Inspiration at DevLearn 2014: From Andrea May (Dashe & Thomson)

A first time experience to a large conference can be intimidating or exhilarating, sweat-inducing or electrifying (or maybe all of the above!)

Andrea How do you plan? How do you prioritize?  What is my goal? In this next segment of the DevLearn 2014 reflections – Learning Rebel, Andrea May of Dashe & Thomson, gives us a great peek inside her world of being a first time DevLearn attendee.  The people, the sessions and the follow-up. You can find Andrea on twitter:  

The first few days and weeks of returning to work after attending a conference can be a struggle.

drowning in paper

After several days filled with inspiring keynotes, passionate conversations about the field with friends and members of my personal learning network (PLN), and exposure to new trends and ideas, finding your desk just the way you left it can be a bit of a letdown. You want to find ways to apply what you have learned right away, but that is not such an easy task when you are already committed to certain designs, plans and tools for your current projects (and my projects tend to go on for a significant period of time.) Ultimately you come to the realization that you really can’t apply what you have learned, at least not immediately. So you file your notes away and wait for the day they will be useful. (How do you get back into the swing of things after begin at a conference? Tell us in the comments below)

So what is a conference attendee to do? PLN_BW First, CONNECT!

I have had the experience I just described coming off of the last several conferences that I attended. It’s kind of frustrating to tell you the truth. This time around as I registered to attend DevLearn 2014, I decided to go in with a slightly different mindset. I wanted to place more focus on the people rather than the content.

You see, even though this was my first time attending DevLearn, I knew well in advance that a big part of the PLN (personal learning network) I have built via Twitter and Skype over the last several years would be in attendance. While I was excited about what I might learn at the conference, I was more excited about who I would finally get to meet face to face – a diverse group of L&D professionals from all over the US and Canada that I am honored to call friends and respected colleagues.

The group consists of internal trainers, IDs and developers, business owners, product vendors, and consultants like myself. The broad range of experience and different perspectives that they bring to the table is invaluable to me and I could not wait for some quality face time with these folks. The meet ups with my PLN “in 3D” actually started two days before the conference. It is a fabulous feeling to be able to give hugs in real life to people who have impacted me so much. Discussions about work and personal matters flowed easily and the laughter shared among the group was music to my ears.

Bring an open-mind to the sessions and keynotes!


When the conference actually started, I was excited for post session discussions with the group. One of the strengths of the eLearning Guild, in my opinion, is securing exceptional keynote speakers for their conferences and DevLearn 2014 was no exception. The opening keynote by Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Science Literacy and the Future of Work was insightful and entertaining. I think everyone was in agreement that it was a pleasure to hear him speak and a great was to kick off the conference.

The day 1 sessions I attended were solid, if not earth-shattering. Again, it was more interesting to me between sessions and at dinner that evening to discuss the day with my PLN and reflect on the good and the bad, the useful and the not so useful.

The day 2 keynote on “How Perception Shapes the Universe of the Mind”, delivered by Beau Lotto, was a true stand-out for me. We as human beings tend to assume that everyone perceives the world in the same way. Mr. Lotto demonstrated repeatedly that this is simply not true. I captured a few quotes that were quite inspirational to me, shared by Mr. Lotto during his presentation. These will be finding a place on my bulletin board for repeated reference:

“Context is everything. Information is meaningless on its own.”

“We are delusional. This is what makes the human mind beautiful.”

“Your eyes are almost pointless when it comes to vision.”

“Diverse groups help reveal our assumptions to us.”

“Evolution’s solution to uncertainty is play.”

“Learning begins with humility.”

“Do you go towards {problems} or do you go away? To teach is to show people how to look, not what to see.”

The remainder of day 2 brought some more decent sessions, but highlight of my afternoon was participating in the making of a short video with several others in my PLN. Written, organized, filmed and produced by Tom Spiglanin, the video shoot was done quickly in conference common areas and demonstrated again to me just how much a group of willing and like-minded individuals could accomplish in a very short amount of time. Tom gave a Learning Rebell Yell about technology and the video experience which was captured here as part of this DevLearn reflection series:

Read about Tom and his video here

or click on the picture below to see final result

video picture

After another good session on day 3, it was time to pack up and head home. While the conference itself gave me some good ideas and future paths to potentially pursue, it was the time spent with my PLN that shaped my experience at DevLearn and made it relevant and memorable.


Goodbye Holly and Andrea


What makes conferences memorable for you? How do you get into the pool after being away? What tips do you have for conference newbies?


Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

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