Just got back from the Meridian Knowledge Solutions annual user’s conference. This was my third visit to Chantily, VA and not only do the folks at Meridian put on a great conference, it seems to get better each time!
Meridian hosted two days of networking with other clients and sharing insight into the company’s direction and goals. There are many companies who put on a “users conference” and put on a smile for a couple days, but the folks at Meridian walk the talk.
Following is a breakdown of the two days from my perspective:
Tuesday, Day 1:
The very first thing after the introductions and welcoming new clients was a presentation by Executive Vice President, Roy Haythorn into the state of the company. Not just what future plans they have, but shared with us their challenges as well. I like honesty!
Next was a presentation and re-launch of the Meridian User Community collaborative site. I’ve been a member since being a client, but have not been very active on the site. With new features and redesign, I’m looking forward to connecting with other clients throughout the year rather than just at the conference.
Just before lunch we were inspired and entertained by Butch Lumpkin. Butch is disabled and was born with no arms, yet he’s an accomplished Golf and Tennis Pro. In fact, he’s an instructor of both sports! Part of his presentation he asked Roy and myself up on stage to assist him in a little “experiment.” While he was setting up the spot and talking about his challenges, he managed to tee up a golf ball…with his feet…with shoes…not the monkey grip toe grab you’re probably thinking. You can see how he does it here and watch his amazing story >> Meet Butch Lumpkin. Next, Butch asked Roy and I to do the same and even gave us three attempts. He made it look a lot easier than it is…and no, I couldn’t do it. His message to us in business is no matter how insurmountable our challenges may seem, there is always a way to overcome any obstacle. I know I’m now a better person for meeting him!
Lunch: What can I say? Superb! Buffet style salads, pastas, meats, and deserts!
After lunch were the breakout sessions that I always look forward to as it’s an opportunity to see (listen) to what other clients using the same product are doing. It never fails to leave me with new ideas and inspiration. First up was Rich Herbst, VP of Learning & Leadership Development for TeleTech. He shared how he’s using the Meridian system to build a world-class training & development organization. After Rich was Brooke Schepker with the Commonwealth of Virginia. She shared her enormous challenge of managing all the state’s different agencies as their state’s LMS Administrator. Sheesh…and I thought I had stress!
We wrapped the day up with cocktail reception and dinner followed by a “Moonlight Monument” tour of Washington D.C. That was way cool! We all piled into two motor coaches (with beverage service) and headed to the mall with an experienced tour guide filling our brains with more fun facts about buildings, monuments, and sculptures that I can chaperone any middle school class with confidence!
Wednesday, Day 2:
The morning kicked off with a product update. This is always interesting because it first demonstrates Meridian’s commitment to managed growth rather than chasing the next new shiny object. We get insight into the next couple years, planned upgrades, future releases, and other potential features. Not sure I can share any of that cool stuff here, but if you’re reading this and are remotely interested in looking for an LMS or change from the one you’re using, you may want to consider having a chat with these folks…
Next on the agenda was a session I had been looking forward to ever since I learned who was attending. Bill Perry, Managing Partner facilitated a panel discussion of pro-bloggers Mark Bower of Learning Leaders Forum, Karl Kapp of Kapp Notes, and Susan Smith Nash who blogs at E-Learning Queen. Topic: Fact vs. Fad on a number of emerging technologies and practices from mLearning to augmented reality. Plus, I got to finally meet Karl!
Next session was an introduction on Meridian’s Virtual Library presented by Meridian’s Mike Mills. Meridian has partnered with companies like MindLeaders, SkillSoft, InfoSense, and other third-party content providers to help clients put together custom learning packages. Essentially taking out the middle person and providing a service to manage all your off-the-shelf content.
Lunch: Did I say buffet city?!
The remainder of the day was more breakout sessions. Mark Bower (from the earlier panel discussion) talked about “Increasing the Training Organization’s Business Impact” by creating a strategy and setting the appropriate investment levels. After Mark were Margarett Letizio and Kimberly Rodrigues with the U.S. Army FMWR Academy. They talked about how they are using the IDP (Individual Development Plan) module in the Meridian LMS.
Final thoughts of the day were award presentations to clients and a wrap-up of the two days.
As with many conferences, I always look forward to the non-agenda time when we can network and get to know more folks. Many of the Meridian leadership stayed later and we converged at the local watering hole for more discussion, debates, and of course ideas on what to do next!
With all the challenges facing learning organizations today, it’s nice to know that a partner like Meridian is on your side! Good times as always!