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Businesses organize seminars to train or present information to employees, customers, investors and business partners. Organizers use a range of presentation activities, including lectures, keynote presentations, question-and-answer sessions, roundtables, breakout sessions, videos and slide shows, to engage audiences and achieve their objectives.
Seminar objectives determine the choice of presentation activities. In a training seminar, for example, the presenter may want to develop knowledge or understanding of a topic. A lecture supported by slides or video and breakout or question-and-answer sessions would be an appropriate activity. If the objective is to develop skills, the presenter also should include demonstrations. A seminar to communicate important information, such as a new product announcement, financial results or a merger, should include a keynote presentation, roundtable and question-and-answer session.
Lectures and Keynote Presentations
The most basic presentation activity is a talk or lecture by a subject expert. If there are a number of presenters in a seminar, some may give keynote presentations. Keynotes are presentations that cover the most important topics and are generally given by senior executives or leading industry figures. While lectures and keynotes impart information, they are a one-way form of communication and rely on competent speakers to hold the audience’s attention.
Speaker Support Material
Slides, videos and other visual aids, such as flip charts and diagrams, help presenters explain complex concepts or make data clearer. Slides should be simple and uncluttered so the audience listens to the presenter, rather than reading information on screen. Apple Corporation recommends dropping short videos into longer presentations to retain audience attention.
Introducing breakout sessions increases audience involvement in a seminar, helps reinforce presentation content and provides organizers with immediate feedback on seminar sessions. Small groups meet in separate areas, inside or outside the main seminar room. They discuss the content of the presentations and report their views to the rest of the audience. A company presenting a new product to its sales force, for example, might ask sales reps to discuss and propose ways to present the product to customers during the breakout session.
Roundtables and Question and Answer Sessions
Organizing a roundtable session during a seminar gives the audience an opportunity to hear the views of different experts discussing an important topic. Ideally, the participants should come from different backgrounds or hold opposing views to give the audience a balanced perspective. Introducing a question-and-answer session enables the audience to find out more about a topic from their own perspective. Organizers can invite questions from the floor after each seminar session or ask the audience to provide questions in advance of the seminar, with presenters replying during a single session. The first approach helps to build dialog between audience and presenters but can cause problems with seminar timings if the Q&A sessions overrun.
Based in the United Kingdom, Ian Linton has been a professional writer since 1990. His articles on marketing, technology and distance running have appeared in magazines such as “Marketing” and “Runner's World.” Linton has also authored more than 20 published books and is a copywriter for global companies. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and economics from Bristol University.