How do you know if attending a conference was worth your while?

A week ago, I shared a framework for goal-setting (MPV goals, or Minimum/Primary/Visionary goals).

If want your employer to foot the bill for your attendance at a conference, it can be quite helpful to identify (in advance) what you hope to get out of that conference. I spent last week at the eLearning Guild’s FocusOn Learning conference and I have to say, it was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended, but…

The key question my supervisor (or myself or anyone else who plans to hold me accountable for the investment of time and money that was spent on my attending this conference) should be asking is: “So, you say it was a great conference… how do you know?”

Collage

One way to measure how “great” this conference was would be to examine the goals I set for myself and what I wanted to get out of it. Let’s take a look at how my experiences compared to the goals I set for myself in last Monday’s post:

Minimum Goals:

1. Find 5 new people to follow on Twitter.

Verdict: Success.

At first, I tried to crowdsource some ideas on who I should be following by posting something to the official conference app’s activity feed.

App - Twitter follows

I was surprised by how few responses I got through this method, but it did give me several new people to follow (I was already following one of the suggested people). I also began to follow several of the speakers I liked, including Vince Han (on Thursday, I actually wrote about how much I appreciated how he projected something other than PowerPoint on the projection screen in order to engage the audience) and Soraya Darabi. All together, I ended up following 11 new people as a result of attending this conference.

2. Meet at least 3 people who I’d previously only met online.

Verdict: Success.

During the final general session, a panel on where elearning is headed, Mark Lassoff made a point that really resonated with me. He suggested that it is imperative for people to attend industry events and conferences – whether local meet-ups or large, national conventions, because it is important to grow relationships with others in the field.

He used the word “relationships“, he didn’t merely say: “It’s important to network.” I couldn’t agree more. The four people I spent the most time with outside of the workshops illustrate Mark’s point about the importance of going beyond networking and into developing relationships.

  • David Anderson. I’ve interacted with David via Twitter and the eLearning Heroes community, and I’d even met him at a conference or two, but this was the first time we had a chance to sit down and really talk. Beyond chit chat about elearning and Articulate (and other authoring tools), David will also spend some time answering questions for an upcoming blog. Stay tuned!
  • Bianca Woods. Again, Bianca is someone I’d met previously online and I’ve bumped into her at a conference or two, but after having broken bread (and scarfed down steaks) together, I have a much better understanding of what she’s able to do and I feel much more confortable reaching out to her to bounce around ideas around visual design (or geeky things like Star Wars, outer space in general and PAX).
  • Mike Taylor. Mike and I have exchanged tweets and emails and even submitted a proposal to speak at a conference in September, yet we’d never met in person prior to last week. As we began to map out our September presentation, my head was filled with tips and ideas and technologies I need to begin using in my own day-to-day practice.
  • JD Dillon. Once again, JD is someone who I’ve interacted with online, bumped into at conferences and even spent some time on the phone with in order to pick his brain, but I’d never spent much time with him. While we didn’t spend a ton of time together in Austin last week, I did sit next to him during several sessions and I was grateful for it as he helped explain what in the world a presenter was talking about.

Primary Goals:

1. Identify at least 3 performance support strategies and/or technologies to integrate into my work.

Verdict: Success

  • Explore MailChimp as a tool to send follow-up content, tips and surveys following a training session.
  • Download Vivv in order to produce better visuals for PowerPoint and elearning imagery.
  • Explore interactive video during our orientation program in order to introduce staff to our organization’s CEO (as if to create a virtual Q&A session with the CEO).
  • Engage staff to create employee-generated videos on tips, tricks and hacks they’ve stumbled upon that help them do their jobs better. These videos can be used during orientation to the organization and/or during initial onboarding to their specific roles.
  • I could go on. One area I fell short for this goal was in coming up with thoughts on how to pull all of these ideas together into a coherent learning strategy. I still need to spend some time here.

2. Have a draft completed for my Online Learning Conference presentation in September.

Verdict: Unsuccessful

As I’ve already explained above, I met my co-presenter, Mike Taylor, in-person for the first time. While we spent several hours kicking ideas around, and we did put together a sort of bare-bones outline, we didn’t complete a full draft lesson plan before we each needed to run to the airport. We still have time, but the goal I set was to “have a draft completed” and so I need to grade myself unsuccessful on this one.

Visionary Goals:

1. Find a new project.

Verdict: Unclear

Yes, I’m leaving this conference with a lot of new ideas and I’m definitely looking forward to getting back to the office to try some things out. The key to success here, however, is to identify a new project that will result in time saved, money saved or some other sort of efficiency in my organization. I need to sit down with my notes to identify which projects could be quick wins, which projects can have a quantifiable impact on organizational effectiveness/efficiency, and which (if any) projects actually would serve to check both of these boxes.

2. See some bats.

Verdict: Unsuccessful

This is the second time I’ve been to Austin at this time of year. It’s the second time I’ve gone to the Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk. It’s the second time I’ve muscled my way into the crowds in order to get a spot along the railing overlooking the water. And it’s the second time I’ve waited for an hour or so, until after dark, and then gone home without seeing a nightmare-inducing flock of thousands of bats fluttering around the bridge. I’m starting to think they’re like R.O.U.S.’s… I don’t think they exist.

 

 

4 thoughts on “How do you know if attending a conference was worth your while?

  1. Agree with Holly! Fun to learn with you (as I wasn’t at the conference 😦 ) and also to see the self-evaluation of results afterward. In retrospect, do you think these were the “right” primary goals for the conference? Looks like you got a lot out of it – even if you missed the ROUSs

    • Good question. Honestly, I should have narrowed which types of ideas I was specifically looking to take back with me. I found myself attending many of the “creating videos” sessions, and I should have been a little more intentional/specific around the goals I was looking to accomplish with video-based training.

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