seminar8

For those of you who have ever been to one of my live seminars, you know how seriously I take the ‘end of seminar’ evaluation forms, where you share your comments and thoughts on the day. I read every single evaluation form myself and my goal is to use your feedback to make my next seminar better. I really listen to what you’re saying, and I made changes to my New York seminar based on what I read in your comments the week before.

I also hear lots of feedback during the day itself, about what people want me to cover, or are hoping I’ll cover later in the day, or problems they’re having, and I thought I’d combine both to share something people have been asking about; discuss a few Lightroom specific things that are causing confusion with users, and give you some insights into how I plan the seminar day to make the most of the time we have together.

A tale of two cities
I just wrapped up my New York seminar this week, and I did Ft. Lauderdale the week before, and it’s always fascinating to me how similar people’s problems are (I know what you’re thinking—everybody in Ft. Lauderdale is originally from New York), and yet how two seminars can generate such different groups of questions. There was lots of overlap, yet each city had its own separate areas of concern.

For example, the question I heard on breaks over and over again in Ft. Lauderdale was “How do I get my photos out of Lightroom?” I heard it a dozen times or so, all worded slightly different, but the same basic theme. (I learned what was throwing everybody is that there is no “Save” or “Save As” menu command in Lightroom. Instead, Adobe calls it “Export,” which for every other Adobe product means “Save as a PDF” for but some reason, Adobe chose to call it “Export” in Lightroom. While Export may be a technically correct way to describe what it does—it’s not what photographers who are used to using Photoshop call what they do to save a JPEG file. They call it “Saving.” They use Save and Save As. We all do. It makes sense to us. (Don’t get me started).

However, in New York, not a single person asked that. I’m hoping it’s because I completely changed the way I explain the process of exporting your images from Lightroom, and I did it earlier in the day, and taught it in a completely different way, and I thank the photographers of Ft. Lauderdale for that, because I could tell while I was explaining it, it was “clicking” with people in New York.

So what was everybody stuck on in New York? How to get their photos that are trapped in Apple’s iPhoto, over into Lightroom. I can’t tell you how many people asked about that during the day. So much so, that I asked our own Matt Kloskowski, over at LightroomKillerTips.com to do a movie next week to show the step-by-step process, and I asked my New York class to stop there next week.

My Q&A on Q&As
One thing I saw a reasonable amount on the evaluation forms was people asking for an open Q&A. They either wanted to end each session with a 15-minute Q&A or to devote an entire class as an open Q&A where the crowd can ask questions. I know they think that’s what they want—until they actually sit in an hour long Q&A. Within the past couple of months, I wound up teaching a class where I was required to do an open Q&A, and it reminded me of precisely why we don’t do them. Here’s what happens in an open Photoshop or Lightroom Q&A:

(1) At least half, but usually more, of the questions asked aren’t questions at all. They’re statements.
They usually start with the question person giving their personal resume for the whole room to hear, including a statement about the important work they’re doing, with high-end demanding clients, on their high end computers (including how much Ram they have installed), and they go on about how large the files they work on are, and basically they try and separate themselves from the rest of the crowd, letting everybody know they’re doing “serious work.” Then, they usually detail how they do a particular task, and all they’re really looking for is for me to tell them they’re doing it exactly right. Usually they are. They also know they are. They don’t really have a question at all. They’re making a statement. About themselves.

This happens over and over during the open Q&A. I called a fellow trainer after my last live Q&A, and he asked me how it went. I told him that during the entire hour, I had only one single legitimate question–the rest were statements, and questions the person asking already knew the answer to. Most of the people who asked the questions were clearly very good at Photoshop, and they wanted me, and everyone else in the room to know that, too.

(2) People ask questions about problems that are very specific to themselves
Most of the others are real questions, but they are usually incredibly specific about a particular problem that they’re having with their copy of Lightroom (so, it’s a troubleshooting problem that only pertains to them), or a workflow problem often based on some particular piece of hardware they’re using with Lightroom.

For example, I spent a good chunk of one of the breaks trying to answer a question from a woman using an Imacon image scanner who was having issues with embedded profiles coming into Lightroom, and then another long time talking with someone struggling with a complex problem he was having because he uses a particular hardware RIP (Raster Image Processor), and the company hasn’t updated their driver, and how that problem is messing up his Lightroom workflow. Luckily for the crowd, I was the only one who had to hear about it, but if this had been an open Q&A, you all would have sat through both, and there’s 20 minutes of your life you’ll never get back. I don’t mind at all—that’s my job, but you’d have to sit through it hoping to hear at least one question that would pertain to you.

3. People don’t generally ask wide ranging questions
Nobody stands up at an open Q&A and says “Can you tell me how to set my White Balance in Lightroom?” That’s a question a lot of people would benefit from, but sadly that’s not the type of questions I ever get. Here’s more like what I get at every seminar:

“I have four 2-terabyte hard drives where I have my photos, and I have these daisy-chained together, and I have my main Lightroom catalog on the first of the daisy-changed drives, and it’s connected via Ethernet to my computer, but then 2nd drive is connected via Firewire 800, and I don’t use the last two all that often, so they’re connected via USB 2.0. I want to get a new drive to replace my 2nd drive, but I read somewhere that if you use a drive less than 4800 RPMs it affects catalog performance, but since I’m only using this on my 2nd drive, which only has photos, and not my working catalog, do you think that will affect my overall performance enough that I should go with a 7800 RPM speed drive, or do you think just daisy-chaning it with Ethernet will be enough?”

