Less Stress Seminars – Toby Cowern

I recently had a great discussion with a number of instructors about organizing and running seminars. Seminars are exceptionally commonplace in many industries and depending on the organization and instructors involved will run to widely varying standards.

One of the points we discussed in detail was ‘new’ students who maybe attending a seminar for the first time and have little or no experience or background in the subjects too be covered.

While it is always great to have new people interested in the subject you teach, there is potential for things to go awry if the student is unaware of expected behavior.

One of the things I routinely do for courses I run is provide a comprehensive set of ‘Joining Instructions’ that provide details on logistics, equipment, itinerary and expectations for the course. While some seminars do not need this level of detail, it strikes me that providing a clear and simple ‘Guidance List’ is of great benefit to students and Instructors alike. With some great help form my peers the following list was produced as a ‘start point’ for communicating ‘Seminar Standards’ to Students.

1) Be a little early on the (first) day. This gives you time to get orientated and complete any necessary paperwork/payments.

2) Be punctual for all other timings given, especially breaks. You don’t want to wait for the instructor. The instructor and other students do not want to wait for you.

3) Be clean. Bring fresh clothes for each day, especially if it is a multi-day seminar.

4) For sensitive or personal questions consider waiting for a break or when the instructor is alone before asking.

5) Combined with 4. THINK about the suitability of your questions. If unsure begin your question with ‘Is it OK if I ask about….’. Some instructors are happy to talk about profound subject (e.g. Killing. MOST are not…)

6) ASK before taking photos/video footage, unless this is clearly covered in the opening brief.

7) Keep the questions relevant to the discussed subject.

8) Realize that this is a learning event for everyone, attendees and instructors alike. Be patient, try, and be there for the right reason.

9) If you’re confused about etiquette it’s ok to ask a more experienced person.

10) If you don’t want to participate in a particular activity it’s fine to sit it out and observe, as long as you don’t disrupt the class.

11) Don’t think you know more than everyone else in the room, or persistently question the instructor’s techniques comparing them to something else you saw in another seminar.

12) Be responsible for your own safety and welfare.

Finally, where appropriate, specific guidance should be given on the carry, use and handling of weapons (and training weapons) Ensure students are aware of the ‘Weapon Rules’.
-Look but don’t touch.
-Don’t handle without the owner’s explicit permission.
-Don’t draw a blade without telling people that you are drawing.

I hope the list is of use, and we in the Conflict Research Group encourage you to use and add to the list as you see fit. If you have ideas you would like to share on things that can be added to the list, head over to our Conflict Manager Facebook group and leave us a comment!

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