An Article: The Backbone of a Great Seminar

Norman Ralph L2, United Kingdom

Norman Ralph L2, United Kingdom

Writing, reading and sharing articles is a cornerstone of the international judge program. The very fact you are reading this article is proof. Articles are great. They give projects and individual judges an opportunity to share an idea with a large group of people across the globe. They give the reader a chance to hear from those who live in different countries and continents. They are easily stored and archived and can be shared via a simple link. They can be printed, reposted, tweeted, copied, pasted and even read aloud. Articles are great.

Having extolled the virtues of the article, I now want to introduce you to seminars. Seminars are usually small events, facilitated by an individual, that invite participants to delve deeper into topics and discuss, practice and develop the ideas on show. Seminars allow groups of people to come together and share their own thoughts on any given topic. They provide a venue for learning, insight and debate.

Many articles are full of insight and these articles are ideal to form the basis of a seminar. However, there is more to achieving this than just copying and pasting the words on to a slide and then reading it to an audience. I will present some suggestions on how to take an article and make it into a great seminar.

1. Seen but not heard.

Articles are written to be read. They are words on a page that need to be read by a person. It is a one to one relationship between the author and the reader. They can be tackled in chunks or as a whole and any supplementary material is available directly via the use of hyperlinks and references.

Seminars are both seen and heard. They are visual and audible. They create a number of relationships between the participants and the facilitator. They are self-contained in terms of content and supplementary material.

When turning an article into a seminar you have to think about how it will look and sound, rather than how it will be read. Images and sounds play a vital role in seminars so where possible you will want to replace chunks of text with media. They say a picture is worth a thousand words; in this case it is probably worth more!

2. Playing to the crowd.

When you are writing an article you are trying to communicate an idea to the widest possible audience. Your words will be chosen to engage with people who do not always share a language with you. It will be written in such a way as to be relevant to Level 1 through to Level 3 judges.

Seminars give you an opportunity to tailor your content and your language to the audience you are working with on any given day. This flexibility allows you to deliver a more bespoke experience, suited to the judges sat in front of you. You should use this opportunity. It will allow you to get the most out of your sessions and also means you can reuse the seminar in a number of different places without it coming across as tired or repetitive.

Not only does this advice apply to the overall tone and content but can also be applied to the way you deliver the ideas. Facilitating in front of local judges that you know well? Use in-jokes and anecdotes to spice up the delivery. Presenting at a judge conference at a GP? Reign in the colloquialism and use more images to convey your message.

3. Question time.

Writing an article is a process of connecting a series of statements. The author may use questions to highlight a point, but they will often answer the question as part of the text.

Seminars ask questions. The answers are then provided by the participants. The facilitator’s role is to support the participants in providing their own answer text as part of the session.

When turning your article into a seminar it is important to work out what the key questions are. What is it that you are trying to find an answer for? Is your article about deck checking? Then perhaps your questions should challenge the participants to consider why we have deck checks, who does them, how can we check a deck quickly and effectively, what are the risks.

4. Multiply.

Articles tend to be a single piece of writing, perhaps with links to outside material. Clever use of rhetoric is the author’s only way to provide colour and depth to their article, maybe they include some images to illustrate their points.

Seminars are multi-dimensional in how they are delivered. You have the facilitator guiding the conversation. There are usually slides or other visual aids to illustrate the key points and provide a focus between activities. There are presenter notes to keep the facilitator on track and provide additional material for questions and follow ups. There are also handouts that can include references, pictures, charts, further data and take away tasks.

When converting an article, it is worth thinking about how you can present the material across these methods. Key questions, points and pictures can go on slides. Anecdotes, jokes and linking material can be presented by the facilitator. Supporting data, references and detailed instructions for activities can be included in handouts either during the session or afterwards.

5. S.T.A.R. (Something They’ll Always Remember)

Being memorable in an article is a real challenge. The author needs to employ a number of techniques and hope they pull them off effectively in order to make their words stand out. They need to find a great quote, a pithy conclusion or a very funny joke to make their article stick in the minds of their audience and make them want to tell their friends. This is really hard to do well and almost impossible to do in such a way that it works for everybody.

With a seminar you have a lot more scope to think STAR. You have access to more images, video, audio, voice, action and more. Ensuring that you make the seminar have that one moment to remember is much easier to achieve but also much more important. An article can be re-read, be shared and discussed and can be posted on social media. With a seminar, you have to make the impression in the room. At judge conferences and GPs, judges will get inundated with information and you need to make sure your information sticks.

The real key to turning your article into a seminar is how you identify that STAR moment. For me, it is best to look at your article and ask “what is the most important idea?” and then find a way to make that pop in your seminar. Others find taking an attention grabbing start to be the STAR moment or that ending with a bang is the best way. In the end, what you choose is less important that making sure you include at least one moment where the participants in your seminar are forced to sit up and pay attention.

Wrapping Up

If you apply some of the ideas above then you will find turning your articles into seminars much easier and the end result will be a lot more beneficial to you and your participants. If you only take one lesson from this article then it should be STAR – you need to include that memorable moment.

As I said in my introduction, articles are great, and I hope you all keep writing them, reading them and sharing them. I hope this article has led you to agree that whilst articles are great so are seminars and you now have the tools to do both!

To better illustrate our point, we decided to go meta.

The text of this article is used to narrate the slides, but we added some changes to make it more dynamic IRL

From which we can also prepare our Presenter Notes

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