Archive for category Conferences

Michelle Works Out Loud – Crown College L&D Case Study

Today I attended the Forward Government Learning Conference (#govlearn) held in Melbourne, Australia.  It was an intimate event, with fewer than 30 participants.  This meant we had more opportunity for interaction and discussion than at larger conferences.

I take notes on conference sessions using Evernote, and post a link to my notes on Twitter.  In 2017 I have replaced my old habit with a high volume of short tweets during presentations with focusing on taking better quality notes, polishing these up a bit and adding links to relevant resources, writing up my key takeaways and reflections on each session, then sharing these more comprehensive notes.

There were some excellent case studies at #govlearn today, most of which were new to me.  I’ll post all of my notes in the next few days.  Meantime, here is a taster with my notes from a case study presented by Shane Thomas from Crown.  What I especially liked about Shane’s work is how he had deepened his understanding of his business, built credibility by adding business value, and now has excellent stakeholder support.

Summary of my takeaways / analysis

  • Value of building and leveraging a brand for L&D.  In this case Crown College (as an RTO) is the brand.  Building L&D brand around strong Crown business brand has worked well given the industry turnover and need to attract Allen.  Also, having own RTO suits this business and industry (see noes below on industry).  In this case Shane used industry awards to build the brand, both internally and exernally.  you need to figure out what brand and approach to brand-building will suit your business context.
  • Importance of business buy in, especially at executive level.  This is evidenced by high involvement of leaders in programs, especially leadership programs.  Linkage has been created to business outcomes in leadership programs via workplace projects (see detailed notes for more)
  • Importance of L&D developing a deep understanding of their business.  There is a virtuous cycle in evidence where Shane has sought to understand the business, hence been able to better meet their needs, building credibility, and earning a ‘place at the table.’  Given Shane’s long tenure and deliberate efforts to understand business context, drivers and financials, and add business value, he has been able to build deep relationships with senior leaders in the business.

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#ATD2016 My Post-Conference Insights

I attended the Association for Talent Development International Conference and Exposition (ATDICE) in Denver 23– 25 May 2016.  On the day after the conference I made a short video to share key insights I gained from some of the sessions I attended. Video is below, followed by (slightly polished-up) transcript.

Personal Leadership

My first insights I relate to aspects of personal leadership. I attended a session called Leading with Impact and Influence by Amy Franko from Impact Instruction. Amy spoke about leading from the inside out, and not being knocked about by external circumstances, or letting them dictate how you show up.  She spoke about creating your own leadership path to create a ripple effect on others in order to have impact, influence, and provide inspiration. She shared research from the Centre for Creative Leadership that identified key future leadership skills:

  1. Communicator
  2. Collaborator
  3. Agile learner
  4. Multi-Cultural Awareness
  5. Strategic Thinker
  6. Self-motivated
  7. Adaptable
  8. Social

I really liked the tips for building resilience. These include:

  • having a sense of purpose,
  • developing a strong network
  • self-care,
  • asking ‘What can I do right now?’
  • reframing
  • having a gratitude practice.

View my notes on Amy’s session.

Thought Leadership

Another session I’ve got a lot out of for myself was on Stepping Into Thought leadership. The session was presented by two very dynamic people – Alexia Vernon and Halelly Azulay. Before they went into different thought leadership they talked about what thought leadership is. They suggested that you don’t need to carve out a completely original area of thinking or an original idea; rather it’s about bringing your original voice and perspective to the topic to articulate what you want to say about it. They provided questions to help you uncover your focus area of thought leadership.  They also stressed the role of building strong networks to help build thought leadership.

Thought Leadership Secret Sauce

Then they went through a stack of different though leadership activities in the areas of:

  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Service
  • Media
  • Hosting
  • Online Training

Their presentation was well laid out and I’ve captured key points in these notes.

Brave Leadership

Sticking with the theme of leadership, there is no way I couldn’t mention the amazing keynote by Brene Brown. Many people will have seen her TEDTalk on vulnerability. She was a fabulous speaker, very authentic, and spoke to her topic really well. It’s a topic that can be quite raw and I had a feeling she was reaching out directly to my heart and talking about topics relevant to my personal life around thing such as vulnerability and trust, and also that she was speaking to my head in organisational context around bringing trust into the workplace. She suggested that leaders have to make a choice as between comfort and courage. It takes courage to do the essential work of being a leader – which is to go to places that others may not want to go to, places around emotion and behaviour. She spoke about the four pillars of courage:

  • Vulnerability
  • clarity of values
  • trust
  • rising skills, which is about how to get back up after a fall.

She really made me want to embrace life, to live a bigger life and to be the very best leader that I possibly can.  I’m definitely a Brene Brown fan girl now.

View my notes about this session.

Science of Learning

I went to the ATD Science of Learning Community of Practice panel.  Four speakers each spoke about a different aspect science of learning.

Paul Zak , Chief Research Officer at Olfactor, talked about trust as the basis for effective culture.  He shared interesting research which uses oxytocin as a signalling mechanism for trust.

