Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Insiders Guide To Learning Technologies 2015



For the first time in over 10 years I will not be at the Learning Technologies event at Olympia this week. It has become the 'must attend' learning technology event in Europe, however, it can be a little overwhelming with hundreds of companies and thousands of attendees. To help you get the most out of the event here is my insider guide. So if you want to know where to get free cake, how to see the best sessions, where to get a free massage, where to network and how get free drinks read on.

Olympia

Olympia is not as central London as it claims. If you are coming by tube it can sometimes be faster walking from Shepherd's Bush or West Kensington than waiting for the train at Earls Court. Overland train is best and for those from the South you can pick up the connection from Clapham.

The lift

At Olympia you will be met by the man in the lift. One of the few lifts in the world where a man presses the buttons for you. Like Kirkpatrick evaluations he never gets beyond level three. First stop for the exhibition and second stop for those hallowed visitors with conference passes.

Stand envy

If you are a vendor you have probably spent the previous evening walking around admiring (or cursing) the new stands and making a note of ideas for your next year's stand. Stands are a bit like strutting peacocks or cars, where owners delight in having the largest engines or most attractive feathers. It is a strange world where conversations turn to the best positions and line of sight in debates about the best stand locations. In my view the grass is always greener, and in any event visitor traffic is determined primarily by the marketing before the event.

If you are a stand owner, by the time you have finished your first coffee, Ian will be chasing for your signature for next year's event.

Stand navigation

If you are a visitor, make sure you grab a floorplan to find your way around. My advice would be to avoid the biggest, brightest stands as they are often more about presentation than content. Look for the stands where real discussions are taking place, where it's more about people than plumage. Check stands like City & Guilds Kineo at 144, Towards Maturity at 88, and the Charity Learning Consortium at 215 for in-depth conversations.

Free cake

Head over to stand 112 to Sponge, who give out the best free cupcakes. Not sure if they stay up all night baking them. They are also one of the leading custom elearning companies, winner of Elearning Company of the Year last year, so take in a demo while you eat your cake. Last year Curator were also giving away Macaroons, so check them out on stand 128.

Session navigation

There are so many sessions taking place both at the conference and on the exhibition floor. You can't attend everything so plan your day in advance and catch up by checking out the tweets and slidedecks. The exhibition floor seminars vary from the very poor to the outstanding. In my experience the best seminars are the ones with joint client and vendor presentations where they share useful insights. The worst are often the new product seminars which can be simply sales pitches of the worst kind. Time is short, so if something's not grabbing you, walk away.

At the conference there are so many great speakers to listen to including Cathy Moore, Nigel Paine, Patti Shank, Donald Clark, Charles Jennings, Clive Shepherd, Steve Wheeler, Laura Overton, Geoff Stead and many more.

Some vendors put together helpful pre show guides highlighting interesting sessions, see CG Kineo's previews at http://www.kineo.com/blog/events/10-questions-that-will-change-what-you-think-of-learning-technologies-2015  

Backchannel

One of the best ways to keep tabs with everything at LT is to follow the back channel using the #LT15UK hashtag. Tools like Tweetchat enable you to keep up with the discussions. There are also individual session hashtags which Kate Graham has listed here https://kategraham23.wordpress.com/

Free massage

You can't miss the pink Fuse stand. As well as clever social learning technology Fuse normally offer free massages. So when you need a break head to stand 1 and if there are no free massages ask Steve Dineen to give you a back rub.

CVs

One of the things you learn early on is that Learning Technologies is a big recruitment fair. I collected more CVs at LT than anywhere else. If you are on the hunt for a new role, LT is a good place to find out more about companies and get a feel for the culture.

Be wary of the hype

Every year for the last ten years has been the year of mobile or gamification or some vendor hype. The reality is the best learning is blended. For the latest on blended learning check out the sessions with Clive Shepherd, Sarah Lindsell and Kineo. Also check out Clive's new book and the More Than Blended website.

Avoid the Glassholes

Last year you needed to avoid the glassholes wearing the now defunct Google Glass. There may be less of them this year. This year they may have something else strapped to their heads or wrists. However, if you get a chance to try an Oculus Rift, join the queue.

Evening drinks

If you are an exhibitor you will be invited to the evening drinks, which is a packed event at a local pub. If you are not an exhibitor, there are often free tickets going so get friendly with an exhibitor. Ok, not that friendly. It could be a long year otherwise.

Networking

In addition to the drinks event, in my experience some of the best late night discussions take place in the bar of the K West hotel, where the wrongs of the elearning industry are righted. Or put more wrong. I can't remember, it's always very late when it wraps up.

Exit Poll

When it is all over check out the exit poll, run by Ken Ross and Now Comms. This independent poll surveys visitors and who they had the best conversations with. Whether it converts to actual business, ask the vendors in about six months. But it's sure good for bragging rights in the short term.

Enjoy

Most of all enjoy the event, it really is the learning technology event of the year. I will miss all my friends and colleagues this year, and the late night arguments. I will be following along from down under and tweeting the latest tennis scores from the Australian Open. Hope there's room on the backchannel for that.