Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Reflections on Day 1 of Learning Technologies

I have just returned from a busy day at Learning Technologies and thought I would share a few reflections over an espresso. I need to stay awake just a little longer.

I managed to arrive in time to walk around the floor before the visitors arrived and gathered some first impressions. If investment in custom built stands is a measure of the health of the industry, then elearning is in very good health. Not so many years ago custom build stands were an exception rather than the rule. Today the main Learning Technologies exhibition area is full of custom built stands, and the quality has improved significantly over the years. The extra investment is clear for all to see. Personally, I really liked the Redware stand; it is something we strive for at Kineo, it is simple, friendly and approachable. Take a look if you are at the show tomorrow.

Another thing that struck me was the many new companies at the show. I was told around 20% of those exhibiting were new companies attending. I also noticed bigger bolder stands from some of the big American owned companies such as Cornerstone. Maybe there is renewed interest in Europe  from US companies. Although I think it could simply be that this show is now definitively the global Learning Technology show.
The show is just bigger and better than anything that takes place in the US, Asia or the rest of Europe. Pre-registrations were up to over 11,000 which is the highest ever.  Its global importance is reflected in a greater proportion of overseas visitors attending. Many of our Kineo colleagues from overseas exemplified this trend with Kineo staff from the US, South Africa, Israel and Sweden all attending.

As the visitors arrived after 10am it became immediately obvious this would be a busy show. The whole place seemed like it was buzzing and the stands were packed with people. I spoke to quite a few people who were overwhelmed by not only the sheer scale of the event, with hundreds of stands, but the difficulty of knowing where to start. They pointed out it is increasingly difficult to differentiate between suppliers.

A few years ago suppliers might position themselves as mobile experts or rapid development experts. Now everyone appears to offer everything. Need a tool, we have got one. Need content, we have some nice shiny content. Need a learning platform, we have an award winning platform. Suppliers that previously only did content now offer platforms and vice versa. Increasingly many suppliers are aiming to be one stop learning technology companies. This makes it very difficult for visitors to differentiate and to know where to start when faced with literally hundreds of company stands.

Ideally I think visitors should come to the show with a plan, identify companies you want to see, and if you can fix a time to see them. The show means you can meet with say 3 or 4 suppliers in a single afternoon and make good use of your time. My advice to visitors without a plan and time to explore would be to find the company stands that are open and approachable, that don’t bombard you with whizzy demos, iPads and new technologies but rather have friendly staff available and prepared to talk and discuss your needs. In the early conversation make sure the person you are talking to is not a sales person but a practitioner who has an in-depth understanding of learning and performance issues. Small things, but at least then you are starting in a good place.

I am looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow at the show. I will be on stand 64 with the rest of my Kineo colleagues. If you need some time away from the buzz of the exhibition we also have a Kineo Green Room upstairs where you can get a quiet coffee and rest your feet.