Getting More out of Seminars and Camps

Getting more out of Seminars and Workshops

“Things turn out the best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.” -Anonymous

A substantial amount of time and money are spent on attending and participating in training seminars and camps. For agility enthusiasts of all levels, these are hard earned dollars and most often, weekends spent away from family. You want value. At the end of a camp or seminar, you want to leave with the feeling that it was worth it.

A large chunk of this feeling of worth comes from what the presenter and host provide. If you do your research and speak to colleagues who have already participated, you can be pretty sure of the quality of the seminar. But this is only part of the picture.

The other part of the picture is you. As a participant, you shoulder a fair bit of responsibility for the “value” of the seminar. Once committed (whether you think the presenter/material is good), you are responsible for making the best of what is offered.

To get that extra value out of every seminar and camp you attend, you need to be aware of a dynamic that is in play when working as part of a group. People tend to use less effort performing tasks in a group setting when compared to working on their own. This can have a dramatic effect on the value you gain from taking part in a camp or seminar as one of a number of participants.

Social Loafing

This phenomenon is called social loafing and has been found to impact the performance of individuals in groups in a wide variety of settings. Pretty much anywhere people work together.

There are a number of reasons why social loafing takes place. In some cases, people want to save their best effort for when they are working on an individual task. Where they feel their effort will stand out more and be recognized by others. Other times, group members try to minimize their effort and get by with as little work as possible, since they feel that as one member of the group, their individual effort won’t be noticed. Sometimes, people reduce their personal efforts because they feel that they are dispensable. And, finally, individuals may reduce their efforts because they don’t want to provide a “free ride” to the less productive members in the group.

Regardless of the reason why it happens, there are a few things that you can do to ensure that you are giving your best effort in seminars and camps and getting that value that you want.

  1. Hold yourself accountable for your effort.
  2. After every task or drill, make a conscious effort to rate yourself. Just by being aware that you are going to do some self-monitoring will lessen the chance you will take it easy.

  3. Set quick goals for yourself in every activity.
  4. It doesn’t take too much time to come up with a goal that allows you to contribute to the group. It’s far too easy to become passive. Make yourself valuable to the seminar or camp. Something as simple as asking the presenter/host a question gets you engaged. If you set a goal of asking the presenter one good question about each concept presented, you will work harder and focus more on the information being presented. Expending energy to come up with that good question will add value and give you a deeper understanding of the material.

  5. Advertise.
  6. Let others in your group know what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re at a seminar with friends or colleagues, tell them that you want to be putting out your best effort for the duration and that you want them to let you know if you’re not working hard. Good friends will always keep you honest.

  7. Socialize.
  8. Work hard when it’s time to work hard but when there’s some downtime, socialize with other members at your seminar or camp. Get to know each other and develop some friendships. The tighter knit the group the less influence social loafing has on your effort.

These are a few relatively simple things that you can do to take responsibility and control over your experience at camps and seminars. Owning your experience and adding value to it by putting your best effort forward will ensure that your time and money won’t be wasted.

“True contentment is the power of getting of any situation all that there is in it.” -G.K. Chesterton

I know there are a lot of agility seminar and camp veterans out there. I’d like to hear what you do to get the most value out of the events you attend. What makes or breaks a seminar for you? Leave your seminar/camp tips in the comments section so everyone can share.

Leave A Reply (10 comments so far)

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  1. Linda
    6 years ago

    The hands-on experience. Being able to see it and then executing it. We only retain a certain amount of learning at a seminar so notes or videoing is a must for me. I find I learn something from every seminar I’ve been too. Do they all work for my particular dog, no so I have to choose which ones I think are beneficial to me and my dog and perfect them after the seminar? I love the feedback from the instructors. That’s why I’m paying them.


  2. Kathy
    6 years ago

    I don’t have lessons in my area, so most of my learning comes from seminars. I am very aware of how much I am paying for this education especially if it is out of my area and I am traveling and staying in hotels. I work super hard at seminars and take good notes. I like getting feedback from someone who I respect and I have learned to be a good student who is open to criticism!


  3. Susan
    6 years ago

    What “breaks” a seminar or camp for me is when the instructor does not give me and my dog the same amount of consideration that another competitor might get because I have had “non-traditional” agility dogs. If I am not taken as a serious (but fun loving) competitor, I will probably not go back. I paid the same amount of money and deserve the same amount of consideration no matter what type of dog I have.
    What “makes” it for me is when I can have the chance to assimilate the spoken word, the written word and the mechanics of the exercise. It takes all 3 to really help me learn and for it to stay with me.


