I have often been asked the question “what training did you go on to do the job you have”?. And the simple answer is, there is no “course” for my role which I can best describe as “Leaning Technologist”. Much of what i have learned, I have gained from networking with the right people and in particular, attending the right conferences where such people are to be found. And hopefully, some of them have learned something from me too!
This blog was prompted by Craig Weiss’s recent blog on the World of Learning Conference – and as a review of the Exhibition from the vendor perspective, it’s good stuff! (check it out here).
But for me, the real value of attending a conference lies in the main conference sessions themselves – in the case of Learning Technologies, these take place outside of the Exhibition area and are not to be confused with the free sessions which to be frank, are more often than not a vendor pitch. And I am fine with that as vendors pay a lot of money to attend these events! Of course, you do also get to see one of their customers who has deployed their technology successfully so for those looking to reassure themselves about the vendor, that has value too.
However, I digress!
Long before the advent of Twitter, conference sessions introduced me to some great people with ideas that helped me to formulate my own thinking. And I am not just talking about the speakers either! In particular, those that moved to a more “roundtable” approach where the speaker became more of a facilitator have been of immense value. Examples of those include elearnity’s Corporate Roundtable events and anything run by Elliott Masie.
“Death by Powerpoint” has been a problem for many conferences over the years – one event that never seems to suffer from this is the Learning Technologies Conference in London which a testament to the quality of speakers that Donald Taylor puts together. It was my pleasure last year to chair the session led by Nigel Paine who spent most of the time among the audience! If you only have budget to attend one conference next year, this is the one for the networking opportunities alone! And of course, it has an exhibition attached for those that are still in the early days of adopting learning technology.
Here’s Nigel introducing Donald Clark at the conference last year:
(Sadly this video is no longer available)
Donald is another great thinker who I first met at a conference where we were both speaking. Following him on stage is always something I dread! 😉
Whilst Twitter has extended my PLN (Personal learning Network) considerably, meeting most of them at various events such as conferences has been the real benefit. A great example of this is Neil Lasher whom I first met at Learning Technologies many years ago. Since then, he has become a friend and I am looking forward to our next meeting in early November when we bring our combined teams together for a collaborative learning event that will bring real benefit to both of our organisations.
Vendor conferences are also good for networking – of course, you get the vendor viewpoint but it’s the people you meet there that will be of real benefit for years to come. In the UK, we have extended this to an “unofficial” user group for fellow LMS users which has proved even more valuable!
So, if you are like me, in a role where training courses are hard to find, go where the people who can help you will be – in the conference sessions and not on the exhibition floor. Unless of course you actually want to purchase something!