I am not making this up. I get a question like this, each and every seminar. Sometimes two. Sometimes more. Just depends on the city (and if it’s a full moon). Anyway, that’s what really happens during live Q&As.

Mic Me Up During my Private Q&As
Because I know people often come to seminars like this with a particular question in mind, I spend every single break during the entire day (15 minutes each), plus 40 minutes of our 60 minute lunch break, plus at the end of the day I invite anyone to stay after the seminar who hasn’t had a chance for me to answer their question one-on-one during the day. I stay and answer questions for at least one-hour after the seminar or until literally my ride leaves to take me to the airport (if I fly home that night).

I do this, because I know how important it is to get that question answered, and believe me, nothing would make me feel worse than you leaving without having that one nagging question answered. That being said; I read a number of comments asking that I leave my microphone on during the breaks so they could hear my one-on-one questions with people. I don’t do this for a number of reasons:

(1) I don’t think it’s fair to the person asking the question. A lot of people are genuinely nervous to come up and ask a question in the first place—they’re afraid of asking a silly question, or looking foolish, and I would never want to put them in that position. I think that knowing your question would be broadcast to the room would keep a lot of people from asking what could be a very important question for them.

(2) You need a break. That’s why we take breaks in the first place. I’ve been teaching live Photoshop seminars since 1993, and I’ve tried every length of class possible, and I can tell you without reservation that after an hour of Lightroom and/or Photoshop, your mind needs a metal break so you can keep learning at this level. You need to go to the restroom, walk around, get a drink of water—just take a mental break so you can re-engage fully in just a few minutes later. Plus, I need a mental break, too. I need to switch gears and talk one-on-one for a few minutes to refocus myself as well. Plus, I need to sneak out to the restroom every once in a while, too.

(3) You would, once again, hear lots of very specific questions and often problems that an individual is having with their monitor, their computer, their backup drive, or Lightroom itself that I’ve never heard of happening before. So we go down a checklist of possible problems, and we may or may not solve the issue, but usually it’s so specific that only that one single person would benefit even if we came up with the answer. Is it possible that someone else in the room has their exact same problem. Absolutely. Is it probable. Nope.

(4) You would certainly hear some legitimate and not terribly specific questions, but there’s a reasonable chance that you already know the answer, in which case, it’s just more time ticking away between the opportunity you get to learn something new.

Adjusting During the Day
When I see a pattern of questions start to emerge, I start the next session by telling the class about a particular question I was just asked, and then I share the answer, because I see that it may help a number of people. Often, I’ll share two or three great questions (without giving any names or embarrassing anyone) that I answered during the break, so if there was anything that wasn’t terribly specific, I share that with the entire crowd anyway. It’s why I keep a pen and pad of paper handy while I’m answering questions on break—so I can remember to share them when we kick off the next class.

The Numbers Game is Against You
When you take an hour to answer questions in a live seminar, how many questions really get answered in that time frame? Realistically, about 12 to 14 questions. A couple are quick and easy, but that’s rarely the case when someone is willing to stand up in a room full of people and state their question (or make their statement). In Ft. Lauderdale I had over 400 photographers. In New York, it was nearly 600. So, if I did an hour long Q&A, 14 people out of 600 might get their questions answered. That’s a little over 2%. So, if you’re thinking, “I want an open Q&A so I can ask my question!” the odds are really against you.

The best way to get your question answered at my seminar is simply to come up and ask me. I love meeting people. I love helping them and answering their questions, and I’m always very kind, especially if you start the question with, “I know this may be a simple question, but…” (by the way—simple questions are my favorite kind, because I usually have the answer).

Fielding Live Questions in my Live Online Classes
When CS5 shipped, we did TWO free live Photoshop CS5 workshops a day for an entire week (you can watch the archived workshops for free right here), and during each live workshop we answered your submitted questions too, as we went.

We had literally tens of thousands of people watch those live seminars as they were broadcast live, and you could pose questions to us live as we were teaching. There were five of us on the set fielding questions, plus Nancy Masse´moderating as we went to keep things moving. How many questions do you think we really got to address in an hour? Just a handful. Maybe 15 per hour—-more than usual because since we saw the questions up front, and we could cherry pick the ones that would interest the most people. But still, your chance of getting your particular question answered during a live web seminar is probably 1/1000 at best. Maybe worse.

That doesn’t stop us
We just launched a new series of free monthly live Q&A sessions with myself, Matt, Dave, Corey and RC just for NAPP members, where we answer your questions one-on-one, online, live as you submit them. We do this now every month— and we post the entire thing online for free after the fact on the members’ Website. That’s the good news.

Here’s the bad news: Do you know how many months you’ll have to watch to get even one of your questions answered during a live online seminar with thousands of people watching? I hope they’ll still be making Photoshop by then. ;-)

That doesn’t stop us, because some people will get their questions asked, and we’ll be trying hard to answer just the questions that we hope will pertain to a large group of people, but the numbers don’t lie. Think about it.

