Trade Show

Seminars and Coffee Talks: What’s the Difference?

They both help you grow your business, but one focuses on teaching, while the other encourages collaboration.
Photo Credit: ATA

Author: Cassie Gasaway

Seminars and Coffee Talks both provide learning opportunities at the ATA Trade Show, but they’re labeled differently because they’re… different. (Bet you didn’t see that coming!)

In short, seminar presenters share their ideas with curious attendees. Meanwhile, Coffee Talk presenters create a discussion around their ideas so attendees can participate.

Let’s review each educational opportunity in-depth.

Seminars are hour-long presentations designed for the attendees to listen. Photo Credit: ATA


Seminars are hour-long formal classes that help attendees learn, grow and prosper. They’re presented in assigned “classrooms” and allow presenters to share information, as well as take questions from the audience. Seminars are great opportunities to gain knowledge and perspective, and learn about best practices for business and the industry. Generally, attendees will listen more than they’ll talk.

Traditionally, seminars have been offered each day of the Show at 7:15 a.m. New this year: the 2020 Show offers seminars at 8 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. on Day 2 and Day 3. Seminars will not be offered on Day 1. This change lets attendees focus on business the first day, but still attend multiple seminars the next two mornings.

Coffee talks are 30 minutes and are designed for the attendees to ask questions. Photo Credit: ATA

Coffee Talks

Coffee Talks are more casual presentations and discussions; attendees should prepare to actively engage and participate. They can hold conversations with presenters, which creates space for questions and feedback from all parties. This laid-back environment encourages participants to continue the conversation afterward, which helps build potential business relationships.

Coffee Talks take place in 30-minute time blocks throughout the Show in the MyATA Area. The Coffee Talk participants meet in a half-circle so everyone can be seen and heard.


New for the 2020 Show: Hands-on Demonstrations

Besides the seminars and Coffee Talks, the ATA Show is including hands-on demonstrations by exhibitors in 2020. They’re free, and will take place in two spaces on the Show floor. Exhibitors can present a demonstration or training session in 30- or 60-minute time slots to share tips and techniques beyond what’s possible at their booth.

The demonstrations help retailer attendees become more familiar with products so they can better market the items to customers.


Last Chance: Apply to Present

Log into your MyATA member dashboard and click “Call for Presenters” to fill out the presenter application form. Don’t miss your chance to lead a seminar, Coffee Talk or hands-on demonstration. Apply before July 31. Contact Kurt Smith, ATA’s director of industry relations, with questions.

Logistics aside, each educational opportunity helps your business grow in some fashion. Whether you’re learning a new skill, discussing business best practices or working with a product, try to attend as many presentations as possible. Your customers and cash register will thank you.

Questions? Contact Kurt Smith at (717) 578-0736 or

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