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Have seminars passed their sell-by date?

Up to about a decade ago, seminars were the 'in thing'. Particularly those featuring guest speakers flown in at great expense from overseas. Venues were packed to the rafters with delegates prepared to pay top dollar to learn something, anything.

But over the past few years, attendance at a lot of commercial seminars, workshops and conferences seems to have dropped alarmingly - so much so that organisers have had to resort to some very creative plans to actually make ends meet.

The most odious of these is only inviting speakers who are prepared to address audiences free of charge. The idea here is that in exchange for their talks, speakers get the exposure as well as a bit of publicity in the programme notes.

Boring speakers

The problem I have with this is that not only is the quality of whom one gets often questionable, but many of these speakers are also unaccustomed to public speaking and hence pretty darn boring. And if they're not boring they tend to use the opportunity to punt their own businesses rather than pass on any sort of useful information.

There seems to be no question that the seminars and conferences that work are those that pay experts to come and do the job. Having said that, there are some so-called experts who demand top dollar appearance money but are even worse than the amateurs in terms of delivering value.

Something else that irritates delegates these days is the ubiquitous Powerpoint presentation. And the reason for this is that many speakers make the mistake of using the Powerpoint as a sort of autocue or prompt for their notes, with the result that audiences have to sit and listen to someone simply reading what's up on the screen anyway.

Questionable value

All of which makes setting up a seminar these days a nightmare.
What seems to be very clear is that more and more businesses are getting more and more wary of spending R4000 a day for their staff to attend seminars and not getting anything useful out of it.

It seems to me that organisers need to take a long hard look at the way they do things and change some paradigms, because if the majority carry on the way they are right now, they will simply not survive.

And the big question that needs to be asked is: with the advent of real broadband and the growth of the internet, will seminars still have a role to play, given that one will be able to sit at home and for a lot less money access some of the greatest experts from all over the globe.

Have seminars passed their sell-by date or do they just need to be revamped and have a lot more value added?

About Chris Moerdyk

Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk is a former chairman of Bizcommunity. He was head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on moc.liamg@ckydreom and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk.

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