Are you willing to trade?
So, I’ve put together a solid, jam-packed hour of Lightroom stuff I’m pretty sure you’ll want to learn. Stuff that in fact, I think you’d expect to learn at a full-day Lightroom seminar, but to give you a full hour of Q&A (or 15 minutes at the end of every class), you’ll have to give up that hour I have planned, and take a roll of the dice on an open Q&A, and just hope that one or two of the questions that get asked (between the statements that aren’t questions at all, and those incredibly specific questions, and your obligatory “stump the trainer” questions) will actually pertain to you and your workflow. Are you willing to trade the class I have planned out for you, with step-by-step notes in the workbook, for a live roll of the dice? My guess is—most of you wouldn’t.

The other Q&A feedback
I do have to balance the feedback that I get from people who say, literally, “Thank you so much for not doing an open Q&A,” and they go on to tell me about other seminars where they had an open Q&A and how far off track they got, and how useless it was to them. I hear this again and again. I also get personal emails and thank yous from those I do get to spend one-on-one time with at my seminars. Sometimes these people even teach me things. It happens at every seminar. Now I can share that in my next city.

Take me up on my offer
I’m going to ask you to do something, but I’m going to offer something in return. First, I know this post is going to ruffle the feathers of some of the people who have said they wanted more Q&As on the eval forms, and if that’s you, I would ask you to close your eyes, and consider the things I’ve told you here. Consider how frustrated you would feel as you sat through the multiple-hard drive nightmare question, the Imacon scanner issue, and the hardware printer driver questions, only to be followed by hearing another attendee’s verbal resume (and attempt to elevate themselves above the rest of the photographers in the room), only to learn that the person that actually did get their question addressed was the guy that was the loudest, and was willing to jump up on his chair and wave his arms to get my attention, just so he could share with the room about the important work he’s doing, and then detail his own complex workflow. Picture how you’d really feel after sitting through all that.

Now, here’s my offer. There is a better way to get your question answered than an open Q&A. Next time, don’t get up and just stretch your legs at break time. Come up and ask me a question one-on-one. You’ll probably have to wait in line a few minutes, and you might not even get up to the front that break, and you’ll have to try again next break, but know this—I won’t leave that day until your question gets answered. Each year, I stay long after and answer literally hundreds of people’s questions that didn’t get answered during the day. Why not yours next time?

If I don’t have the answer, I’ll send you to someone who does have it. I answer many questions in the days right after a seminar—-after I do some research, or ask my colleagues. I’ll email you back directly, or have them email you themselves, but I’ll do my best to make sure you don’t leave my seminar without getting your question answered.

A word of thanks
I know filling out those evaluations forms is a pain in the butt, but I do want you to know that your comments aren’t wasted. Every one counts. I try to make each seminar I teach better than the one before, and it’s your feedback that tells me what to focus on, what to do more of, and what to spend less time on. If I see a comment appear again and again, then I know it’s something I need to address. However, there is one comment I read from every single seminar, as long as I’ve been doing seminars, but I still don’t see us adding to the seminar anytime soon. “Give us free beer!” Hey, you can always dream. ;-)

P.S. One more comment from the seminars. Matt and I both ran into the same little hiccup using the Tethered shooting directly into Lightroom (which is awesome, by the way). If you connect your camera, turn on Tethered Capture, and it doesn’t see your camera, just close the Tethered Heads Up Display, and reopen it. It’ll see your camera now.

About The Author

Scott is a Photographer, bestselling Author, Host of "The Grid" weekly photography show; Editor of Photoshop User magazine; Lightroom Guy; KelbyOne.com CEO; struggling guitarist. Loves Classic Rock and his arch-enemy is Cilantro. Devoted husband, dad to two super awesome kids, and pro-level babysitter to two crazy doggos.

79 Comments

  1. I was at the NYC Seminar and I thank you for not doing Q&A for exactly the reasons you describe. They are almost always a waste of time for everyone involved. My thoughts are that I paid to hear the instructors, not other attendees.

    I think I learned a lot on Monday and already my workflow has improved.

  2. Scott,
    You are like a machine at your seminars! I have been to some in the past (not related to your group) where attendees questions just clogged up the seminar or made it 2 hours longer. I have ( since LR3 has come out) tried to use it more in my workflow and your first question/answer above is the one I have trouble with. I will work on that at PSW!

    I have one question for you, which Nik Silver Efex preset did you say you used the most?

  3. Well said! Thank you.
    The lack of “audience participation” is one reason that I return to NAPP seminars; I get the expertise that I paid for with both my time and money.

  4. This is precisely why, after spending a day with 500 folks in Denver, the ONLY reason I stayed after the day was to thank you for your generosity and kindness during your visit. Having been an instructor myself, I totally was amazed that you didn’t take breaks for 90% of the day.

    For those wondering why I thanked him for the generosity – Scott was kind enough to allow me to join him for a photo walk the afternoon before the seminar…(just two guys walking and talking – no business, no promotions pitches or anything), and invited me to join him and his crew at Maggiano’s for a bite afterward. There’s even more, but that’d be way off point…here, it’s sufficient to say that when you consider the numbers of people that attend these things, the value of a Q&A session is really minimal at best.

