Content is king

Content is king! Who knew, huh?

Yesterday, I had the genuine pleasure of being at the Learning and Performance Institute Learning Live conference. It was a great example of how to provide great content, at reasonable cost, and access to some inspired and knowledgeable speakers.

The format of the conference was no different to others I’ve attended – there were exhibitors, there were multiple conference sessions to attend, multiple workshop sessions, and a good venue with free WiFi.

There are some things worth mentioning on the practical side of things which makes a difference. There was free water, tea and coffee available to everyone – no one had to pay a vendor for this all day. In the morning there was breakfast made available by way of croissants, and at lunch time we were given a full selection of hot lunch options. This was all included in the cost of the ticket. This is taking care of people, and I enjoy not having to worry about it. This isn’t the only conference I’ve been to where they’ve provided lunch and breakfast, it’s worth mentioning how much of a difference it makes.

Onto the content then.

First up, the keynote. I’m not a fan of them. I understand how they are the main attraction piece of an event like this, but I just don’t see the benefit of it. Here’s why. I’m at the conference to learn about a new way of doing something, learning about other thinking, hearing stories about how people do things, talking with my peers. I don’t need to be inspired or motivated at the beginning of the day. You’re eating into my attention span, and you’re eating into your own timetable. You know where I’d like to see a keynote? At the end of the day. Or, at a dinner which all are invited to. In either of those, I’ll have heard lots from the day, taken some time to assimilate, and be ready to have my thinking pushed even more. That same thinking applies to having a keynote at the beginning of the day but in the reverse.

Anyhow, I enjoyed listening to Spencer Kelly, from BBC Click, and hearing about all the ways technology is being used, and what’s around the corner. 3D pens and printers are pretty bloody cool! The absolute challenge we face in L&D is getting people to use technology at all for their learning. For all the talk about social learning, and “look how many thousands of YouTube videos there are on every topic”, and “look how many millions of people are watching TED videos”, this is a global phenomenon. It’s not happening in the workplace, unless the company has set up purposeful and well implemented ways of allowing people to share what they know internally.

“Everyone has a smartphone!” Well, a lot of people do. This doesn’t mean they want to use them for work purposes. “It can all go on mobile!” Yes, but I don’t want to spend my spare time watching e-learning to improve my performance at work. “The technology is available now!” Yes, but what about people’s day job?

I’m totally an advocate of using technology to help people learn better. The way some quarters of the L&D world carry on, you’d think everyone is a luddite who doesn’t get on board with it. The reality is, the technology is available, but we have not devised the right learning solutions which allow for the technology to be used. In pretty much every well established case – take Khan Academy as an example – the problem we have is that the solution exists to a problem L&D haven’t cracked. I love the idea of Khan Academy, but how do I make it work for every single employee in my organisation? That’s the nut which needs to be cracked.

Next, the speakers on the day. I loved them. I listened to Andy Whittaker talk about Being Brilliant, Neil Denny talk about the Delicious Discomfort in Not Knowing, and Craig Taylor talk about how to move from Courses to Campaigns. I’ll delve into their respective talks at a later date. What impressed me so much was what they talked about. It wasn’t case study based. I hate case studies. They piss me off. They mean nothing and are nothing more than a PR exercise for every brand that decides to do this. About the only thing I have gained from a case study is that every company and brand that presents has done it well, they are a blinding success, and they will never fail anything. What these speakers offered was their personal experience of their subject matter, and how it can make a difference to your day to day life, with concrete examples and illustrations of what you can do. Their delivery style was unique, personal to them, and they owned the stage. This is what conference speakers should concentrate on.

Conference organisers have a lot of work to do in this regard. Speakers need to be given clear guidance about how to make their presentation something special. I’ve written about this before. If a conference organiser is reliant on the success of the speakers to entice people to come back the following year, and create PR-able content, they have the absolute responsibility in helping speakers do this well.

Lastly, the conversations I had. I really enjoyed the space between sessions. I had time to do what I wanted between sessions and no pressure to move quickly to get to the next one. What this meant was I got to discuss the content of the session I was in with people at the conference, and hear about what other people listened to without being eager for them to distil it into golden nuggets. I also used this time to do my networking. It’s always great (for me) to meet with others and strengthen connections.

Well done, the LPI team, and thanks for asking me to be a Live Reporter. I’ll be posting more content in the coming days about the talks I listened to.

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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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