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Free Professional training is Worth Less Than You Paid for It

Robert Mazerolle's Profile

As a provider of executive education (to the Chief Innovation/ Digital/ Information Officer suites) I am frequently challenged on price. Typical 2- and 3-day sessions in many fields cost the client about $ 950 a day. Believe me, the margins are thin! But the saddest competition is free. " Vendor speak" seminars delivered by sales reps are so popular because CFOs often censure paid training, even for themselves. This creates an environment where the vendors are training the clients. Sure, they ought to if they expect their business, but the risk is evident.

A vendor seminar and many "conferences" are marketing events, using pulpits and power points to feign objectivity.

In my business, I am seriously challenged by free. But so are you, dear reader. If your organization expects you to develop your knowledge for free, they are telling you to go out there and be raised by wolves. It jeopardizes the organization in the sense that every bit of knowledge brought into a conference room or meeting is like a viral entity. Only the good stuff should be welcome. Every manager needs to spend about $6,500 annually in professional development. That's at least one 2- or 3-day seminar, a newsletter subscription or 2, and possibly a narrowly focused conference. If times are tight, just narrow the focus on the pertinent business issue. Companies don't become poorer because they spent money on education. But they do indeed become poorer - and dumber - if they don't.

I might add that the best value in seminars for professional development is often at project inception. Meaning that you spend some dough to understand upcoming challenges, implementation issues, etc. It's really not personal development; rather, it's organizational competency. The best value in newsletters and journals is for ongoing support of a competency area. The best value to be extracted from conferences is to shop around, poach talent, look for new suppliers. If you do speak at a conference, make a brand statement and a values pitch; it will carry further than a competive pitch.

In the end, you are paying for independent oversight.