  5. Scott –
    Living here in Israel, I can only salivate over all the reports of your LR & PS seminars. Unfortunately for me, the question of “public” vs. “private” Q&A sessions is purely philosophical, but I’m completely sold on the rationale of your argument. I believe, however, that what is more important than the “reason” being your thinking is the “humanity” behind your being! Few people would take the time or make the effort to so thoroughly explain their decisions as do you – and let’s be honest, you’re Scott Kelby, as modest as you may be, you don’t really need to explain yourself to everyone. Your open, humerous, kind, and self-deprecating attitude is, I believe, what really sets you apart. God knows there are enough PS & LR experts in the world today, but it is Scott Kelby, the “individual” that keeps people like me continue to be a faithful follower. Keep it up! and who knows, maybe some day I’ll be able to catch you on the side lines: “Ah, Mr. Kelby, I’ve got a short question for you….”

  6. Hi Scott,

    Open Q&As are dangerous territory – it only take one individual to start taking the session off on a different tangent with their question and it’s then down to the skills of the trainer to somehow (& politely) bring things back on track again. A skill I’m sure you’ve honed over the years!

    Reading the above I can’t believe how little time you give yourself to have a break – you must be exhausted at the end of the seminar day! Then again (despite having never met you) I ‘know’ you to be a generous man so I really shouldn’t be that surprised.
    I look forward to the day when I can complete an evaluation form at one your seminars, come up to your during the break and ask you a banal question. Only joking with that last bit, I’d much prefer to come up to you during a break, shake your hand and thank you.

    Mind you, for that to happen though you need to come over here to the UK first for a seminar ;-) – can I pre-order a LR3 seminar? That aside, I really looking forward to my first live Kelby training experience tomorrow here in London with Joe McNally – let’s hope this is the first of more frequent UK tour dates coming :-)

    Best wishes,

    David

    PS Don’t even wish for that free beer dream – I dread to think of the pandemonium that would ensue in a seminar if attendees (or even the tutor) had to get up & go to the restroom frequently for comfort breaks.

  7. I was at the Boston Lightroom seminar and was impressed that Matt stayed during all the breaks and after the seminar to answer questions. He even suggested that people could come up and listen to other folks ask their questions during the breaks to maybe learn some more things. I know someone who did and she said she learned a lot by doing that. I on the other hand needed the time to stretch and browse through the books for sale. But I thought this option was a great idea.

    • That is exactly what I do—walk up to the front and listen to what other folks are asking about. I did this at an Epson Photo Academy seminar with Jack Reznicki, and he kept asking me if I wanted something. I told him that I was just listening to what other people were asking.

      This did a few things for me: a) it helped me learn additional information, specific to the topic presented, beyond what was presented at the seminar, b) provided information about the presenter’s workflow (hardware/software) and the questioner’s workflow, and c) quizzed myself on how I would answer the question, if I knew the answer to the question, and how quickly I could articulate the answer in my own head (all as a former educator, tech. assistant, and seminar assistant).

      In my opinion, if people have legitimate questions, and are unable to get them answered (due to shyness, time, etc.) during your standard seminar process, that is what the NAPP Help Center and NAPP forums were created for—although one would miss out on being breathed upon by Scott Kelby!!!

      I suppose that the majority of seminar attendees who might be upset about not having an open Q&A, are often the ones that “need” (read as “want”) hand-holding. As mentioned above, I have attended and assisted on several seminars/workshops/classes, and it is often the neediest (as they perceive themselves) that crave this attention. In my experience, these are often the same people who refuse to research, read, or use simple logic (or common sense) to resolve an issue. They feel the world is there to answer any and every question, without them having to lift a finger or think beyond basic instincts (food, shelter, etc.).

      I found it most frustrating to work with these people, as they are so absorbed in their own world, that when it comes to assisting with a problem they have, it is often to help them with the very items just discussed, documented, or taught. On a few occasions, there were some who never got past step one (usually due to incompetency or rarely due to a learning disability) and completely missed the rest of the presentation (sadly, all of these people were paid good money to be educators for grades K-16).

      However, the most fun comes from the know-it-alls who shout out answers, run around hands-on workshops “helping” others, and ends up being completely humiliated because it becomes horrifically obvious that they don’t know what they are doing, and actually cause additional frustration to others because the advise/help given is also wrong. Sadly, for them, instead of being humbled and take the opportunity to learn, they sit in the corner and sulk.

  8. I’ve been to a few of your seminars, don’t change a thing. As something who’s spent the past 15 years presenting I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. You’re not good, you’re great. You have everyone hanging on your every word. Nice job.

    On your PS. If someone is having a problem with tethered capture right out of the box (with a Nikon) like I did it might be the USB connection. It needs to be set to MTP/PTP rather than Mass Storage. Camera Control appears to work only in the MTP/PTP mode. I haven’t seen this discussed in too many places.

  9. The “Statement” question pops up at any lecture on any topic, and you nailed it with your description. I live in the Boston area and enjoy heading into the city for lectures from time to time. Want to guess where you’ll get the most detailed, most annoying, and most boring statements? That’s right, at Harvard.

    Here’s a tip for you, Scott, that I saw in action during the Q&A following a lecture by a Nobel Laureate who’d obviously sat through many statements… About one minute into the guy’s rambling discussion of his Great Knowledge, the Nobel Laureate Guy says, “Excuse me, Sir, but do you have a question?” The audience loved it. It may not be your style, but the other 399 – 599 people in the room will thank you for it.

