Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Learning Solutions 2013 - Final Thoughts

Okay, so this post is LONG delayed. Would you believe I'm still sick with the sinus infection I caught at Learning Solutions? If I was a D&D character, clearly Constitution would have been my dump stat.

What? Not everyone skimps out on Charisma.
This means I have a huge backlog of things to blog about (including a whole other convention), but have only just gotten the energy back to actually accomplish writing anything. In the interests of keeping things chronological, I'm starting here and working my way forward.

So, without further ado, here are a few final thoughts about my Learning Solutions 2013 experience.

Learning Solutions vs DevLearn?

I think most people know much I adore DevLearn. It really is one of my favourite events of the year. No, not favourite professional event. I mean just plain event (other contenders, in case you're curious, are PAX and the Toronto Comic Arts Festival). I love it that much.

So how does Learning Solutions measure up in comparison? Well, both hold very true to what I'm seeing as typical for eLearning Guild events: practical, unpretentious information shared in a casual and welcoming environment. I have a strong preference for this type of event, so I'm glad to see that the experience is universal between both conferences.

As far as content goes, I found that Learning Solutions leans a bit more towards the needs of learning professionals who create strategy and write content (in particular, the expo room). If you do more actual development though, DevLearn is the better place to be. That said, it's not like if you're an instructional designer who does development and you can only make it to Learning Solutions that you'll have a lack of content that applies to your work. The sessions will still be incredibly relevant. You'll probably just be less interested in the expo room.

Likely due to the location and time of year, Learning Solutions seems to attract a somewhat different batch of attendees than DevLearn, but I'd say both groups are equally worth getting to know. In terms of insight, friendliness, interest in our industry, and commitment to doing the right thing for our learners, the average attendee of both conferences is pretty much equally fantastic.

Is it worth going to both Learning Solutions AND DevLearn in the same year?


There didn't appear to be any repeated presentations and I didn't leave Learning Solutions feeling it was just the same information I'd seen months earlier at DevLearn.

If I can make it work financially my intention is absolutely to attend both in the future.

So how was the backchannel?

Lively, as always. It felt slightly less busy than the backchannel at DevLearn, but the quality of what was there was definitely high. Once again I found it a fantastic way to share information, meet new people, and have insightful conversations. I also got a chance to finally meet several people I follow on Twitter in person for the first time, and they were all delightful.

And how did live tweeting and blogging the event go?

Thanks to wanting to let my coworkers attend the conference remotely, I once again tweeted and blogged like crazy... and once again was the top hashtag contributor... by a lot. What can I say? It turns out I really enjoy doing this.

Back at DevLearn last year, I had a great chat with another attendee about whether live tweeting can get in the way of actually experiencing and enjoying the conference material yourself. I'd agree that it takes a negative toll on how much information you take in in the moment, but the opportunity cost varies drastically from person to person. For me, while I was getting slightly less at the time from any session I live tweeted, I more than made up for it by reviewing my tweets later as I composed my blog postings. Will everyone else have this same experience? I doubt it. Is there anything wrong with that? Not at all.

The only thing I can recommend to anyone considering conference live tweeting and blogging is to try it out. If it's getting in the way of you actually getting the most out of the conference, then feel free to scale back or abandon it completely.

As for me, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, so I'm going to keep up with it at future conferences.

You live tweeted the whole conference... but don't you have tendonitis?

That is correct. Thanks to way too much typing directly on touch screens at DevLearn and a deeply unfortunate millinery class last fall, I'm currently recovering from a nasty bout of tendonitis (yup. I wasn't kidding about the lousy constitution).You know what helps (I mean, other than tons of physical therapy)? Not frantically typing directly on my iPad screen.

Because I didn't want to backslide on my recovery, I picked up this Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard cover for my iPad and I couldn't have been happier with it. Seriously, if you want a more comfortable way to type on your iPad for long periods of time, this is a great solutions. It's lightweight, comfortable, and not half bad to look at to boot.

It's not cheap, but it IS cheaper than more physical therapy appointments.

How was presenting at a conference for the first time?

I'm hesitant to write a long post about the experience until I get my audience feedback later this month. Until then I can definitely say that the experience managed to be both terrifying and invigorating at the exact same time. Nervousness aside, I'd absolutely do it again.

I'd also recommend Learning Solutions as a good conference for a first time presenter as it seems to have friendly audiences that ask good questions. Always a plus.

As a side note, speaking at Learning Solutions and sharing my session materials has netted me multiple opportunities to give my presentation to other groups within my company as well as what appears to be a regular speaking gig with another team on ID trends and technology. So one conference speech can definitely roll into some unexpected career perks afterwards.

That's all super positive. Was there anything you didn't like?

The weather was lousy. The bathroom in my hotel room was completely lame. The 15 minute breaks on the last day of the conference were way too short. That's pretty much it though.

Any final thoughts?

I just want to give one last shout out to all the fantastic people who took the time to chat with me (either in person or via Twitter). Thanks for making a shy extrovert feel welcome. Also, bonus thanks go out to anyone who came by my presentation. You were a fun audience and I hope you enjoyed what I had to share.


  1. Hi Bianca,

    After following your prep for LSCon via Twitter I'm really pleased that your session went well for you and by the sound of it, the people who attended.

    I'd love to attend both conferences as my experience of Devlearn was better than that of any UK conference I've attended, however being on the 'wrong' side of the Atlantic means that it's unlikely ;-)

    Hopefully see you again at Devlean?


    1. Thanks again for your help with my presentation prep. Your tips (in particular, about creating additional take away content) made the process a lot less intimidating.

      It's a shame that distance/cost prevents us from being able to attend all the conferences we'd like to. If it helps you at all, I think I can safely say that you personally would likely be happier at DevLearn than Learning Solutions.

      I'm crossing my fingers about attending DevLearn this year. I'm worried though that my being able to attend may hinge on being accepted as a concurrent session speaker or paying for the conference out of my own pocket (ouch!). Here's to hoping I can make it as it would be great to see you there. Also, good luck with your session submission(s). Your presentation at last year's DevLearn is still one of my favourites.