Better late than never, but I’ve been haggling over what to write about from my recent conference experience…
I’ve been in this industry for quite some time, but only started attending conferences about 5-6 years ago. Learning Solutions Conference & Expo 2010 held in Orlando, FL the week of Mar 24-26 was by far the BEST yet!
I’m not just saying that because I had a blast, or that I’ve developed a lot of great friendships, but the eLearning Guild really knows what their audience wants and needs! Don’t believe me? See the Learning Solutions Magazine article.
On the flight home I had a chance to compile notes and had intended on writing a complete review of the week to include the “eLearning Foundations Intensive” 2-day workshop. When I actually sat down to write, I changed my mind. At some point during the week I had heard that 60% of the attendees were new to the industry and it was their first eLearning Guild event. I had a great time meeting and talking with many of them and intend on continuing those relationships into inevitable friendships. So I thunk to myself, “Self, why not write about those relationships?”
Why the eLearning Guild is the best!
I attended the whole shebang! The eLearning Foundations Intensive, Conference & Expo, Presented a concurrent session, and Presented for the ID Zone. Full week to say the least and just like those first-timers, my brain is full! I wrote about Day 1 of the eLearning Foundations Intensive here. Day 2 is here.
Before I get started on my conference experience, I want to explain why I think this is THE best conference for folks trying to figure out and understand what all the layers of this business entails. First, the eLearning Guild goes above and beyond when it comes to coordinating and organizing an event. Sure, there are bumps and snags along the way, but they have an extraordinary staff of professionals that can head off any situation. Big Kudo shouts out to Luis, Ina, Julie, and Garrick! Those four worked tirelessly from day one non-stop (probably 16 hour days) to ensure we had everything we needed. From the first interactions via email to ensure we were all set with our credentials, to getting us registered and set up, to working with the hotel staff to ensure all the techno gadgets were in order, and to the endless questions we through at them all week. Great job!
One thing that impressed me about this conference was the LS2010 iPhone app (not sure if it was available for other smart phones though). The eLearning Guild is truly an organization that walks the walk when it comes to the tools & technology of the industry it supports. Next is the Wi-Fi access. Not just Wi-Fi “hot spots,” but entire access all week! I had free Wi-Fi in my room which is unheard of at other conferences, and I didn’t have to hunt down a hot spot. Other conferences have several hot spots setup, but it’s usually a small corner tucked away in some boring part of a hotel or conference center with never enough tables and chairs. This week was like the Wi-Fi cloud followed me wherever I went. Very cool!
Why does the eLearning Guild smoke the others? Because a large majority of its content is user generated. Many of the articles are written by Guild members and every free e-book is published with Guild member input. In addition, speakers present with the passion they have for the art of the business and simply put – pay it forward. An enormous value for anyone new or veteran in this industry for just providing a lousy email address! What are you waiting for?
Why relationships are key!
Okay, enough about them. I had a great time re-connecting with old friends, making new ‘face-to-face’ connections with friends I’ve gotten to know through Twitter, and made a heap of new friends! I’m sure everyone who attended had a similar experience.
Wednesday (Day 1 of the conference) I was amped! I was looking forward to reconnecting with friends and to finally put a face to a Twitter name! Honestly, before I left for the event there were many I wanted to find and was anxious about not being able to at least introduce myself. I thought about what I could do to make it easier for folks to find me, so in a last minute decision I had a shirt made with my Twitter avatar (NuggetHead) embroidered on it. I had no idea how successful it would be but I had more people say, “Hey! I know you!” as they pointed to my shirt. That whole self-marketing thing really works!
Of the many I was looking forward to meet in person was Bryan Jones with eLearningArt. He and I have been collaborating on projects and brainstorming new ideas. Kudos to Bryan for working at solving the problem that most Instructional Designers face when it comes to finding that perfect character pose. I wish him the best of success!
I met Tom Kuhlmann and Mark Schwartz with Articulate for the first time last year the eLearning Guild’s Annual Gathering. This year I was able to meet more of their team. In the weeks leading up to this event, I had been working with David Anderson on a local project. The week prior to this event I was asked to be a guest on Articulate’s Word of Mouth Blog and Jeanette Brooks helped (taught) me how to write an effective blog post. It was really great to finally meet both of them in person!
Connecting with many others I consider friends beyond this business that I only get to ‘see’ once or twice a year is always a treat! It was great to see Cammy Bean , Clark Quinn, Jean Marrapodi, Chris Willis, Tom Kuhlmann, and Claudine Caro again to name a few. As well, I got to meet face-to-face many folks I’ve gotten to know in the last year via social spaces like, , Ellen Wagner, Patti Shank, Will Thalheimer, Bob Mosher, Mark Oehlert, Koreen Olbrish, Marcia Conner, and Gina Minks.
In addition to the conference, I have relationships with several vendors through work: Ron Price with Yukon Learning, Ryan Swigert with Trivantis (Lectora), Roy Haythorn with Meridian Knowledge Solutions (LMS), and of course the folks at Articulate. A couple other vendors I need to mention are the brothers Andrew and Shawn Scivally with eLearningBrothers.com. Way cool to finally meet these two! The one vendor that stood out to me (and I’m sure to many others!) was Nemo and Josh with Bloomfire. Aside from Nemo’s energy to market their product, I had the pleasure of their company for dinner on two separate occasions. Plus, they have a very cool product!
Now, I could have easily taken up all this real estate writing about the conference, the sessions, what I gathered, etc. but it really is more than that. Events like this (the good ones) are about the people; about the connections; about the networking! It’s about learning together and from one another. It’s all about how those relationships are key! I’m already looking forward to next year!
One final note: Jeff Hurt makes some valid points about conference-goers and good overall suggestions for conferences in general. Not to repeat his thoughts here, but you can read his points of view on his blog. Let’s just say if the opportunity presents itself, I’d be interested in sitting on a conference committee to brainstorm and push the limits to what the ultimate conference experience looks like (should be) in the future.