teach learnWhat is the difference between a seminar and a workshop?

I can’t be the only person who has wondered this…  We often see seminar and workshop being used interchangeably to describe a person presenting information to a group of people.  However, there is a small difference between the two and in my opinion, it sets the expectation for the intended audience.

Merriam Webster defines a seminar as:

a meeting in which you receive information on and training in a particular subject

While a workshop is defined as:

a class or series of classes in which a small group of people learn the methods and skills used in doing something

What’s my point?

Often when we plan events, we neglect giving the event the proper title therefore people don’t know what to expect when they arrive.  A seminar should set the expectation that the audience will receive information.  In this setting the speaker will be sharing information or teaching about a subject.  A workshop, on the other hand, sets the expectation that the audience will be engaged and involved with the training.

This is important, especially for event planners, to understand so that when you book a speaker, you can be clear about what you want them to do.  Do you want them to stand before your group and talk about a subject?  Or, do you expect them to involve the group in the teaching?  This relatively small difference could make a huge difference when it comes to the success of your event.  Are you planning the event for people who prefer to sit and listen or will your group want to be more involved?

It is also important for presenters to understand and to recognize their strengths and weaknesses with each.  Are you better standing before an audience and stating your information with little to no involvement from the group or do you prefer having interaction?  Are you able to do both depending on the audience (ideal position)?  If you see that the crowd is not getting involved, can you extend the presentation and maintain their attention?  If you have a large amount of material to present and the audience is very participatory, can you condense the information so that they are able to feel included?

As a presenter you should be clear about your preferred style and ensure that you are clear about the event planners expectations.  Event planners should also know their target audience and attempt to find presenters who will be able to keep the audience engaged while sharing the desired amount of information.