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What is a Seminar Class?

While the term “seminar class” might bring to mind a lecture hall from your undergraduate days, seminars aren’t restricted to college settings. A seminar can take place at a conference, as part of a professional development series, or even as a team-building activity. But what is a seminar class designed for? Essentially, it’s a place to engage with ideas in depth. If you’re looking for a place to host your seminar, check out Peerspace, the go-to resource for renting local venues in your city. From classrooms and coworking spaces with A/V equipment to libraries, screening rooms, and living rooms, Peerspace has everything you need for your seminar class.

What is a seminar class?

The term “seminar” actually comes from the Latin word seminarium, which means “seed plot.” So, you can think of a seminar as a place to plant ideas and watch them grow. Unlike lectures, seminar classes are designed to be interactive, with students participating in a dialogue rather than just listening to a professor and taking notes. Because of this, seminar classes are great for engaging with complex ideas, but less suitable for “how-to,” or hands-on lessons.

One type of seminar is the Socratic seminar, in which the students lead the discussion. While a professor may introduce the topic and facilitate the conversation, the goal is to allow participants to think for themselves. These types of seminars may include elements of debate, and the topic might take the form of an open-ended question, rather than a foregone conclusion.

Seminars are usually smaller than lecture classes — often no more than a dozen people — and are limited in scope and duration. Instead of sitting in rows, participants may sit around a table in order to facilitate discussion. While seminars are interactive, they aren’t usually hands-on; if an event includes a physical project, then it’s probably best described as a workshop.

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What is a seminar class for?

There are several reasons for choosing the seminar format over other types of workshops and classroom discussions. One is for experts to engage in a high-level discussion in their field. For example, Johns Hopkins Medicine offers health seminars online or in person. These feature a 30-minute presentation delivered by a physician, followed by a 30-minute Q&A period.

Other types of industry seminars include personal development and business seminars, which can cover anything from soft skills (like leadership) to hard skills (like technology). These kinds of events may be open to the public (either free or ticketed) or for industry insiders only.

Another reason to host a seminar is to encourage critical thinking. That’s why seminar classes are so popular in high schools and universities. The freshman and sophomore seminars at the University of California, Berkeley, allow students to “explore a scholarly topic of mutual interest together, following an often spontaneous flow of dialogue — in the spirit of learning for its own sake.” Surely that’s precisely the kind of seminar that would make Socrates proud!

The difference between a seminar class and a salon or symposium

What is a seminar class? isn’t just a philosophical question. Depending on your field, the terms “seminar,” “symposium,” and “salon” may be used in slightly different ways.

While the word seminar comes from Latin, the term symposium comes from Greek, and it means “to drink together.” It refers to “part of a banquet that took place after the meal, when drinking for pleasure was accompanied by music, dancing, recitals, or conversation.” These events usually took place in a private home and were known for getting a little rowdy!

These days, the word symposium refers to an industry-specific conference, such as a medical syposium — but it typically still includes a banquet and other social elements. Guests are likely to be experts in their field who are assembling to share their findings with other experts.

Another related type of event is the salon — which you can think of as the Renaissance version of a seminar or symposium. Wikipedia refers to it as a “gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.”

These events revolved around art, poetry, literature, and philosophical ideas, and were common in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Nowadays, salons are reemerging in many parts of the world, and may incorporate music, technology, and multimedia presentations. For example, the TEDx salon series may feature live speakers or the viewing and discussion of TEDx videos.

In contrast to a seminar, salons are meant to be an intellectual space where anyone can bring a topic or lead a discussion — no formal credentials or experience required.

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Where to host a seminar class

Don’t let the variety of terms available to describe your event confuse you. If in doubt, use the one that’s most appropriate for your industry and choose a suitable event space to host it.

Renting a venue on Peerspace is a great option, because you’ll find options of all shapes and sizes, from classroom-style conference rooms to modern coworking spaces. Many Peerspace venues come with WiFi, A/V equipment, and other amenities you’ll likely need to host your event. If you need something that isn’t available on site, call the Concierge service to have it delivered!

For a mid-sized symposium, you can rent this stylish conference space in SoMa that fits up to 200 people and is ideal for a panel discussion. For less formal events — such as a salon — you can rent a cozy living room or even an art gallery for a laid-back, sophisticated feel.

How to plan for a seminar class

Finding a venue for your seminar class is a big step, but there’s still more work to do! It’s time to put the finishing touches on your lesson plan, advertise your seminar, and start selling tickets. If your seminar is part of a conference or university program, then you may not have as much to do yourself, but it’s still important to coordinate with the event host and any co-facilitators.

If you’re hosting a private seminar, then you’ll have to handle more of the logisitics yourself. An all-day seminar might call for a caterer, while you might decide to hire a videographer to record the event for your website or promo materials. Keep in mind you may need to rent additional A/V gear, furniture, and other equipment, depending on your venue and the type of presentation.

Remember, many Peerspace venues come with on-site amenities included, and you can always call up the Concierge service for equipment rentals and local vendor recommendations!

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