I have just returned from the DevLearn 2014 conference in Las Vegas.
I have unpacked, checked email, and now finally, taking time to reflect on my overall experience. I have also had a chance to talk with peers and read blogs/postings about the conference and in all, as with everything, there are things in which to praise and others that need improvement. But I’m feeling in a positive mood, plus there will be plenty of blogs and comments which outline how DevLearn can be improved, and most will look like comments which come off a smile sheet:
- More outlets (buy a portable charger people, it is 2014)
- More interaction, less lecture (Everyone says this, but when it comes to Q&A in sessions, you hear cricket. Interaction works both ways.)
- Better food (What? Are we looking for Bobby Flay?)
- Clearer instructions (Because you can’t find clear directions in the hand-outs, or the app, or the wall signs, or the happy volunteers?)
- Too cold, too hot, too whatever (you can fill in the blank)
Snark aside – you can never make everyone happy. So let’s talk about why DevLearn was the place to be this Halloween. 3 Words:
The last two notwithstanding (but still – seriously, Halloween & Vegas, who’s not in for THAT?) it is, for me, all about building my “Personal Learning Network” or PLN. For those of you who are in the dark about DevLearn, let me initiate you – DevLearn is a Learning and Development conference sponsored by the eLearning Guild It’s main focus is on technology in learning. Technology that has been around for a while, but wrapped in a new ribbon (Learning Management Systems anyone?) as well as some newer advances such as the push to micro-video’s and green screen technology. All and all there is some very interesting stuff happening in the learning world and the EXPO hall was filled with people telling you so. Oh, and did I mention that this years keynote speaker was Neil Tyson Degrasse! Who tweeted live from our stage? Awesome!
It’s all about the informal learning!
I appreciate the vendors who come out to share their work. However, one of my main pet peeves about conferences is the carnival like atmosphere of an EXPO hall. One can feel as though they are being pulled from one “Guess the Weight” booth to another.
“We have free giveaways! But first let me scan your badge so you can receive annoying phone calls, a never-ending drip of emails, all while we keep USPS running by single-handedly killing a forest of trees to create junk postcards.”
No, but thank you very much.
I’m happy to say the vendors at DevLearn behaved themselves. Definitely a plus, as this allowed me to wonder the aisles and actually look at the booths, unafraid of being accosted. I could take time to assess naturally if I needed to stop and discover. Because of this, I observed some pretty nifty stuff which made me wish I was more of a developer. What does the EXPO have to do with my PLN? Plenty! As we all roamed about, we gathered later to discuss what we saw, what we heard, and what new and exciting things are out there. “Did you see the guy with the interactive whiteboard? He was using it to sketchnote! I would have never thought to use it that way! How cool is that?” or “Did you see on the Emerging Tech Stage; the bit about what’s new with Storyline?” Great, tremendous and deep conversations.
I heard unofficially, (meaning I overheard this while on line at the bar) that there were about 2,500 people in attendance. Not too shabby. 2,500 people. That’s a lot of learning and sharing going on. Which further leads me to the lovefest which is my PLN – I love what I do, and I love the people who are part of my PLN. The great thing about a conference like DevLearn is that it is so terribly easy to find people who are of the same philosophical mindest as you. Don’t like the ideas from the people you shared a coffee and cookie with during the break? Fine, find someone different at lunch, or at the networking event, or at the ice cream social. The opportunities to connect are endless.
During these informal times is where the magic happens. I, for one, felt as though there was plenty of opportunity to sit, discuss and reflect. It’s all about that informal/social learning that we all talk so much about (but bewilderingly want to try to manage and measure – a topic for another day). It is in this arena where we can compare notes and create on-the-fly video’s and Snapguides because a seed of an idea has popped up. It’s those seeds which grow to be the strongest, most sustainable ideas back in the workplace. Take a look at this back channel of information curated by Dave Kelly (@lnddave on twitter). I dare you to find something that is not of interest to you. http://davidkelly.me/2014/10/2014-devlearn-conference-backchannel-curated-resources/ which is another reason why to attend DevLearn (or any conference for that matter). This is a resource rich conference, with a group of people unselfishly sharing. Here is a picture of DemoFest. People sharing work which is actually in use in the workplace…with EVERYONE! Answering any and all questions, not worrying about credit or stealing of ideas. The purpose was to share.
DevLearn DemoFest in Action!
Here’s the good news for those of you now in the grieving process of having missed out. There are others!