    • Reminds me of my friends, Rick & Bubba, who have a nationally-syndicated radio show based down here in the South and they have several listener call-in periods during the show, but they limit people to 30 seconds only to get their question or comment in. If they go longer, they get the buzzer!

  10. +1 on the Q&A approach. Having been to one of your Lightroom days and Photoshop World, it is amazing to me listening to people asking the instructors in the breaks how few of them really know how to ask a succinct question! Kudos to you and all of the instructors for your patience.

  11. Quick question: I shoot Nikon which I outfit with Minolta lenses that my grandfather left me. I edit my pictures on PS 5.5 which I bought from a friend…sort of. I use a Commodore 64 to back up my images but I have to daisy chain it through my toaster for it to boot up…not a problem as long as I wait for the little lady to finish cooking breakfast.
    My problem is I can’t see a dang thing…unless the doorbell rings and then all the images show up as HDR…which I hate ‘cuz it’s not real photography.
    Any suggestions? I’ve already hung a sign out front saying don’t ring the doorbell but some people are just slow!

    • ned,
      I had the same problem, It was the Minolta lens. I also had my doorbell hooked to the usb of my computor and that was preventing some of my OnOne filters not to work. I checked your site and the HDR’s look great, wouldn’t change that. Did you put your Cs5.5 codes in backwards?

      • ned,
        PS, I lived in Wilmington for 2 years (69-70) and attended New Hanover HS. I love that area. We are coming down soon for some shooting. I actually lived at Wrightsville Beach.

      • Thanks for the reply Ken…in addition I just learned that it works best after rye toast…NOT pumpernickel!
        I’ve tried those filters before…clog up the whole AC…and expensive to get enough to cover the register.
        I’ll look into the code thing…it’s written on MS DOS…back on my Wang…works Ok on my Mac though…

      • Thanks for my laugh of the day!! :)

    • Ned, I think you are using the wrong computer. Get a Apple. I have an Apple II with 48k of RAM and had the same problem until I added the Language Card which increased the memory to 64K. The only problem I ran to was there was no USB port to load images from my D3X; so I have to enter them in binary manually using switches and cassette tapes. Cheers!

  12. Haha! This made my day! Thanks!

  13. New at replying – so – well said on Scotts part – but LOL at/with Ned!

  14. I agree with you I go to a seminar to here you teach about using a product. Q &
    A is good during breaks and after class. If you get a good question during the break you can bring it up during your presentation. I would not go to a Q&A class only.

  15. The hardest thing for an instructor to do is to find the right balance in meeting the needs of their students. You have both newbies and hardcore/advanced people in the crowd. I’ve been to several of your seminars in NYC and truly believe that you have found that balance. There’s something for everyone. The 15 minute one-on-ones that you have after each session is a perfect opportunity for people to get their questions answered for all the reasons you stated.

    At the end of the seminar on Monday, I asked you a question about a problem that I was having in the print module (LR would not remember repositioning of a picture when zoom to fill is checked). You thought it might be better asked to Adobe tech support. That was the perfect answer! 600 people did not have to watch/listen to us struggle over this. I did speak to Adobe and, after reviewing it for a day, they have acknowledged it as a bug in LR 3.0 and have escalated it to their programmers. If we tried to figure it out at the seminar we’d still be there. :-) BTW, the problem is unique to the Windows version of LR 3.0.

    Thanks again for a great day. Well done.

  16. Scott, I’ve been to a number of your (and Dave Cross’s) seminars. They have all been excelent. You are doing the right thing with your handling of Q&A. When will you bring your Lightroom Seminar to D.C.?

  17. Scott

    Another great post. I’ve never been fortunate enough to make one of your tours because I live in Dubuque, Iowa and you don’t come her :) But I’ve been to lots of my industry seminars where the instructor gets bogged down in these very narrow Q&As while the rest of us sit there secretly hoping the questioner loses control of their bladder and has to leave the room. It is not in the best interest of the group (“The needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few or the one.”) to spend valuable learning time on one person’s problem (that they usually created for themselves.)

    Regards,
    Dave Updegraff

  18. I couldn’t make it to this year’s seminar at the Javits, but I’ve been to quite a few prior. The great thing about your seminars IS that fact that you don’t have open Q&A. I actually make it a habit to leave when seminar Q&A begins.

  19. Scott……..your the man. I hate to say it, but a lot of people like to blow their own horn. When I attend one of “your” seminars I have to pre-schedule my calender to fit that day in. I don’t want to go their and listen to stupid crap. I paid with my time, my money and my attention to get the most out of the seminar and to hear an expert (you or your team). I have no problem coming up at break and asking my personal question (which I always do), and your right, I don’t want to ask what 100 people might think is a stupid question in front of a packed room and waste their time. I missed LR3 in Boston because I couldn’t get out of an appointment, but I will have your book to walk me through. Maybe you could schedule another Boston date?……God Bless……David

  20. Matt did the Lightroom seminar in LA yesterday, which was fantastic. He had maybe three good questions on the breaks, which he shared with us when the next class started. I was so glad he didn’t take any open Q&A, because I wouldn’t want to miss a minute of the classes.l

  21. Good on ya, Scott. Don’t let the audience run the presentation. Some of us come for the presentation.

  22. One good solution to this Q&A problem that I’ve seen at other meetings, is to have people write their questions out on a card during the talk. They get passed down to the ends of the rows and collected. If you have the staff/time, they can be pre-screened and even sorted a bit before being handed up to you to answer (but that last part isn’t strictly necessary).

