshops and Seminars

This Post is Part 4 of a 5-Part Series on Professional Development.


Click the play button below to hear Suzi talk about live workshops. If the player does not work, click here to listen on Soundcloud.

What’s the difference between workshops and seminars—what can participants expect from each?

Workshops are instructor led but incorporate exercises, games, and social learning activities that allow people to practice skills. Seminars are typically informative lectures where a subject matter expert is sharing information. Examples may be keynote presentations or compliance updates and briefings.


What mindset should a person have going into one of these events?

I believe that training, outside of risk management and regulatory requirements, should be strictly voluntary.  Employees own their performance and development.  The employer provides the tools and resources, such as coaching and training, to achieve shared goals.

I always recommend that employers take the time to ensure that any training offered is directly related to their professional development and organizational objectives.  In other words, what are the specific knowledge, skill, or ability gaps you are looking to address?

Ultimately, if a person values professional development and recognizes the connection to their performance and success at work, they will likely possess the right mindset.  An open mind and willingness to share knowledge and experiment with new practices is important too.


What are the benefits of a live, in-person class versus participating as a webcast?

Certainly, if logistics do not permit attending a class in person, a webcast may be your best option.  The challenge with webcasts or live stream events, however, is that there is little to no opportunity for engagement – and engagement is a key factor for learning and retention.  Also, when people are sitting at their desks, they are more apt to be distracted by their email and other work on their desk.

Conferencing in remote employees to workshops is not ideal either, especially when there are group activities and team discussion.  When you can’t see people and observe their nonverbal cues, it makes it difficult to communicate with and include the people not in the room.  I have facilitated these sessions many times, even taping photos of the remote employees’ faces to empty chairs, but still, it is difficult for the remote folks to participate in the group exercises, because they are sitting at their desk alone.  You also have the situation where you ask the remote folks a question and get multiple people talking over each other.  It takes some skill and experience to facilitate it effectively.

Alternatives for remote employees include interactive web courses, webinars, and book groups.  Ideally self-study is paired with some form of social and experiential learning.


4-16-workshops-16You develop & deliver workshops regularly—what are a few things you always try to accomplish during the event to ensure people get the most value out of it?

I personally feel that it is my job to not only educate but to also entertain.  I think it is difficult to inspire people to take risks and change their behavior if they are not feeling engaged and positive.  If I’m not enthusiastic and passionate, how can I expect them to be?

I also remind myself that the training is not about me or an opportunity to tell people how much I know or give advice.  The training is about the participants – their needs, their interests.  This requires asking questions before and throughout the session to ensure I am addressing what is meaningful and can actually be applied.

I feel that I have succeeded if people walk away with at least one new tool that they commit to immediately applying in their job, whether it is implementing a new process or having an important conversation.  Effectively applying new skills and behaviors is the desired outcome, so I challenge people to openly share exactly what they plan to do.


What are the downsides of attending live events? If people say they don’t prefer attending live workshops or events, what’s a typical reason they give?

The top 2 are:

  • Time away from work, especially when they are under stress or deadlines; and
  • Past experience sitting through unengaging and irrelevant trainings.

I have actually overheard people saying, “ugh, I have a 4-hour training today”, and “nobody really likes training”.   I see this as a personal challenge.  I believe learning can be valuable if it is fun, challenges people and can be directly applied to make your life easier/better.


What does the future hold for live workshops? With the internet, do you think more or less people will treat this as a professional development option?

There is no question that people want 24/7 access to information and tools.  The younger generations especially understand that their personal and professional development is linked to their ability to readily access and apply knowledge, as well as through connecting with others.  Because of this, I believe the demand for web-based content will continue to grow.  The more interaction, whether it be through gamification or videos, the better.   This type of format has on-demand access and appeals to varying learning styles.

Workshops will always have value in my opinion.  Technology does not replace the  social interaction and relationship building that occurs in a live workshop, which has huge benefits to effectively applying learning in the workplace.  Also, there are skills such as conflict management, coaching and constructive feedback that require practice, such as role play.  A workshop can provide a safe and supportive environment to allow people to test out new techniques and receive helpful on-the-spot feedback before they have the actual conversations.

Our attention spans are also growing shorter, so shorter, more frequent trainings are best.  Unless I am facilitating a team building or retreat, most people want to keep workshops 2 hours or less.

Suzi Wear

A valued member of Xenium’s Senior Leadership team, Suzi gives clients the guidance they need to be better employers. With over 18 years of experience in human resource management, Suzi has provided her expertise to clients across a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, nonprofit, retail and professional services. As VP of People Development and Culture, Suzi oversees Xenium’s training and development programs, regularly leading workshops and seminars for business owners, managers and human resource professionals throughout the Northwest.


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