Monday, March 16, 2009

eLearning Guild's Annual Gathering recap and random thoughts

Another week, another conference...but this one was with some of my favorite people at the eLearning Guild. I may be slightly biased, but I will say with conviction that the eLearning Guild runs some of the best conferences I've attended. Well organized, great integration of technology, free wireless!, and some incredibly smart people gathered together in the same place. 

This was a bit of a whirlwind conference for me. I presented 4 different sessions: Concurrent session, Panel (thanks Bill Brandon for the photo), Breakfast Byte, and Espresso Learning. One of the other Tandemites led a Master Class. We were all virtual worlds, immersive learning simulations, and serious games all the time. Oh, and we had a booth. 

That's not to say all was perfect, of course. Here's my conference feedback, from a presenter and exhibitor's perspective:

What I liked:
  • Great Twitter stream throughout the conference and loved that the Guild payed attention to the tweets. There was a screen where the latest were displayed. I got to connect in person with people I had previously only known on Twitter. Loved it.
  • This may sound strange, but I loved how lunches were set up. Sit down and start networking/socializing immediately while people bring you food. Beats the buffet or trying to find someplace to grab a bite between sessions. 
  • The ID Zone and Master Classes held in the Expo Hall drove visitors in. A March conference in Orlando with sessions held in another part of the building and a sunny pool enticing people away from ever making it to the exhibit was nice to have some valuable sessions featured near the exhibitors booths.
  • Espresso Learning sessions were a great way to spark discussion. Although I loved them, one suggestion: it might be helpful to hold the Espresso Learning towards the beginning of the conference to spark discussion and networking earlier!
  • Breakfast Bytes were also good, but whoa! Early! I wonder if lunchtime discussions were scheduled if they would serve the same purpose (some sort of brownbag lunch learning sessions?).
  • Yay! Free wifi! I can't tell you how happy this made me. Seriously happy.
Suggestions and feedback:
  • Attendance wasn't what I expected, and traffic was super light in the Expo. Economy, beautiful weather, etc.--not sure that there's a cure for this, but it was a bit disappointing.
  • No simultaneous virtual conference? I don't think its easy, but it should be a goal to offer some of the content virtually for people who can't attend live. I have some specific suggestions on how to do this, but won't bore ya'll here.
  • More networking events in the evenings. There was talk of a Tweetup, and there was a cocktail hour in the Expo hall one night, but it was pretty scattered. It would have been nice to have an evening event of some sort.
  • I was not a fan of the long, narrow session rooms. I'd have been much happier with round tables for discussion. I was longing for some group activities.
  • I hate Orlando. The weather was lovely, but I'd almost rather go anywhere else. Its not like I was outside much to enjoy the weather anyway :)
  • I'd love to see Keynotes that get it. One keynote asked us about the attendee demographics the night before he spoke; he didn't have a clue who was attending the conference or who he was speaking to. Another of the keynote speaker marginalized the value of future trends like social media and (gasp!) virtual worlds. I'm not saying he wasn't making valid points (although shockingly I'm not sure I agree), but keynotes are a bit of a presentation and perhaps his ideas were better suited for a discussion or debate. 
All in all, I had a great time at the Annual Gathering and am truly looking forward to DevLearn in the fall. I'm hoping if I have the privilege of presenting again, I won't break my heel right before my session this time...

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