What Is a Seminar?

Definition & Examples of a Seminar

Man speaking at a seminar
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A seminar is a commercial program where attendees are given information or training about a specific topic. A seminar is usually held for groups of 10 to 50 individuals and frequently takes place at a hotel meeting space, an academic institution, or within an office conference room. Some common types of seminars in business focus on personal development or business strategies.

What Are Seminars?

Seminars, sometimes called conferences, are events sponsored by businesses or corporations with the intention of circulating knowledge, new techniques, or new practices to their employees.

Seminars should not be confused with workshops. Workshops tend to be more hands-on, while seminars are generally geared more toward learning about a particular topic or related subtopics. They might involve guest speakers who are experts in the relevant field to give credibility to the information being presented.

Guest speakers should be vetted and selected for their industry knowledge and experience, as well as their delivery. If an industry expert cannot speak well or interest people, money and time will be wasted.

An example, consider a tech corporation that wants to make sure it's programmers are up to par with recent changes to the programming language they use. The planners would find experts in the language who could teach the changes, locate a venue, and coordinate employee attendance. They'd also check with the expert to see if there was a need for special equipment, materials, or anything else needed for a successful seminar flow.

How Do Seminars Work?

A seminar can be initiated and planned for in different ways. Generally, a corporation identifies an area in which it wants to educate some employees. Planners then identify available venues and experts and then create a schedule for the event. They identify presentation methods and requirements, refreshments, restrooms, estimate costs, and deconflict any situations that might interfere with the seminar.

If you're planning an event, it's important to be organized and have a detailed checklist to keep yourself on task. There are a number of items that should be on your seminar planning checklist.

Confirm the Event's Purpose

You'll first need to understand why the event is being held. For example, you might be working on a seminar geared toward experts hoping to refine their knowledge or keep up to date on new developments. Ask specific questions to determine what they are in need of so that you can work to provide it.

Review the Event Industry Council Specifications Guide

The Events Industry Council (formerly APEX) has established a series of tools that offer an excellent source of best practices to help the event or meeting planner keep track of details.

Create an Event Profile

Once a planner has some of the basic questions about the event covered, it’s time to create an event profile. This report generally includes information about location, seating arrangements, attendance, costs, and any other information about the event.

Stay Informed

You want to make sure the seminar is not competing with similar events or for the same audience. For example, if you are developing a new event for an industry that already has a major event in the spring, avoid scheduling yours in the spring as well.

Request Venue Proposals

Solicit bids from potential locations. Depending on the size and scope of an event, this step should be taken well in advance. Venues for large events may book as much as a year or more ahead of time.

Outline the Seminar Needs

Determine the resources necessary to accomplish the goals of the event.

Budget Carefully

Expenses can mount for a large event like a seminar, so be prepared with a detailed budget.

Solicit Sponsorships

One of the best ways to help fund a seminar is to have sponsors. Businesses that send attendees to seminars often are willing to buy sponsorships as well.

Confirm And Develop the Agenda

The event planner must be ready to adjust the plan and work closely with the venue to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Confirm the Banquet Event Order

The Banquet Event Order is an outline of the entire seminar that acts as a guide for the staff of the venue. Once the planner knows the targeted number of attendees and logistic requirements for the seminar, they should submit this document to the venue management so that they can begin their preparations.

Create Event Communications and Material

Everything from event invitations to the agenda needs to be printed or designed for online publication and distribution.

Finalize Logistics With the Host

Confirm event speakers, technology requirements, the attendee count, host roles and responsibilities, and event materials by following up with phone calls or face-to-face meetings.

Allow Enough Time for Setup

All event materials, handouts, signage, displays, gifts, registration tables, name badges, and more must be ready for the event.

Find out how much time it will take to complete every item you need, then plan backward from the event date to ensure you have enough time to get everything scheduled and completed.

Utilize Technology

From marketing to event registrations, make it easy for potential attendees to learn about sign up for the seminar online. Take advantage of social media tools by creating a unique hashtag to be included with posts and offering incentives for people to share or tag friends in posts.

Have Contingency Plans

The bigger the event, the more possibilities there are for something to go wrong. Part of planning an event involves brainstorming potential problems that could arise—from guests arriving early to experts not showing. Have backup plans in place. Good backup plans can turn a potential disaster into an event that attendees thought went flawlessly.

Types of Seminars

There generally three different types of seminars that can be planned. Each of the three has different audiences and purposes, requiring different approaches to venues and costs.

Personal Development

Designed for the training and enrichment of employees, personal development seminars address everything from hard skills such as technology to soft skills like the psychology of leadership, and how those skills can be applied to the profession at hand.

These seminars can take the form of retreats or intensive discussions; they can also be used to train management or new employees in the company’s core values or procedures. For example, a company that has developed a new strategy or approach for its sales staff may run seminars to train salespeople on the changes and how best to implement them.

Business

Business seminars appeal to entrepreneurs or small business owners. They share success stories and strategies, as well as information about marketing, licensing and franchising, or other concerns. An example of one of these seminars might be a gathering focused on marketing through social media. Attendees would learn best practices for promoting their businesses through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms.

Academia

Sometimes an event planner is called on to execute a seminar in an academic setting. Less formal than a class lecture, a seminar allows for small groups to meet and discuss academic topics or required reading, as well as set goals for research and continuing investigation.

A school district that is revamping its science curriculum, for example, might hold a seminar for its science teachers to address the new standards and practices.

Key Takeaways

  • Seminars are events designed to pass along information, knowledge, or practices that are beneficial to the audience.
  • There are three general types of seminars.
  • It is best to use the checklist prepared by the planning industry to create events.
  • Always plan for contingencies.
  • Make sure the experts are known for their delivery as well as expertise.