How to write better F2F seminars and training sessions

Despite the increasing amount of virtual seminars and training technology available now – or perhaps even because of it – the face-to-face offline variety is still very much alive and kicking.

How to write better F2F seminars and training sessions

You can put your audience into small groups (with a facilitator) and send them off to breakout rooms or other quiet spots, depending on your venue, to work on some sort of exercise.

With so many digital toy-toys around to distract participants and isolate them from each other, good writing skills in live sessions can help create a powerful group dynamic, focused enthusiasm and longer-term content retention.

Here are the key issues you need to get right…and how to do it:

The first issue to look at is your F2F interactivity

Asking the audience a few questions isn’t enough; there’s a lot more you can do – especially if you’re able to write appropriate scripts – without necessarily spending more money on the event.

For instance, you can introduce a breakout session part of the way through.

Here, you put your audience into small groups (with a facilitator) and send them off to breakout rooms or other quiet spots, depending on your venue, to work on some sort of exercise.

Ensure the exercise is written so it’s absolutely relevant to your audience’s needs and objectives and/or the training objectives concerned.

Get them back into the plenary session, appoint one person from each group to report the group’s findings, and chair a discussion based on those.

Be imaginative with your seminar or training session seating arrangements

Another way to make the event more interactive is to use a “café theatre style” seating plan.

Basically you sit small groups of your audience in a “U” shape around round or oval tables, so all can see the presentation area, but can also talk to and interact with people at their own table.

If you use this seating plan you can set exercises as I describe above, without moving people away from the plenary area into breakout rooms. (And that can be a useful cost-saving where your seminar or training session venue is concerned.)

Incorporate variety of presentation style

Another way of keeping participants’ attention is to create a bit more variety within your presentation approaches.

Try using two speakers for one presentation – splitting the script between them almost as a conversation, with each one linking to the other and back again.

For greater credibility, write each speaker’s sections in his or her own, natural speaking style.

You can also use “interview” techniques whereby one of your people interviews another so the information is conveyed in a question and answer style. Write this carefully so that it doesn’t sound contrived.

Use a relaxed set up for this – the two people sitting either side of a low coffee table on the stage or set area, not both standing at lecterns.

Another approach is the panel discussion style, chaired by one person who acts as an introductory link to each individual presenter. This is helpful if you want to move on to a Q&A session immediately afterwards, as you’re already set up for it.

Keep the content moving

Above all, the key to avoiding potential boredom is not so much to write in digital whizzy gizmos, videos, music, dancing girls and the like. It’s about breaking up the content into short, digestible chunks.

Even a beautifully made video will get boring if it goes on for 25 minutes.

People’s attention spans tend to wane after a relatively short time, so you should keep chopping and changing as often as possible – with no entire section longer than 25 minutes tops, preferably shorter. (And videos need to be shorter again – no more than 7-8 minutes in our attention-deficit era.)

Don’t forget your participants are human

Don’t expect participants to endure long, unbroken F2F seminars or training sessions no matter how well broken up the content is.

People can only handle so much concentration without a break to relax and recharge, so make sure you allow time for refreshments and comfort breaks. These, especially the lunch breaks, don’t want to last for too long as you may well find people drifting off if not physically, perhaps mentally.

When timing the breaks, bear in mind how long it will take for people to get served, too – long line-ups for a buffet can mean that the “tail-end-Charlies” only have ten minutes to eat.

If you would like some practical helping with writing for training purposes, don’t forget we have more than 20 articles and tutorials here on HTWB to help your words work even better.

And most of all, don’t forget to follow-up your seminar or training session

The wonderful Tim Minchin, Australian writer and artist amongst many other things, said in his speech at his alma mater the University of Western Australia that within one week, the audience would only remember a few things from what he was about to say, and within two weeks they would have forgotten it altogether. (Watch his speech here if you have a minute – it’s brilliant.)

That’s true of even the most riveting of speeches, presentations and various forms of training.

The only way to perpetuate the message from a seminar or training session – whether offline or online – is to follow up, follow up, and follow up some more. And that’s a cue for another blog post: watch this space.

What experiences have you had with creating powerful and effective F2F seminars and training sessions?

Please share!