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Business Insider: Live Events vs. Webinars: The Case for Getting Out of the Office

Originally Published in the Business Insider | August 1, 2012 | By Paul Mandell

As a corporate executive, your job is to provide management and guidance to your team in a challenging market. To do so, you must be aware of the latest developments in your industry, as well as what practices your peers may be using to address them. Audio recordings and webinars can provide valuable education on a variety of important topics. However, for many executives, learning can be very hard to do in the office. To do it best, they need to get out of the office and learn in person. Here is why:

1. Offices Are Full of Distractions

The office environment is typically inhospitable to learning. There are client calls, office drop-bys from work colleagues, e-mail, the Internet, and all sorts of other distractions that can make it difficult to stay focused. Getting out of your office is an important step in continuing your learning, and you might be surprised by how much and how efficiently you can learn when you take that leap.

2. Interaction Improves Comprehension

Apart from the reduction in distractions, old-fashioned learning provides an opportunity for natural, interactive dialogue. This enables those doing the learning to ask clarification-seeking questions that yield a more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. To be sure, one can ask and receive responses during an audio call, but technology still has a ways to go before what happens by phone or computer yields the same impact as in-person communication.

3. Networking Expands Your Resources

In addition, among the most valuable elements of any live educational seminar or conference is the in-personal networking that takes place. Interacting with an audience of peers before or after an educational session is an excellent way both to explore the strategies that those in similar positions are using to address common problems, as well as to benchmark your own efforts. Developing a robust network of similarly situated colleagues ensures a pipeline of information about important industry changes as they happen. And it serves as a valuable resource that you can leverage for guidance or answers when your own team lacks knowledge, or when sensitive topics arise that may be difficult to discuss internally.

In an age of corporate cost cutting, corporate executives must be sensitive to using their budgets wisely. They must focus on being efficient and productive, and there is little room for waste. Though attending events outside the office may seem ill advised in such an economy, there may be no better use of time, and no better opportunity to improve your own performance and optimize departmental efficiency, than by forcing yourself out of the office to learn from experts and interact with your peers.

What’s The Right Event?

Of course, not all events are created equal. To make the most of your time outside the office, seek out those events that are small enough to facilitate meaningful rapport-building and a high level of interactivity. And don’t be too quick to avoid those events with sponsors; many of those sponsors may offer as much value in improving your personal and department performance as the formal program itself.