How do you know if attending a conference was worth your while?

A week ago, I shared a framework for goal-setting (MPV goals, or Minimum/Primary/Visionary goals).

If want your employer to foot the bill for your attendance at a conference, it can be quite helpful to identify (in advance) what you hope to get out of that conference. I spent last week at the eLearning Guild’s FocusOn Learning conference and I have to say, it was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended, but…

The key question my supervisor (or myself or anyone else who plans to hold me accountable for the investment of time and money that was spent on my attending this conference) should be asking is: “So, you say it was a great conference… how do you know?”

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How do you get the most out of your conference experience?

FocusOn

This week I’m headed to Austin, TX, to participate in the eLearning Guild’s FocusOn Learning conference. Attending any conference can be a significant investment – either for your organization or, if you’re footing your own bill for professional development opportunities, then it’s a significant investment for yourself.

For example: without any discounts, the FocusOn conference registration is $1,695. Add a couple hundred dollars for the hotel, a couple hundred more dollars for airfare, some more money for meals, local transportation and other expenses, and this could easily run several thousand dollars. That’s before you factor in the cost of your own time.

What’s the best way to ensure there’s some sort of return on this investment? Continue reading

Why (and How) I #GuildChat

Over the past year, I’ve written several articles about the joys and benefits of Tweet chatting (here is a quick primer if you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a Tweet chat).

As my to-do list at work has grown longer (with shorter turn-around times), I was able to join in on fewer and fewer Twitter conversations. Last week, however, I got excited to see that the eLearning Guild’s weekly #GuildChat topic would be onboarding.

I’m in the midst of helping overhaul my organization’s onboarding programs, I’ve been looking for some good ideas, so this seemed quite timely.

Normally, to participate in a Tweet chat, I’ll sit by myself at my desk, kind of hoping nobody else walks by and thinks it’s ok to interrupt me because I’m “just doing Twitter.” Last week, I switched this routine up a bit. Continue reading

DevLearn 2014: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Hours

A week and a half ago, I was very excited to head to Las Vegas for the eLearning Guild’s 10th annual DevLearn conference. I wrote a blog post wondering if I could find the equivalent of a soul mate when it comes to a single presentation that could capture my heart and set my imagination on fire.

I wanted a presentation that could “show me the ring” (because I really, really wanted to be engaged by this presentation). I wanted a pacifist type of presentation where bullets wouldn’t be used in the PowerPoint slides. I wanted a fearless presenter – confident in delivery and willing to take some risks, maybe even get the audience involved (and no, just saying: “I want this to be highly interactive, so make sure you raise your hand if you have a question” does not mean you’ve designed an interactive presentation!!).

By the end of the first day of the conference, I seemed to have chosen a string of sessions that broke my heart. Were my standards too high? I’ll let you decide. If Composure magazine was writing a “how to” column entitled “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Hours”, these are some of the strategies they would have written about:

  1. Talk about yourself. For an hour. I understand that real-life case studies and stories about how someone has overcome a problem are what make for good conference proposals. The problem is: your actual presentation isn’t about you. It’s about how you can help solve a problem or address a need for your audience. Spend some time setting the stage about what you’ve been able to accomplish… but don’t neglect an opportunity for discussion with the audience about how your lessons learned can be applied to their problems or needs.
  2. Use discredited information. If you’re going to talk about book clubs as a learning strategy, don’t use Three Cups of Tea as the central example for the success of your online program. The book has been exposed for containing lies and half-truths and the author has been thoroughly discredited as a reputable figure in the international development arena, making it harder for those of us doing good work in international development to gain the confidence of potential funders. This was a total turn-off for me.
  3. Take a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude. Several sessions offered “best practices” in elearning design… yet chose a lecture format by which to share those design elements. Why not model some of those best practices in person? One presenter lectured on the three basic learner needs in Self-determination Theory. One of those elements was “autonomy”. Why not model this element by asking the audience which of the three basic needs they wanted to know more about first? And then point out that this was an example of “autonomy”?

