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Training Seminars: Who Is Responsible for the Learning?

Submitted by  on February 24th, 2012

Presenter laptop and microphone setupAs professionals, we attend a lot of seminars. At these, we learn about the latest industry trends and the core skills we need to keep up with our profession. Some of us may also conduct seminars at conferences and internal to our organizations.

How do we make the best use of these seminars? This is an important question for both attendees and presenters. Many seminars are costly and we want to make sure that the information is both digestible and can easily be put into practice.

To answer this question, I first want to make a distinction between a “seminar” and a “training program”. With a “seminar”, the communication is mostly one-way (from presenter to attendee), is mostly informational and, most importantly, the locus of responsibility for implementing the ideas is with the attendee. With a “training program”, the opposite is the case. Communication is two-way or multi-way. The key focus is on practical application back on the job and the organization shares the responsibility for implementation.

And then there are all of the shades in between. The reason I make this distinction is so that we don’t get hung up as seminar presenters with making sure that attendees implement most of what they hear, read and see. As a case in point, there are a lot of seminars run at conferences. These show case studies, best practice, new theories, and so on. When we attend a conference, we don’t go there expecting to implement most of what we experience. As practitioners, we make a professional judgment on what we implement tomorrow, what we may implement next year and what we may never implement.

That being said, if we are running a “training program” designed to improve performance in the workplace or to give new employees the skills to do the job, then that is an entirely different matter. There are a number of training strategies and tools for organizations and trainers for turning training into improved performance. Coaching back in the workplace is one such key strategy. Another is to ensure that the learning outcomes are focused on the wanted business outcomes and are expressed in behavioral terms.

Other strategies include pre-course briefing and post-course debriefing sessions between the attendee and their manager, setting measurable goals and a learning plan, providing performance feedback, aligning company incentives with the new wanted behaviors and providing on-the-job aids.

What other differences can you think of between attending a seminar and participating in a training program? And what implications does that hold for responsibility for application back on the job? Please share your thoughts.

High Impact Training GuideIf you want to maximize the effectiveness of your training programs and seminars, then check out Leslie Allan’s high impact training guide, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance. Learn proven strategies and techniques for finding performance roadblocks, aligning training to real needs, developing training partnerships, engaging learners and maximizing learning transfer. Find out more about From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance and download the free introductory chapter today.

Posted in Training | Comments (2)

2 Responses to “Training Seminars: Who Is Responsible for the Learning?”

  1. Karen Carleton Says:

    Les I may be unusual as an instructor/facilitator, but no matter what the learning session, seminar, webinar or workshop is called I strive to offer relevant valuable information in a useful format. I also provide some opportunity to discuss and practice with the content. Then I get people to create even a small action plan of how they intend to apply it back on the job. Additionally, I get people to find an accountability partner within the group, swap numbers and emails to do check-ins two weeks later if my work ends after delivery. It may not be perfect but at least there is an attempt to bridge learning, retention and application, hopefully adding value to the participant and their organization or situation.

  2. Les Allan Says:

    Thanks Karen for your wonderful and very useful suggestions on how to help participants get the most out of any session. I really think you are showing the way on what is best practice.

    Kind Regards, Les Allan

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