Killer Seminars…

You can feel the pain of a friend or co-worker when they utter those words: “Tomorrow?  Oh….I’m in a seminar all day.”

Some people like getting away from their desks, but for the most part, seminars are awful.

Conference, course, seminar, continuing-education….no matter what you call it, you still have to suffer through it…


There actually are seminars that are worthwhile, educational, and that people actively look forward to attending.

But for the most part, we attend these things either against our will, or with guarded optimism.

Sunday night, I was about to turn in for the night but I decided to check my day-planner for Monday “just in case.”  I flipped to Monday, April 21st, and there it was in bright red pen: “9:00AM – 5:00PM RECO UPDATE.”


Part of me wished I had just gone to bed without noticing this seminar that had been in my planner for months, but I’ve got to attend eventually, so I might as well get it out of the way.

You see, as part of keeping our real estate licenses, we Realtors must attend several useless courses and updates each year.  At the risk of getting in hot-water (nothing new….) I will tell you that most of these are just complete cash grabs by the many regulatory boards that we pay fees to.

There is nothing more boring than an all-day course that you don’t want to be at.

When I finished my undergraduate degree at McMaster University, I pretty much swore “That’s it for me” with respect to schooling.  But don’t these courses seem like we’re back at school?

I have devised a simple solution to passing the time at these tedious seminars; one that has served me well time and time again.

The solution?

Don’t Listen.

That’s right, I don’t listen.  Not to a single word.  The only reason I’m there is because I have to be in order to keep my license, and believe me—if there was anything I thought was useful, I’d be the first one taking notes (leasing mobile homes is not something I need to learn, sorry to say).

But this course was a mandatory eight hours that everybody at my office had already told me was “torture,” and that offered no information essential or useful in my day-to-day dealings.  I went, because I had to…

So how do I occupy the time?  Well, today, for example, I made lists of the following things:
1) U.S. Presidents (I always forget Rutherford Hayes!)
2) 500 Goal scorers in the NHL
3) 50 U.S. States
4) Oscar winners for “Best Picture”
5) Perhaps the toughest of all—my course timetables for grades 9 to 12 inclusive, both semesters!

But by the time I completed all this, it was only 11:00AM!

I exchanged emails with my buddies about trivial matters such as who-did-what on Saturday night, and why Frank Thomas was cut by the Blue Jays, and read the updates I was sent on my Blackberry about mortgage rates and the equity markets.

But when I ran out of things to occupy myself, I started to look around the room for something to amuse me.  One interesting aspect of these courses that I think everybody can relate to is with respect to the people!

Here was my favorite part of the day:

At about 9:10AM, when everybody had taken their seats and the instructor was 8-9 minutes into the seminar, somebody came in late.  This was nothing new, but this lady seemed unaware that the fifty other people in the auditorium were also attending the seminar, and were NOT paid actors.

“I’m here, I’m here, I’m here,” said the lady as she galloped down the aisle towards the front of the room like she owned the world.  The instructor’s eyes widened as she wondered if this lady was for real.

“I’m late, I know, but I gotta sign in because the admin people here are f*cking Nazi’s!”

Holy Crap.  This lady dropped an f-bomb and found a way to liken our regulatory board’s administrative staff to one of the most oppressive political regimes in history!

The instructor paused long enough for the lady to sign in and then take her seat, but it didn’t end there.

“Wanna know why I’m late?” asked the lady to an already astonished group of people.

I was sitting in my seat, grinning from ear-to-ear, and thinking “Oh God, please let her tell us why she is late…..”

“Um, no, that’s okay,” said the instructor.

“Well, I’ll tell ya anyways!  You refaced the goddam building!  It used to be red brick; it looks completely different from when I was here eight years ago.  I didn’t recognize it!  I drove by at least twice!  There should be a big ‘ole sign in front so even a blind person could see it!”

“That’s awesome!” I muttered under my breath.  “Give this lady a microphone!”  I was very-much enjoying this lady’s overwhelming sense of entitlement.

The instructor was in shock, as were most of the other people, but the best part was that in this interactive group seminar, we got to hear this lady’s opinion on several real estate matters!  Not once did she ever raise her hand…

This is the part that really gets me: Why do adults seem so averse to raising their hands and being called on to speak in an orderly fasion?  Is it that we don’t want to acknowledge the person at the front of the room is in a position of power?  Is it too similar to being five years old again?  Why do we, as adults, oppose the protocol we learned to accept as children?

I also enjoy watching grown adults try to weasel their way out of the course with lame excuses.  Two people tried this!  One man said, “I have a 12:45PM appointment that I’ve had for months, so I need to miss the afternoon portion.”  The instructor calmly said, “No problem, if another course on another day would suit your schedule better, by all means!”  Suffice it to say, he gave up.  Another lady actually tried to say she felt sick and had to leave!  How childish….I love it!

I love hearing people talk when they only do so to hear their own voice.  I mean, I can hear my own voice any time I feel like it, but these people want other people to hear as well.  They preface whatever they say with,  “Well I’ve been in real estate for seventeen years,” so that no matter what they say, it’s deemed to be correct and relevant.

Another thing that I don’t understand is how people dress to some of these courses, seminars, and conferences.  I mean one guy was decked out in a three-piece-suit.  I donned a pair of jeans and a shirt I got in a case of Molson Canadian.  Isn’t being comfortable the most important part here?  Is the King of England going to walk in?  Why do we need to be dressed up?  We’re basically in a classroom…

People drank coffee like it was going out of style, a few people feverishly jotted down pages and pages of notes, and one guy even handed out business cards to every single person in the room.  “Sure thing, Reggie, I’ll be sure to refer all of my Toronto clients to you……oh wait…..I also work in Toronto.”

This was perhaps the most boring seminar I have been to during all my time in real estate.  Honestly, at one point I began reading the newspaper…

But it’s something everybody can relate to, in almost every industry.

If all else fails, just people-watch for your entertainment pleasure.

It worked for me…

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