As I was busily rearranging the hotel ballroom where my seminar was to be held, a man arrived, marched to the front seat, sat down, folded his arms over his chest and said in a demanding voice, “This better be good!”

I was quite certain that he was about to be disappointed.

During the break at the same class, another man rushed up to me, eyes glowing, and said, “I can’t believe what is happening. I wasn’t even supposed to be here tonight. I came to take notes for a friend who couldn’t make it. Already, I have thought of several businesses I could start!”

Every class I teach has a variation of this theme. While the information is the same, some people leave with nothing and others leave with more than they expected to get.

How can you be the one to get more out of the classes and seminars you attend?

Having spent a lot of time on both sides of the desk, here are a few tips I’ve garnered:

° Be responsible for what happens in the class. Do you realize, for example, that you can help the leader do a better job? By nodding, smiling, responding, you can encourage—or discourage—the person leading the class.

Nonverbal communication is strong in a classroom. If you frown or appear indifferent, you may have a negative impact on the person teaching the course. By supporting the teacher, you’ll get a better class. No kidding.

° Come ready to learn. Leave your problems and worries outside the room and let your sense of adventure take over. For a few hours, suspend your resistance and be open to the ideas and information you’re receiving.

° Pick the best seat in the house.  Arrive a bit early and select the best vantage point you can get. Make sure you can see and hear what’s going on. The farther to the front that you place yourself, the fewer the distractions.

° Take two sets of notes. Make one set factual (i.e. important points given in the lecture) and another of ideas that you get during the course of the lecture. In other words, begin applying ideas to your life immediately.

° Be a regular student. Of course, expanding your knowledge can be fun and interesting, but there are larger benefits. Seminars and classes can strengthen your self-confidence, motivate you, awaken ideas and thoughts that have been dormant.

You may even transform your life. Only Cinderella changed hers with a magic want. Modern versions of the story such as My Fair Lady and Educating Rita rely on education to perform such miracles.

Take your self-education seriously. And while not all classes and seminars will be equally powerful, you’ll still receive the rewards that come from keeping your curiosity alive.

5 Responses to “Getting the Most From a Class or Seminar”

  1. Ami

    I love this, and I believe it wholeheartedly. In a variation on your suggestion to take 2 sets of notes – I like to use a notebook with an extra wide left margin and no right margin. As I take notes, I put potential “action items” in the left margin with a big star so I remember to follow up.

  2. Barbara Winter

    Ami, years ago I heard a story about a very successful entrepreneur who was also (not surprisingly) a lifelong learner. He used the same notetaking system that you describe to keep information separate from the ideas he got while listening to the speaker.

  3. Regina Mize

    I too loved your comment about keeping two sets of notes. And similar to what Ami said, I always keep a blank sheet of paper designated for any ideas that may pop into my head while listening to the speaker. I also always keep a notebook with me in my purse, that I cal my Idea Book, where I can jot down any ideas or action steps that I want to follow up on. It’s amazing how often great ideas and thoughts run through our mind, but if we don’t write them down where we can go back and reflect on them later, we often forget about them, or at least don’t make an active effort to follow through and take action on them.

  4. Steve

    Hi, Barbara. Reading this reminded me of how engaging your teleclass on building a seminar business was. You have a lot to share on the unique dynamics of preparing and presenting.

    Second, I noticed what may be a serendipitous slip (much better than Freudian). “Only Cinderella changed [her life] with a magic *want*.”

    Maybe there’s something in that story about desiring deeply and focusing on that desire to help us rise out of miserable circumstances!

    Best Regards,


  5. Barbara Winter

    Steve, Freudian slip indeed. I think I’ll leave it. Thanks for your comments, too.

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