With so little time available and so much to do and learn, it is common to be frustrated with the barrage of seminar, training and workshop offerings that are available to us. Every day we receive e-mails, snail mail, phone calls, and advertisements telling us about the seminar, video, podcast, or webcast we absolutely MUST attend. So as I prepare my presentations at upcoming workshops for The Executive Committee, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and Florida International University, and to be on a panel for Spherion, I’m offering some advice to prospective attendees.
Recently, one of my clients asked me about a seminar offered by a competitor. His questions to me were, “Howard, take a look at this and let me know if you think I should go, and if you want to come with me?” Rather than answer the questions directly, I left him with these thoughts and some questions to ask himself.
Seminars are mainly given to sell books, other hard goods, courses, and consulting services. They are rarely deep enough for you to take away enough substance to solve your need. Also, research has suggested that you will only use 2% of what you learn. Consequently, one must perform a benefit-to-cost analysis to determine whether or not to attend any function or seminar.
- What will you gain by attending the seminar?
- Which of your goals for this year will attendance help you achieve?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how critical is this knowledge to achieving the goal(s) (10 being the highest)?
- Could you buy a book(s) and get more substance on the same subject at your own leisure?
- What are the odds that you will read and apply the book on a personal or firm-wide basis?
- Are the presenters the best people to teach you what you want to learn, and is attending the seminar a quick way to find out?
- If the knowledge is critical to this years’ goal(s) and you already know you or the firm needs to fill the gap, why are you not already bringing in an employee, consultant, or coach to help? Should you skip the seminar and call these people in to evaluate them for immediate hire?
- What will it cost you to attend this seminar?
- What is the fee for attending the seminar?
- What is the direct cost to you of missing work (e.g. if you charge an hourly rate, multiply that hourly rate times the number of hours you will not be working)?
- What is the cost of travel, hotel, meals, and incidentals, if applicable
- What is the cost to the firm of lost productivity? For example, if you are an accountant, and it is busy season, then the firm is usually stretched to get its work done. Your absence will stretch it further.
Time is precious, yet development is just as important. We need to be strategic in how we use our time and select seminars and workshops with purpose so that they help us achieve our goals.