    This stops the pompous self-agrandizement (is that a word?) and allows you to select the questions that will be most useful to the general audience.

  23. Don’t change a thing Scott. I attended your last Chicago seminar and was really impressed with how much time you spent in one on one interactions. I got there early and saw you talk with people in the lobby, use all of your between session breaks, and most of your lunch break to answer questions. I loved the format of the training, it was engaging and made learning easy even though I was a bit tired as I hit the road at 3am and drove 300 miles to make it to the seminar. I appreciated the time you took to talk with me and every other person who waited in line to talk with you.

  24. hehehe!! i liked this blog today scott!

  25. And this statement on Q&A is so true not just on seminars, but just almost any meeting/presentation/corporate all hands etc…
    Gosh I hate it when you have the whole of the company in a place and one person stands up to ask the status of his transfer to a different department..
    People (me included) are just too self centered to do Q&A in front of a crowed :0)

  26. In the words of “The Waterboy’s Mama”

    Open Q&A’s are da Debil!

    I love NAPP Seminars. And I actually do enjoy filling out the comments forms. It’s my little voice in a huge room of photogs :)

    thanks for the way you do what you do Scott

  27. I’ve been to one of your LR seminars in Dallas, and thought the balance of it all was excellent.

    The idea of having a question card someone could write and pass to the aisle for consideration in a brief end of the day, “Answers to select questions” session seems a good way to handle things too… you could give promos to those chosen if the people wanted to ID themselves… it might generate thoughtful questions vs. self-promo stuff… if you have enough people to triage them for you. Likewise, you might get subjects for your blog as well… or pass them to Matt for LR KillerTips, since he’s been snipping from your new LR3 book all week anyway. lol (excellent book, best yet…)

  28. Scott, I was at your seminar in Ft. Lauderdale. All I can say is….thanks! Great job! I saw how many people came up in the breaks to ask questions and I can only imagine the range of questions you received that day. I appreciated the fact that you shared the ‘common’ ones with the group, but I am also glad that you don’t do a Q & A! It would have ruined the good feeling that was circulating the room at the end. Thanks again to you and the team!

  29. Scott:

    You clearly put a lot of thought into this post and I find that I agree with you. I like the breaks between sessions because my mind needs them as much as my legs want to stretch a bit. I’m not a fan of Q&A because, statement or not, they generally don’t apply to me.

    I try to go to seminars and workshops with the attitudee that I’m the dumbest guy in the room. If I go with a bunch of questions and expect the instructor to help me with my little problem, I may miss out on the material being presented. The only questions that come to my mind are generally after you (or another instructor) just showed something cool and I start wondering (if you can do “x” like that, can you then extend it to do “y or z”?). I’ve found that if I just shut-up and wait, the answer is coming up next. If it doesn’t, well then I can stand in line during a break and ask a follow-up question to something taught in the workshop.

    That said, I don’t drink beer. I’d be happy if there was a place to get some Diet Dr. Pepper, though, instead of bringing a cooler with me.

  30. Scott, prior to any seminar you or your colleagues plan on presenting, why not have members who plan to attend submit their questions weeks in advance. Whatever the topic, have the question forms structured in such a way that their particular problem can be narrowed down to a single issue. (I believe many companies use this technique in addressing customers’ complaints.) When you feel you have enough submitted questionnaires, you can evaluate them to see what the common thread is. This thread and other features you wish to introduce can then become the structure of your presentation. This way you will eliminate the dreaded Q&A that invariably takes away from the spirit of the seminar.

  31. Why don’t you handle your Q&A Chase Jarvis style?

    Have an open Q&A, and have everyone in the audience tweet or text their questions to you. Matt can scan through them, pick out the good ones, and read them off to you one at a time as you answer them live.

    • Hi Shelly,
      I’ve sat in on the Creative Live classes and Scott’s point still rings true for them too. Just because you can tweet your question, it doesn’t really make it better. There’s still a TON of questions that come through and a VERY small percentage that ever get answered. Trust me, I saw many of them get ignored because they simply couldn’t get to more than a handful of questions due to time constraints.

  32. Very true words Scott. I saw the exact same sorts of behavior, good and not so good, when I attended your Photoshop for photographers seminar in Atlanta. There’s a real difference between networking and self-promotion. By the way, I very much appreciated you taking a moment to answer my one-on-one question during a breaks. To me its a given that all the folks attending the class are exceptional photographers and/or Photoshop users. I’m there to LEARN from you and the people around me. I’m NOT there to show how much I know or tout my experience. Sort of like what I tell the few musicians who demand to get up on stage and show me what they know, “I’d be happy to come see you play at your own gig. But I’m being paid and the audience expects me to perform tonight”.

