Seminars, Conferences and Symposia
A seminar is a form of academic instruction, either at an academic institution or offered by a commercial or professional organization. It has the function of bringing together small groups for recurring meetings, focusing each time on some particular subject, in which everyone present is requested to participate. This is often accomplished through an ongoing Socratic dialogue with a seminar leader or instructor, or through a more formal presentation of research. It is essentially a place where assigned readings are discussed, questions can be raised and debates can be conducted.
A seminar may be defined as a gathering of people for the purpose of discussing a stated topic. Such gatherings are usually interactive sessions where the participants engage in discussions about the delineated topic. The sessions are usually headed or led by one or two presenters who serve to steer the discussion along the desired path.
PURPOSE OF A SEMINAR
A seminar may have several purposes or just one purpose. For instance, a seminar may be for the purpose of education, such as a lecture, where the participants engage in the discussion of an academic subject for the aim of gaining a better insight into the subject. Other forms of educational seminars might be held to impart some skills or knowledge to the participants. Examples of such seminars include personal finance, web marketing, real estate, investing or other types of seminars where the participants gain knowledge or tips about the topic of discussion.
Of course, a seminar can be motivational, in which case the purpose is usually to inspire the attendees to become better people, or to work towards implementing the skills they might have learned from the seminar. For instance, a business seminar with a financial theme could be for the purpose of teaching small business owners how to pitch to investors or to write a solid business plan, and to motivate them to get started right away.
Sometimes, seminars are simply a way for businessmen and women, or other like-minded people, to network and meet other attendees with similar interests. Such seminars provide opportunities for the attendees to make some potentially valuable contacts that can help them move to the next level in their careers or endeavors.
A trade seminar brings a wide cross-section of the community together, such as government officials, businessmen and women and the general public. Such seminars often consist of workshops and the presentation of white papers. They are usually held for the purpose of networking with various vendors and making new connections.
A conference is generally understood as a meeting of several people to discuss a particular topic. It is often confused with a convention, colloquia or symposium. While a conference differs from the others in terms of size and purpose, the term can be used to cover the general concept. A convention is larger than a conference; it is a gathering of delegates representing several groups.
At a conference, innovative ideas are thrown about and new information is exchanged among experts. Its purpose could be one of the following:-
- An academic conference is a gathering of scientists or academicians, where research findings are presented or a workshop is conducted.
- A business conference is held for people working in the same company or industry. They come together to discuss new trends and opportunities pertaining to the business
- A trade conference takes place on a larger scale. Besides businessmen, there are members of the public who come to network with vendors and made new connections. Such a conference consists of workshops and white paper presentations.
A symposium is generally defined as a meeting organized so that experts in a given field can meet, present papers, and discuss issues and trends or make recommendations for a certain course of action. Some definitions of symposium include a degree of audience participation that is less than that of a forum, thus implying a greater structure to the meeting format.
Symposiums have an implied academic aspect that distinguish them from seminars. After a symposium, attendees should come away having gained a greater degree of knowledge about a topic or a deeper understanding of an issue. They may have heard entirely new concepts about an existing subject or have been introduced to something completely new.
FORMAT OF THE SYMPOSIUM
A symposium can take a number of different formats, which are determined by the number of presenters, subject matter, time for questions, travel, and—quite simply—the budget. However, a standard format follows this order:-
- Welcome remarks delivered by the hosts/organizers of the symposium.
- Introduction of a moderator for the symposium who will in turn introduce the keynote speaker and the panelists, pose questions, and facilitate discussion.
- A keynote speaker who will deliver remarks on the overall theme of the symposium. The keynote speech is typically presented before the panel discussion or during or after a luncheon.
- During the panel discussion, the moderator introduces each presenter with a brief biography. The speaker will have a few minutes to speak on the topic and may give an overview plus his or her personal or professional perspective. After the individual presentations, the moderator guides a round table discussion among the panelists, often with pre-selected questions that have been sent to the panelists in advance.
- The symposium generally concludes with a question and answer period. Often, the hosts simply take microphones into the audience. For a more structured environment, questions can be submitted in writing and read by the moderator.