Sebastian Bailey is a psychologist with a PhD in learning transfer. He’s used his research to develop a model for supporting learning with bite-size methodology. He has founded Mind Gym.

Patti Shank PhD and is president of Learning Peak challenged the use of the term ‘neuro-‘ anything. When someone claims that a product or approach is backed by neuroscience she suggested that you need to be wary as we haven’t learnt much about learning from neuroscience. However we have learned a lot from cognitive science and we should be paying bit more attention to that and applying it.

Will Thalheimer is a PhD, consultant and research translator. He spoke about ways of improving smile sheets, which I’m sure anyone working in an organisational training context could benefit from looking at.

View my notes on this session.

Benchmarking

TM BenchmarkThe next area I was really interested in here was benchmarking and Data. I had a great conversation with Laura Overton of Towards Maturity who specialise in benchmarking and research on organisational learning. We discussed their benchmarking tool which is open at the moment. I strongly encourage workplace learning practitioners to complete the benchmark. I’ve recently done that and it’s giving me some good data to look at where my organisation sits compared to the benchmark in a range of elements of learning strategy and practices, and helped me to start identifying areas for improvement. Here’s a link to the benchmark .

Laura also presented with Peter Casebow from Good Practice about improving how managers learn using an evidence-based approach. The Towards Maturity data shows that only 30% of learning professionals understand how their people learn. Good Practice has done research with 500 managers on how they deal with unfamiliar challenges. It turns out that access trumps the perceived effectiveness of method for finding answers and solutions. People will use the easiest way to access information, even if they know they may not be using the best quality information. Lack of access and lack of relevance of content were highlighted as barriers to people using their intranet to help solve problems.

Practical Uses of Social Media for Formal Learning

The final session I wanted to mention here is from the super-energetic Dan Steer who had us cheering along at the right times. It was on practical uses of social media in formal training. His objective was to ensure that everybody left with something practical that they could put into action immediately to improve the formal training – and he delivered. He provided some basic principles around only doing in the room what need to do, and thinking about using social media tools to do other things that don’t need to be done in the room. He also suggested you need to think about the type of activity you are doing, the objectives of the activity and identify the best motivating and most useful tool.

One tool I learned about that session which I will definitely be looking to use is Ginkgo, which is a collaborative note-taking tool. What is awesome is that you can download the collaborative notes into a MS Word format and make that available as a readily accessible recap afterwards.

View my session notes – or go straight to the source and view Dan’s materials and additional resources.

Thank You ATD

ATD Michelle

The other thing I wanted to do is to thank ATD. 10,000 people, huge conference venue, amazing organisation. ATD did a great job at every single aspect of the organisation, and as a speaker I really appreciated the opportunity to be here and share a case study. I don’t know that I’ll be back every year it is a long trip from Australia but I’m certainly planning on being back in two years . I will be blogging and sharing more of my notes from sessions over the next couple of weeks so lookout on my blog for more insights

 

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Lists that will help you make the most from a Conference

My practices for getting the most out of attending a conference include making the lists outlined below.  As you read this post think about your tips for generating these lists.  What other lists do you find helpful?  Please share your replies in comments below this post.

In summary the lists are:

Make or start before the Conference:

  • Goals
  • People
  • Sessions
  • Exhibitors

Make during or shortly after the conference:

  • Key Takeaways / Insights
  • Actions
  • Relationship Follow Ups
  • Resources

Lists to make or start before the Conference

Goals

Complete this list before the conference begins.  Ask yourself: “Why am I going to this conference?  What do I want to get out of this conference?”

This list could include a general theme you will use to orient your activities at the conference, e.g. Collaboration, Strategy, Leadership, Science of Learning, Technology, Thought Leadership.  For theme ideas consider your professional development plan / direction, work projects, topics you’ve been reading about recently, a recent or upcoming challenge / opportunity.

Include more specific outcomes, for example:

  • To get ideas for enabling informal learning in my organisation
  • To improve learning evaluation in my organisation
  • To use learning science to improve learning strategy in my organisation
  • To identify next steps in building my thought leadership
  • To meet people with experience in XYZ

List a maximum of three specific outcomes to help you to focus.

People

Ask yourself:   “Why do I want to interact with people at this conference?  Who do do I want to meet or interact with?”

Start this list before the conference.  Think about your WHY first – consider the following:

  • Your conference goals – who or what type of people are relevant to these goals?
  • Your professional network – are there gaps you’d like to fill or people you’d like to renew or strengthen your relationship with?
  • Is there something you are involved with that you’d like to promote or advocate?
  • If you Work Out Loud, look at your relationship list .
  • What contribution(s) would you like to make to others at the conference?

Enjoying yourself and having a little fun is a good reason to interact too!

Be selective when making your list as you are unlikely to be able to interact meaningfully with everyone who is there.  Use your WHY to develop and then prioritise your list if it is long.

Look at the conference website and program to view speakers / facilitators, organisers, advisory committee members, sponsors and exhibitors.  Find out who is coming to the conference.  Contact people in your network and ask if they are attending or know anyone who is.  Do a Twitter search on the conference hashtag to see who is using it.  Check the Twitter account of the conference hosts / organisers and subscribe to their Twitter list for the conference, or start your own event Twitter list.