- Learning Solutions: http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/lscon/content/3600/learning-solutions-2015-conference–expo–home/
- ATD International Conference and EXPO (ICE) http://www.astd.org/Events/International-Conference-and-Exposition
- Or just go to: http://www.astd.org/Events
I know budget dollars are tight, so as with any conference, look at the session content and determine if the focus is right for you. In this case, I wanted to connect and discover new technologies. I have gathered up a wonderful group of people through twitter and I knew most of them would be there – who could pass up such an opportunity? And wow, did we have fun. There is nothing better than sharing quality time with a group of people who love what they do as much as you do.
Speaking of which, here are 15 of my closest PLN friends all of whom I met through conferences and twitter.
Here is my view of the conference using my new favorite tool – SnapGuide: https://snapguide.com/guides/journey-through-devlearn/ (Seriously people, this is the easiest, best way to create a visual aid. Can you see completing something easy like this for a newbie heading to their first day? Here is a picture of your office, here is the lunch room, here is your new team, here is where you park)
Remember I spoke about video on the fly? Here’s a “video” created by Tom Spiglanin. He combined – photos, screen shots of tweets with iMovie (just think of the possibilities here!) : http://tom.johnandrewrankin.com/2014/11/my-devlearn-experience-in-video-arrival-and-day-1/
Oh, you want notes… well here you are courtesy of Laura Payette, Nielsen GTO: http://bit.ly/13O9zs0
Speaking of loving what you do ~
Conferences are great places to satiate your hunger for knowledge. Discovering your passion and allowing your curious self to come out and play is key to success. (As I have written about in the “Curious Learner“.) Now, I get why some people are in occupations that they may not love – the money is good, it is part of family tradition, or they started out loving it but now want a divorce. It has become clear to me that there are a lot of people in the Learning “industry” who don’t like people and are totally bored with what they do. I know, I see your shocked faces. I hear the disbelief in your voice. You’re wondering what world I’ve been living in…this may shock some people, but I am an optimist at heart. I believe people are learning professionals because they truly want to help people learn and grow. They want to support performance that allows a person toward self-discovery. They want to enable people to curate and consume knowledge at a pace that best suits them. They want people to be the best they can be. Is this rose-colored glasses thinking?
Hearts and minds people. Hearts and minds. Bringing learning, education, knowledge, and/or information must first and foremost be about the hearts and minds of the people on the other end. For this, to quote the Beatles, all we need is love. Love for what we do. Embrace change, embrace those people who dare to think differently – and this is the essence of any good conference, DevLearn or ATD ICE. Allowing sessions which call for deeper conversations, and including sessions which challenge, unabashedly, the Status-Quo (remember, Status-Quo Sucks!). Groups of Learning Rebels asking the “What if” and “Why not” questions.
Here’s my advice to you. If your company cannot afford to send you to a conference, bring out the piggy bank. You owe it to yourself to attend at least one a year. Either a small one or big one, just pick one. Places like DevLearn, ATD ICE, ATD Tech, Learning Solutions, mLearnCon, and assorted others will enrich you both personally and professionally. If you love what you do, if you have a passion for learning, and a passion for people – jump on in, the water’s nice and warm.
Were you at DevLearn this year? Share your comments and stories – we’d love to hear all about it!
Nick Leffler says
A great post Shannon! I got some ideas from it and it was so readable.
I definitely understand your plight that we owe it to ourselves to go to a conference, but given that my piggy bank is literally a piggy bank, I fall back to the next best thing, the backchannel. I think it’s a pretty good alternative for those that can’t afford a conference, ever. While I would love to attend a big one like those you mentioned some-day, I think the backchannels are a pretty lively place.
I have attended one small half-day of a conference though for a workshop Jane Hart and Harold Jarche put on and it was a great experience. Such a great thing to be able to meet people in the industry. I know when I finally do go to one of the big conferences my head is going to spin. So many people I know from Twitter or video conference that I haven’t met in real life.
Looking forward to the day! Until then, keep up the backchannel so those that couldn’t attend don’t get forgotten 🙂
Shannon Tipton says
Hi Nick – Thanks for the kind comments!
You’re absolutely correct, the back channel is a great place to follow any conference and Michelle Baker just wrote a post about DevLearn and how she experienced it all through the back channel! A great place to start, indeed, is through smaller conferences such as mlearncon, or Learning solutions, or even through local events that may be hosted by your local ASTD chapter. Regardless, the message is the same…CONNECT! It is well worth the investment.
Tricia Ransom says
You nailed it!