It's convention time again! Last year, the education I received from the convention was worth the cost of entry, travel, and hotel expenses. I'm looking forward to doing it again this year! It's supposed to be 75-80 degrees and I am ready for that!
Whenever attending these conventions, I'm struck by the different types of speakers and their underlying purpose. I've found primarily 4 categories that speakers tend to fall into. To get the most out of your convention experience, understand these types of speakers and you will have an easier time weeding out the "waste of time" workshops from the "food for the soul" workshops.
1. The Sales Pitch.
This speaker type has something to sell and they will sell you on it. Most speakers have at least a tiny amount of seller in them; they've written a book and if you want to know more than a 1 hour workshop can provide, you'll want to buy it. However, some workshops are exclusively sales driven. Beware of these.
Sometimes, you want a sales driven workshop. If you are thinking about investing in Sonlight Curriculum next year, you might want to attend. They're pitch will explain what is Sonlight, why you should use Sonlight, and what it will do for your family. During the Q&A at the end, you can ask all of your burning questions about your own particular situation and whether the speaker has found a solution is waiting for you in using Sonlight.
Sometimes you need a pick-me-up-off-the-floor (because I'm dying here!) sort of speech. If so, this one's for you! Quite often, these will have a strong religious flavor. These types of workshops might involve the message, "you're the best one for the job, and God has equipped YOU to teach your children at home...you just need to implement x, y, and z" (and, if it's a Christian based motivational speaker, I can tell you x, y, and z will involve prayer, reading your Bible, and depending on God...or something of that nature). Motivational speakers may not be all that informative, however; so if you are looking for hardcore, tell it like it is, informational, avoid this type of workshop.
Another type of motivational speaker is the Idealist. These are the visionary people that can see a wonderful future, and ideals to live up to. These are the big picture speakers that get you on fire about a certain philosophy. A workshop, for example, on Charlotte Mason, might contain more ideals than a step by step directory of how to get there.
This type of workshop will give you the STEPS you need to get there (wherever there is). This type of speech can easily be broken down into bullet points, steps, or bold face print. "To become the world's best homeschool mom, you need 1. a good night's sleep, 2. a cup of coffee, 3. a library card, and 4. a super mom cape". These types of workshops may include topics like, high school transcripts, teaching children with learning disabilities, or homeschool styles and educational philosophies. Beware! Often, an informational workshop is actually a sales pitch in disguise! Ask yourself, is this speaker a spokesperson for one specific product? If so, does their product answer to the topic? For instance, if Dr. Jay Wile is speaking about how to teach Homeschool Science, it may be a sales pitch for Apologia Science. However, if Dr. Jay Wile is speaking about the homeschool movement and why you should homeschool, it will be informative about homeschooling. (Sidenote: I have found Dr. Jay Wile to be a phenomenal speaker and very worth attending - so this example was not a criticism, rather an example of convention speaker purposes).
The sky is falling! Alarmist speakers will be informational + a message of "Wake up, America!" It is a call to something. Sometimes we need an alarm clock. This year's alarmist messages will most likely include Common Core:) Alarmist workshops will be strongly driven in one direction, and will not weigh pros and cons...it will simply take a stand, and call you to open your eyes and take a stand, too. Other alarmist workshops may include healthy eating and vaccinations. Sometimes high school workshops can be alarmist ("if you don't spend a year practicing SAT tests and taking them, Johnny will never get into a good college and his life will be over"). Obviously, alarmist workshops can be a positive push in the right direction, or it can take you down muddy roads you really don't need to travel. You'll need to be on the look out for alarmist workshops and decide if it is a necessary wake up call or better spent as a lunch break. Sometimes an alarmist workshop will provide you with information and statistics that you want to look up later. Jot down notes and then spend some valuable computer time researching at home: then make your own informed decision.
Note: speakers often have natural abilities toward one speaking purpose or another. This will leak through in their workshops. I once attended a workshop for the Lost Tools of Writing, fully expecting it to fall into the "sales pitch" category, but the speaker (Andrew Kern) has a natural gifting toward motivational speaking. He is an Idealist, with big picture ideas, and a great mind for "why we are doing this homeschool thing". I expected to be sold on his product, but instead left inspired, lol. Conversely, the natural salesman will naturally bring a sales pitch to an informational or motivational workshop. Once you get to know a certain speaker, you'll know what you can expect from other workshops by that speaker.