Anyone who works in an office surely gets junk mail, and surely this mail consists of flyers with “Improve Your Management Skills!” and “OSHA Standards and What It Means For Your Business.” Many of these flyers come from National Seminars, or NATSEM.
Seminars are usually held in a hotel right next to a highway exit or right next to an airport. I’ve been to 3 seminars since August; one on Powerpoint, one on marketing, and another on page layout, which is the latest one I’ve attended. They all have the same formula: there’s a greeting and “networking process” for about 30 minutes, an outlook on what the course is about and then the course.
p>Quickly, within 10 minutes of entering the room, you’ll realize what kind of crowd you’re dealing with. Three kinds of people come to these things;
- People who want to learn about the topic
- People who were forced to come to the seminar because of their boss
- People who come to get a day off or a day out of the office, depending on how you look at it
I have usually been the youngest person at the seminars I’ve attended. Most of the attendees consist of middle-age people who are willing to pay $200 to get a day of someone showing them how to use Powerpoint. They don’t know much about computers. At the page layout seminar the instructor was talking about how everyone should use Indesign because it’s much easier to use than QuarkXPress, and eventually Quark is going to be put out of business. He tried to explain Adobe buying Macromedia. It left a lot of confused people calling back to the office on their cell phones during the break, saying “We’ve got to switch from Quark to Adobe…Why!? Because Indesign just bought Dreamweaver!”
It’s like when people discuss new iPods and say “Have you seen the new iPod that Mac just released!?” When the iTunes Music Store came out I sent a link to my music business teacher and she discussed it in class saying “Did you see what Mac is doing now?” Drives me nuts, but I attempt to forgive them for they know not what they do.
Inevitably you’ll be seated near a #1. You can tell who the #1s are about a half hour into the course. They always have something to say and they’ll agree with everything the instructor says. If you are sitting next to one you will hear the following words many times during the day: yes, absolutely, uh-huh, yup, oh, I, agree, that’s, awful, design. They’re also interested in hearing your life story despite the likelihood of you never seeing them again. They’re also likely to be amazed when an instructor pulls up Photoshop from the OSX dock and lets the icons magnify. “OH! That’s pretty! How did you do that?” If you are not seated next to a person like this then YOU ARE THIS PERSON.
#2s are usually quiet throughout the day, although #3s may have something to contribute other than the standard “Uh-huh”s and “Yes”s of the #1s. I’m somewhat of a conglomeration of all 3. I’m the asshole that’s asking “why should I upgrade to CS2 from CS1?” which probably leaves most attendees scratching their heads.
“See me during the break” is the reply.
Most seminars have breaks every hour. Friday’s however had only 3, and that’s if you count lunch. During the next session the instructor discusses some feature from CS2 and points me out saying “which YOU forgot to ask me about, and we can take this layer and…”
I wanted to reply “No sir, I did not forget to ask you anything. I just didn’t want to interrupt your sales pitch.”
That’s what they don’t advertise in the flyers: the SEMINAR SALES PITCH!
Meshed between the lessons are 10 minute segments of how everyone should own this book, or this software, or whatever. THIS is where the money is made, and it’s the #1s who fall into this trap. They are the only ones who buy the overpriced merchandise, stock photos, whatever is being sold, because they mindlessly take the instructor’s word as if it were sent directly from God. We only get 2 breaks the whole day but we have time to talk for a total of maybe 40 minutes (yes, almost an hour) of why I should buy Digital Juice? “All this can be at your disposal for ONLY $499.99!” It’s ridiculous and I kind of want to be in the class where someone finally snaps and goes off during the pitch. Hopefully I wont’t be seated in the direct path of gunfire.
Probably the worst thing about it is how it’s presented; not so much about the product but more about which box you’ve got to circle to ORDER TODAY! All the seminars come with a free order form like the one you got in elementary school during the Book Farm, or whatever they called it when it came to your school.
During the break the instructor had a beautiful pitch about his DVD; not a DVD he was merely selling, but literally his instructional DVD. He is the main star of the video. He was probably trying to sell it to a #1. How could I interrupt that? He had probably rehearsed it in front of a mirror, maybe to his family…
So, through all the Digital Juice BS and how we have to buy this edition of this stylebook, or this collection of fonts, how much substance is left? What did we learn? If I can get past my feelings of the shameless sales pitches then I feel like I come away with something maybe 50% of the time. Friday’s was the best one I’ve been to, but I shouldn’t have to pay (or rather, companies shouldn’t have to pay) NATSEM to try to sell me all their wonderful resources.