To be fair, there were several sessions which already have me thinking about ways to integrate ideas and concepts into my work, but I’d think twice before allocating professional development dollars for me or anyone else from my organization to attend this event in the future.

Anyone who has ever found a soul mate might be able to identify with the idea that they can be found in the most unlikely of places… the places you’d never think to look. At DevLearn, I was looking in the place I felt would be most logical: conference breakout sessions. The aspect of DevLearn from which I left most energized, most wanting to repeat again in the future however, was the opportunity to meet people I’d only worked with or interacted with online.

If you’re looking for some new people to follow via Twitter, I’d recommend these folks: Kirby Crider, JD Dillon, Brent Schlenker, Nicole Legault, David Andersen, Meg Bertapelle, Tom Spiglanin and Learning Rebel Shannon Tipton. Not only are they really smart and have good things to share via Twitter… they’re all pretty cool people, too!

Finding my Soulmate at DevLearn

We all know that some conference presentations are spectacular… and some are complete snoozers. I wish there was a Match.com service for conferences and annual meetings. Some type of service that could match me up with great speakers and amazing presentations.

Next week, I’ll be in Las Vegas, attending The eLearning Guild’s annual DevLearn conference. If I could run an online personal ad in order to find the perfect conference session to attend, this is what it might look like:

Profile Name: Flipchartguy

Fly Guy

Location: Seattle, WA

Seeking: A lifetime of amazing learning opportunities… though one amazing fling of a presentation in Vegas will do for now

About Me: I’ve been in the L&D space for 16 years or so, mostly classroom-based but I’ve dabbled enough in elearning to hold my own. I’ve been told I have a one-track mind; all I can think about is how to make learning and development more engaging every day. I hope this little quirk is ok with you. But it means that I also expect you to want to make learning and development engaging every day. Not just in your office. But when you’re presenting, too. Like, when you’re presenting at DevLearn for example.

Who I’m Looking For: I’m looking for someone who can blow my mind and who doesn’t believe in “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” I’m looking for a session that delivers content or builds skills that won’t just be forgotten as soon as I walk out the door of your meeting room. I want to brag about what I did with you, what you taught me, what I can now do when I go back to Seattle and swap stories with my co-workers and other L&D colleagues for years to come.

Interests: Flipcharting, designing learning experiences, playing around with Storyline, geeking out over hot topics in adult learning

Exercise Habits: I’m actually kind of lazy, always looking for keyboard shortcuts to hasten the amount of time I spend in PowerPoint or Storyline or Word or Excel

Favorite Things: I know DevLearn is all about technology in learning, but I still cherish the first whiff of a new pack of Mr. Sketch markers

Last Read: Our Iceberg Is Melting (John Kotter)

Background & Values

Me My Soul Mate
Education M.A. Organizational Psychology Degrees are overrated
Learning Style Visual Kinesthetic
Delivery Style Attempt to be inclusive (as often as possible) Show me the ring (because I want to be engaged by you and your presentation!)
Honesty I may exaggerate from time to time Honesty is a must! What you advertise in your session description in the conference program should be what you deliver in your session!
Risk Taking Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Be fearless.

 

Delivery Style

Me My Soul Mate
Lecture No way This is a deal-breaker for me
Visual Aids Prefer flipchart; PPT if I must Standard templates, lots of text and bullet points are all deal-breakers
Preparation Almost always Must be impeccable (yes, I have higher standards for you; perhaps you’ll inspire me to prepare better)
Delivery Use a lesson plan as a guide, adapt to the audience and their needs This is a big deal. The delivery should seem natural and smooth (not off the cuff and aimless). Reading verbatim from a script or from the slides is an absolute deal breaker.

 

On November 3, I’ll follow up this post and will let you know if I was able to find that elusive conference session soul mate at DevLearn.

Will you be there? If so, drop me a line. I’d love to connect and, as I mentioned above, geek out over adult learning, instructional design and whatever else can be taken away from the conference!