One of the pitfalls of professional development.

I attend a fair number of meetings and professional development sessions.

Not as many as some of my colleagues, but I try to get to them when I can. I like learning and was always taught that no education is wasted.

An hour listening to a marketing expert speak about how he conducts focus groups or a lawyer sharing her expertise on contract writing will usually be beneficial. Maybe not immediately, but at some point in my career.

But sometime my willingness to learn lands me in some extremely boring situations.

Yesterday, for instance, I attended a meeting on “the state of planned giving.”

I’m not sure what I expected… a conversation on planned giving techniques, maybe? Or a discussion of the most successful planned giving programs, a best practice guide?

What I got was an hour-long lecture on the history of planned giving in America, from the original bequest to Harvard in 1693 to the 2006 Tax Act.

Can you say “yawn?”

No one wants to label their meeting or session as a potential snooze-fest, but I wish there was a little more truth in advertising when it comes to professional events.

I never would have attended if the session was titled, “An mind-numbingly complete history of planned giving in the United States.”

Maybe there should be a list of code words, like the symbols hobos used to use during the depression to identify the houses that would give handouts from the less-generous ones.

In retrospect, “the state of” anything should probably be avoided. Like the state of the union address, it promises to long and boring, even if the information it provides is important.

If there isn’t a clue in the title, sometimes the speaker’s picture and bio might indicate if the event is going to be uninspiring.

Is she smiling in her picture? If not, she might not have a sense of humor.

Do the titles of his publications make you want to read them?

How many degrees does she have after her name? More than three might mean the talk is going to be very academic.

There’s also the name of the organization presenting the session. Does it make you want to join or run in the other direction?

Until we create an underground system of identifying the boring factor, there is no foolproof way to avoid bad meetings and classes. All you can do it try to learn one useful piece of information from the session no matter how dull it might be.

Or avoid them all together.

Personally, I’d rather risk an hour or two of boredom than lead an uneducated life.

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