  33. Scott,
    I was at your Ft.Lauderdale seminar and thought it was absolutely perfect.
    The flow was great, the instruction was extremely relevant and presented in an easy flowing manner. Congratulations!
    The problem is with human nature, you will never be able to satisfy all the needs of all the participants. It’s impossible.
    NO ! a q & a is not necessary. You basically answer all the questions in the presentation, if only the people would listen.
    As I recall in a show of hands roughly 60% of the audience were not NAPP members and roughly 50% han not as yet purchased LR3. That makes for a very difficult time for any instructor.
    You did a great job in explaining everything. Hell most of the stuff is in the workbook if people would only learn to read.
    TG

  34. “They usually start with the question person giving their personal resume for the whole room to hear….“, yeah, I have been to workshops when someones has done that, seems so rude and inconsiderate of everyone else in the room. I guess they don’t realize what a level of insecurity it reveals.

    You make the right decision to have and follow your own program, with a small allotment for Q & A. It’s very generous of you to give your time after the seminar.

  35. Scott,

    I totally agree with you on not doing a Q&A session. I have not been able to make it to one of your seminars but in many technical seminars I have been to for my work, I can attest to how little value Q&A sessions have for the group as a whole. I would much rather have that time spent in further class time. I have found that most Q&A sessions are more a waste of my time than instructional.

  36. I’m a college instructor and face the same situations.. but one group can be so different. Once you think you have it figured out, you get another group. Maybe asking them to write questions down on a card and hand it in… and then pick a few at random would work.

    Thanks for a great Lightroom 3 book by the way. Heck, I’m still at the importing photos part and have learned something. The explanation on using DNG.. I never thought about it but now I’m going to go DNG conversion.

    Oh, I’m a Photowalk leader too for the second time…

    Thanks,

    Jim

  37. What if you set up a unique email address for each seminar, shared it at the beginning of the day, and let people send you their questions that way? Have an assistant cull them and send you the ones that would be useful to the group…similar to an online workshop/seminar. I agree that a wide open Q&A can be mind numbing for most of the crowd but there may be some great questions, too. And it can give shy participants the anonymity they’d prefer.

  38. Scott, it was great to spend the day with you at NYC Monday. I was sitting right in front of you in the front row soaking in all the things you were teaching. I appreciate all the effort you put in to bring us such valuable content! I hope you will come back to NYC soon again! Maybe you can have a door prize and whoever wins it have to take you to Carmines and they get to have all their questions answered? :)

  39. As always, a pleasure to read the witty explanations of your M.O. thanks for sharing.

    Still hoping to not have a Q&A in Utah soon…

    Levi

  40. Thanks for the heads up. It will come in handy to know what to expect when we do some seminars in the near future. Still, I know us and I know we will get frustrated regardless of the forewarning.

    • Donnie, get there early so you can get up front. We had over 600 in Atlanta and I was #12 in line. Stay during breaks and listen to q&a’s. This is the best seminar ever (Dave’s & Bens too). I can’t wait to catch the other guys and girls at PSW!!

  41. As someone else pointed out, NAPP members can get their questions answered any time. The forums are completely amazing for getting answers in a matter of hours, if not minutes. And many of the most avid forum members have incredible levels of expertise. I have had a reply to a computer help desk question within a few hours. And Laurie Excell is always ready to answer camera equipment questions personally. So with all this available to us, NAPP members have a non-stop Q and A session 24/7. Yet another benefit for our $99 membership. Truly, NAPP does pay us back in so many ways.

  42. The challenge is how to get better at things that work (w/o messing them up). In this case “good” questions that added value to subsequent presentations (e.g. the Save As question), did not come from the suggested open Q&A session, but from the private walk-up time. One issue with the walkup Q&A is that the instructor also needs a break, another is that most of the open Q&A negatives still exist, only experienced/exposed at a smaller scale.

    So let’s hear some ideas to make it more efficient in generating the “good” questions that will improve the quality of future presentations (or even the end of the current presentation). There might be some teaching techniques that draw out interesting questions — pedagogy? There might be … uh who knows. And of course one thing we can all do is be a better audience and avoid the Q&A pitfalls Scott outlined when we step up to the mic.

  43. Hey Scott, great post. I went to one of your Lightroom seminars a couple years ago when you came to Denver, and I really disliked open Q&As when they happened, because it was as you said – people who just wanted to hear themselves talk and tell everybody what a photo guru they were. That being said, I loved the seminar…when you were talking, not other people.

  44. Yeah, I support the idea of written questions:

    1) it’s more difficult for attendees to go on and on with written questions. And even if they do, you very well might be able to condense it to the real comment or question.
    2) questions that are too difficult ….. “please talk to me after the presentation”
    3) you can answer questions that are likely to apply to many

    This is the style that has been used with medical conferences that I attend. People are asked to write questions during the presentation, then they are collected and answered. Each question is addressed, but sometimes only to say, “I don’t have the answer” or “email me” or “here’s a reference” etc.
    Lot’s of people walk out when the Q&A starts, including me on occasion. But I would have to say that when I do stick around and hear the comments and questions, I am rarely disappointed.
    Anyway, give this idea some thought. Thanks for listening.

    Jeff

  45. I hear your frustration. Have you tried getting people to email or write their questions down before the show starts? It might save some time on wasted questions.
    I’m sure you do a fabulous job.
    JJ

  46. Scott,

    The NY LR3 seminar was fabulous! I have forgotten half of what I learned but am working on remembering it by working in Lightroom, baby steps, you know? I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation, especially the occasional jokes and yoda popping out every now and then!

