Top 10 Tips on Getting The Most out of a Seminar

on Tue 24 August 2010

Catherine Gibbon is a freelance Seminar Manager, currently engaged by exhibition organisers Waypoint to create and run a cutting edge seminar programme at the forthcoming Incentives & Promotional Marketing – Live! and Print for Business – Live! exhibitions being held at the NEC, 21-22 Sept. The seminar programme is published and places can be booked at or

Having previously worked at the Direct Marketing Association heading up the events team, Catherine left in November to freelance. Prior to this she worked at the Law Society, Newham Council’s 2012 Unit, Mind and Marcus Evans in their London, Singapore and Amsterdam offices. 

Catherine is implementing separate seminar programmes for dedicated seminar theatres in each of the two shows mentioned above – quite a task. Obviously she wants those attending to get the most out of their seminar experiences, so here are her Top 10 Tips:

Catherine says, “Seminars vary widely – some are stand alone events, some sit within a wider programme or exhibition, but the tips below should be useful for whichever type of seminar you are attending next. As with most things in life, the more you put into a seminar the more you’ll get out.”

1. Identify the sessions/speakers you want to hear

Get hold of a copy of the seminar programme beforehand. Which sessions or speakers grab your interest? Take a look at their company website, Linked In profile and any blogs they might write or contribute to. If you need to book, remember to do so. Agendas and speaker line-ups do change so keep checking the programme website.

2. Know where you’re going

It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people turn up in the wrong place. Make sure you’re going to the right Hilton or Marriott, is it Olympia or Earls Court (they are a good 15 minutes walk apart), NEC Hall 1 or Hall 9? (For my seminars in September, it’s Hall 7!)

3. Get there on time

Another obvious one, but if you aren’t there you can’t benefit. Check when the seminar starts, work out how long it will take for you to get there. That day, check the travel reports and if necessary leave earlier. You want to arrive calm, collected and ready to listen, not running down the corridor.

4. Dress in layers

If you’re sitting comfortably you’ll be more focused on what the speaker is saying. Air conditioning will never be perfect for everyone, what is warm for one person will be chilly for another. Also every room has hot and cold spots. If you feel a chill from the air conditioning vent when you sit down, move to another chair.

5. Take a pen and paper …

… or laptop, notepad or iPad. Jot down salient points as the speaker says them. You don’t need to have the skills of a courtroom stenographer, but some notes will remind you when it’s time for questions, and when you get back in the office. Even if you get a copy of the PowerPoint slides a good speaker will elaborate on them, not recite them verbatim at you.

6. Ask questions

Don’t feel embarrassed, put up your hand and take the proffered microphone. There are likely to be dozens of people in the audience wanting to know the same thing. There is no such thing as a foolish question, only an unanswered one. N.B. Hold the microphone at chin, not chest, level or no-one will hear you, and introduce yourself giving your name and organisation.

7. Take business cards and network

Introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you, go up to the speaker(s) at the end of the presentation. A seminar isn’t just about the speaker line up, or the drinks reception at the end, it’s about networking too. 

8. Turn your mobile phone to stun

You don’t want to be that person that everyone turns to tut at. If that urgent call comes through that you have to take discreetly, leave the room.

9. Tweet away

Many seminars, particularly multi-stream ones, will follow the seminar’s hashtag and will either display them during the day or use them for feedback. But only tweet after you’ve set your mobile phone to stun!

10. Tell colleagues and put what you’ve learnt into action

The best way to remember what you’ve learnt is to do it, the second best is to teach someone else. Plan to put at least one learning point into action within two weeks of getting back to the office, another within two months, and a third within six months.


Catherine Gibbon

Freelance Seminar Manager

Catherine will be at Incentives and Promotional Marketing - Live! 21 and 22 September, NEC, or she can be contacted through Linked In.

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