The good, the bad and the not so pretty.
By Chris at Right Trax Training
I write this fresh from having just attended this year’s Learning and Skills event, which is now in its fourth year and together with the Learning Technologies exhibition that ran alongside it, gave access to over 230 exhibitors and more than 120 seminars which were free to attend.
It was my first time attending this particular exhibition; I’ve wanted to for years although when I was a full-timer in the corporate world it always seemed hard to justify the benefits of going against the time and expense involved…well I’m glad to say that if you are in any doubt as to whether it’s worth going, the short answer is: IT IS!
It wasn’t all peachy though. Not quite the good, the bad and the ugly (that would be just downright mean), it was more the good, the bad and the not so pretty!
By far the best bit for me was the free seminars . They were a brilliant way to give people something extra all wrapped up in a short and snappy package whilst giving me the perfect chance to meet and chat to like-minded people in the audience. The best ones were definitely those which didn’t have an explicit sales message or weren’t simply a 30 minute thinly veiled advertisement for the business in question. My personal view is that the companies who told a great story, connected at a deeper level with their audience and gave you some food for thought to take away shone brightly over and above the others. By far my favourite seminar that ticked all those boxes was given by Gavin Oates from Tree of Knowledge, who posed the question: ‘How do you fit a giraffe in the fridge?’ It was personal, funny and challenged my way of thinking – and all that when I had to stand for the 30 minutes too…no mean feat!
It was great to get an insight into where learning is going this year and beyond. There really is some amazing technology out there and I came away feeling that it will very much continue to support and manage the learning experience rather than replace the personal elements of formal and informal development.
Also ranking on my ‘best of’ list was having the opportunity to meet some new people and catch-up with some old friends and colleagues – it really was so worthwhile taking the time to connect or reconnect and is so easy to forget when we get caught up in the day to day grind of life.
And so onto the bad and not so pretty. For me there are two things that you just have to grin and bear when you come to this kind of event.
Although the seminars were the best bit, I do have a bug bear…I wouldn’t be so crude as to mention companies by name because I admire all of the people that stood up there – it’s something I can’t wait to do myself at an event like this and so I respect them hugely just for that alone…but yes, there is a ‘but’ coming up! BUT why do some training businesses still think that an audience (especially an audience of learning & development bods), want to be subjected to a one way hard sell that is dry, overloaded with PowerPoint and lacks any interactivity. I really dislike this and the people in the audience that I talked to all said the same thing: we don’t want to be sold to; we want to learn something new (hey that rhymes!). Quick mention though to those who used Prezi: the pros and cons of visual aids is another blog topic in itself although it was nice to see something different in the Prezi visuals.
My second bug bear was the tactics employed by some of the stallholders to trap you in their sales snare. Call me old fashioned, but I like a friendly “hello”, “how are you” or even a corny joke to start the conversation rather than something clunky or false. My favourite gaffe was from one lady who asked me “are you just using us as a thoroughfare?” when I stepped across her stall to get past a bottleneck in the crowd…yep that’s not going to make me want to stop and talk to you! I said “yes” by the way.
I went along to meet some new people, stay updated with what’s going on in my world of learning & development and to see what other companies are doing and I achieved all those things and more. All in all a successful first Learning & Skills exhibition and I’m already looking forward to going again next year. I would urge you to make time for your own industry-specific events that help you to expand your knowledge and network outside of its current state…the benefits are so numerous compared to the time that it takes.
What do you do to stay current and grow your network? Tell us in the comments section below.