  4. Lisa Kaufman
    6 years ago

    This is a very timely post for me. I have decided to stop going to camps/seminars, especially of the agility kind, as it has been my experience to come away feeling down and defeated. And SO tired. I can relate to what Susan said above. I think it may be my breed. I run Bernese Mtn Dogs and most people are very dismissive of them and do not treat us the same way. I come into these things SO excited. I don’t sit around chat, I take great notes, and am 100% focused. I spend a lot of money doing this and want the most out of it. So, when time and time again I left feeling so down, I decided that spending my dollars else where was wise. That being said, I am going to a 3 day tracking seminar this wknd. First time doing this. I know the insturctor has handled a Berner. I don’t think my breed will be dismissed. Also, tracking is super new to me, no real instructors in the area for this, unlike all the other dog sports I do. So, I am feeling very hopeful that this is worth the money and am excited! Thanks for the timely note!!
    Lisa


  5. Marco
    6 years ago

    Very interesting! I didn’t know that at all.

    When attending seminars I always try to do my best, no matter how many people are in the group. I want to learn as much as I can and perform honestly, I mean without hiding my weaknesses and using only what I do best. As it has been said previously I think a key element is that the instructor gives the same amount of attention and time to everyone.

    When giving seminars I still try to do my best to help people. There is always room for improvement so giving pieces of advice is easy but I make a point of complementing people about what they do well. Particularly with people with “non-traditional” breeds to make them feel comfortable.


  6. judy
    6 years ago

    Before you quit going to seminars, get recommendations from other agility folks. Find out what kind of dogs the presenter has run. I was at a seminar yesterday morning and it was a very diverse group, from small dogs to big dogs and many different breeds. It was so interesting as the presenter pointed out the differences in striding and style of running as they worked.


  7. Olga
    6 years ago

    I attended lots of agility seminars, I’ve translated some of them and I’ve also led a couple of them.

    What is really frustrating and strange to me especially when I translate or give a seminar is that lots of people pay no attention whatsoever to other participants, missing lots of valuable information and very often repeating the same mistakes a couple of minutes later, so that the instructor has to repeat what she or he has just said.
    It’s really strange for me, for as you’ve said, they pay lots of money for the seminar and they spend time socialising, chatting etc instead of learning and making most of it.

    So one of the things I do is to listen to the advice the instructor gives to all participants not just the remarks about me and my dog.

    I find that I learn SOMETHING during every seminar I’ve attended. Some were really life-altering, some just provided me with some with diffent approach to something I’ve already knew, but I’ve never felt like I wasted my money.


  8. Michelle
    6 years ago

    From my first dog training class to my last seminar I am one who does listen when the teacher/presenter speaks…not only my dog but all dogs. I think others feel Iam be a snob, but I work hard so I can go t0 classes and seminars. What they are teaching may not apply to my dog, but maybe my next one or even a friends. I want a full “tool box”. We can talk at break is my thought.

    What does bother me is like others when the presenter feels my dog is not acceptable to that perticular venue and we are treated less than…It has happen one time really bad and I actually left a seminar at lunch break. Most of them I can find something to take away with. I think if you want to be a teacher/presenter there are certain skills you need. And remember…you started somewher too.


  9. Diana
    6 years ago

    I’ve learned lots at all seminars, so I do like to attend them. What I find frustrating though is that if my team “does it right” we get a lot less time to work than the people having trouble. I pay attention and take notes on everything and learn more that way. It seems to me however that if my team “does it right” the instructor should be offering additional challenges to give us equal time.


  10. Kim
    6 years ago

    I think some really good points are being raised here and I have to agree with all of them.

    For me, the most important ways to stay invested and accountable for my progress at a seminar/workshop is to stay connected with the sequence while everyone else is working… There are several things that I have found helpful to achieve this:
    1) Take really good notes – listen to the instructor/presenter while every single dog is running the sequence.
    2) Ask questions when I see something that I am unsure about (either for clarification on the pertinent strategy, or for troubleshooting…)
    3) Be an “active” participant – getting up to reset bars that have fallen down, jumping up at every opportunity for jump height changes, scooping up the numbers in preparation for setting the next sequence…

    I often find that by doing these things, I start to find the lessons sinking in and I am actually anticipating what the instructor is going to point out as each dog runs it through… this is gratifying to me as I see that I am learning and already beginning to apply the material in a cognitive fashion.

    Like Diana has pointed out though, there have been times when I’ve been frustrated that by getting through a sequence easily, it seems that I have ‘less’ time… What I’ve done in these situations is a couple of things:

    1) I’ve brought it up to the instructor in a polite way – perhaps saying something like… I’d like to try that again but doing X instead… I’ve even gone as far as to say – tongue-firmly-in-cheek – something like “I’m going to mess this sequence up so I get more working time”… usually that gets the message across :-);

    2) If I’ve felt that the instructor isn’t responsive to these suggestions, I’ve made a mental note to either skip seminars by this instructor or to consider only auditing any of their future seminars.

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