    LOVE your writing style in your many books, keep up the good work! I lent the three photography volumes to a co-worker and she enjoyed them so much she ordered her own set the same day. Looking forward to getting your LR3 (which I just ordered from B&H) and CS5 for Photographers (when it comes out)! Hopefully you will bring the CS5 seminar to NY soon. Thank You!

  47. I have to agree with you Scott, I don’t want to hear others drone on about themselves. We all have different levels of skills and knowledge about the program and to sit through a Q&A would be painful for me. I attended a show of yours last year in Philly and I can confirm that you extend yourself to the attendees over and beyond during breaks and at the end. I waited till the end, to say hello and have a book signed. You were gracious and accomidating for all, thanks!

  48. Looks like all you get here, Scott, is agreement ;-). I am signed up for tomorrow’s seminar in SF and am so happy to hear that there won’t be any Q&A. They’re an absolute waste of time, and I usually leave when they do take place. Now I get to stay for the whole session letting Matt fill my brain with knowledge. Can’t wait. And thanks for the post. It’s excellent.

  49. Scott… I TOTALLY agree with you!

  50. Hi Scott,

    I have attended quite a few of the touring workshops and a couple of PSWs and I think that the current format is great! When I am at PSW, I always wish that the classes were longer, but then I think my brain would explode. The nice thing about you and your staff is that you get it, meaning that you look at classes from the attendees’ POV and that’s nice for a change.

    As for you and your breaks, I always want to bring you a sandwich, a drink or a potty pass! (wife is a teacher, sorry!) but that’s where I like to stand and listen to other people’s questions, I pick up things here and there, plus ask my own questions. I make a “Ask Scott” list on my iPhone and bring it with me and try and get those things answered throughout the day, so as to not totally whip you and let others ask their questions.
    I always hope that you don’t think that I’m a SK creeper! Ha!

    I always make it a point to thank you at the end of the day, (or PSW, days), because sometimes that’s just what one needs and I’m also truly appreciative of your willingness to share/teach!

  51. Scott,
    I would still like to know if I should daisy chain the 4200rpm drive or get the 7200rpm?
    Would you recommend going with Enterprise level SCSI?
    do they make a DROBO for that?
    I will patiently await your answer, but please be quick as I’m an important photgrapher and I’m doing serious work. and I mean dead serious! ;)

  52. Thanks for a wonderful post. I’m going to Matt’s workshop tomorrow and will be sure to ask my question if he doesn’t answer it during the seminar.

  53. I have an idea that maybe you have already thought of….

    Have the Q&A first….then when all those people stand up to promote their advanced knowledge of everything Photoshop/Lightroom/Canon/Nikon….then you can ask them to kindly step outside ….then get down to teaching those who need the teaching :)

  54. Know what I like about you? You teach with a teacher’s objective: teach them how to learn. And every person in that audience WANTS to learn! What an ideal situation!
    Can’t tell you how much I appreciate the “NO Q&A” policy you have. As a teacher, I know exactly what you are talking about when Joe Shmoe wants to be recognized. I will incorporate that bit of teacher info in my presentations too. Thanks Scott!
    Dolores

  55. Whoa, Scott. NOW I know exactly what you were aiming at. Spent an absolutely fantastic day in South San Francisco with Matt teaching us Lightroom. However, never in my life have I met so many self important and conceited shooters and I am totally impressed with Matt’s cool dealing with these guys during breaks. As I’m sure you have to deal with the same, I applaud the both of you. I’m sure they all do a decent job as photographers but, the strutting just got to me after a while. It might work when you’re trying to get a job but, heck, this is just a seminar – not a job interview. Anyway, Matt was his old wonderful, entertaining self and did a fabulous job, and I apologize for venting in this forum. However, I do applaud you guys for NOT having a Q&A or I would have left hours earlier.

  56. Did the LR3 class today with Matt in South San Francisco and it was awesome! Matt truly is entertaining and so knowledgeable about whatever he teaches.

  57. Just an idea: at the end of a session, people with questions could write them on notecards and turn them in. An assistant could scan through and pull out any that look applicable to the group and you could choose a few to answer. That way no long winded non-questions/statements but a chance to see if someone did come up with something useful for you to address.

    I missed the LA LR class, but hope to check it out if it ever comes back through.

  58. Photography seems to have a bit of a self-promotion / ego problem these days and perhaps it always has and the behavior is really just tracking a me-obsessed society. In part though, its I think what people see in photography: it’s an area where people want to be famous and have their name on everything down to photo walks and have been told by people time-and-time again promote, promote, promote, you’re selling something. What does that fame get one? Well, I think people are seeing pros that seem to spend more time and make more money doing workshops on lighting than they do on freelance photography, or news organization photography (who wants the YYZ Tribune pay if you can charge $400 a day or $2000 for 3 days per participant). So, unfortunately, I think what you’re seeing (where people are being, what my friends would have called “tools” several years back) is photography as a perceived means to wealth (which seems a bit delusional by-in-large) and a perception that wealth comes with fame, so every chance one has, one has to promote oneself… even in “Q&A”. I’m overgeneralizing and I could be wrong even applied broadly, but it’s one possible explanation for the insufferable.

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