What other ideas do you have for finding out who is going to the conference?

In addition to listing specific individuals, think about what ‘type’ of people you would like to meet.  For example, people who:

  • Have a specific skill or type of experience
  • work in a certain type of role, industry or organisation
  • come from a specific country, region or city
  • Have similar conference goals to you
  • are in a certain age bracket
  • are in a different profession to you
  • are different to you in some way
  • write blogs or articles

Update your list during the conference as you discover new people, get insights from sessions and discussions, and referrals from other attendees.

Sessions

Look at the conference program and pick what sessions you want to attend. Often exhibitors present informal sessions about their area of expertise or products and services, so look at these too.  Assess relevance of sessions to your goals and whether they sound appealing to you.  Read session descriptions and speaker biographies in the program or conference website.  Search online for content that the speaker has created (e.g. articles, videos), interviews with them or information about their work.

Identify sessions relevant to your goals, or being presented by people that you’d like to interact with or learn from.  If there are a lot of concurrent breakout sessions that you are interested in find out if any of them are being recorded so that you can view them after the conference.  If you are attending the conference with colleagues or people in your network you could go to different breakout sessions and discuss sessions / share notes with them afterwards.

Consider attending at least one session that is on a topic outside of your normal field of interest – to be open to serendipity and the opportunity to learn something new.

Be flexible during the conference.  You may get new information or an insight which changes your session choices.  If you are in a session and not getting what you need from it then it’s okay to leave.  Use the time to try another session, speak to exhibitors or meet with people.

Exhibitors

Exhibitors help cover conference costs, so it’s good form to spend some time in the exhibition area.  There may be some overlap with your People list, and the factors impacting which exhibitors you visit are similar to the People list.  Think about what types of services or products you’d like to learn about to figure out which exhibitors to visit and what you’d like to achieve.  This could range from simply thanking sponsors to a brief conversation and collecting literature or a product demonstration.

You could make an initial Exhibitors list before or at the start of the conference – whenever you have access to information on Exhibitors.  At a large conference, walk right around the exhibition area and identify which booths you’d like to return to.  You may need to prioritise this list.

Lists to make during or shortly after the Conference

Key Takeaways / Insights

Look through your session notes and identify a short list of key takeaways or insights from each session.  See my post from Enterprise Collaboration TechFest for an example of what this might look like.  You can do the same for your interactions with people and visits to exhibitors, as well as personal reflections on specific or overall experiences at the conference.

Putting these all into a single location helps you to synthesise what you heard and discussed in order to identify key themes or recurring ideas you picked up at the conference.  It also makes it easy to review what you learned at a conference at a later point.

Actions

Definitely start this list at the conference while things are fresh in your mind.  Make a list of all actions you are considering taking as a result of your conference experiences.  Get it all down.  Think of it as a someday/maybe list.  Use whatever tool or system works for you – paper or electronic.  After the conference read through your list and highlight anything you are committing to do.  Look at your goals list before you do this to provide context.  Move highlighted items to your regular action / to do list – then get on with it.

As an extension activity set up a learning transfer buddy agreement with someone at the conference.  This is a great idea I picked up from Emma Weber of Lever – Transfer of Learning.  I’ll update this post with a link to details of how to set up your agreement so you make maximum progress.

Relationship Follow Ups

Developing your network is a key benefit of attending a conference.  Relationship follow ups are a special set of actions which warrant a separate list.  You can include both specific actions you are committed to doing as well as possible future connections and contributions you could make to a person.

Again, start this list at the conference, especially if you make specific promises to anyone.  Write down the name of the person, follow up action and target date. Ensure you have their contact details or know where to find them online.  Add them to your online network as you go by sending them a LinkedIn invitation or following them on Twitter – or do this shortly after the conference if you prefer.

Make brief notes about who you meet and interact with, including valuable informal discussions.  You could write key points on business cards.  Look through your notes after the conference and add to your follow up list.

Resources

Make a list of resources that speakers mention which sound interesting and potentially useful.  This will include books, articles, other publications, videos, podcasts, websites, organisations or associations, and tools.  Add suggestions from exhibitors and other attendees.

Speakers sometimes provide access to additional resources via a hyperlink or email address. Even if you access these resources on the spot it can be helpful to add these to your consolidated resources list for future reference.

Where to make your lists

In a nutshell, wherever and however it suits you.  You may have existing systems you use rather than making standalone lists.  For example:

  • Write goals in your electronic journal – I keep mine on Evernote.
  • Create a Twitter list for people and exhibitors.
  • Tweet key insights then use Storify to collate them.
  • Add actions straight into your ‘to do’ software/app with a category or tag for the conference so you can sort and review them later.
  • Curate resources straight to a social bookmarking tool such as Diigo or Pearltrees

There’s always an old-fashioned notebook or index cards.  Whatever approach you use, make it convenient and efficient for you to use.

Over to you

What are your tips for these lists?  Are there other lists you like to make before, during or after a conference?

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