Making the Most of Industry Conferences: My Experience at LSCon 2014

I’ve recently returned from attending my second major industry event, the Learning Solutions Conference (LSCon 2014) in sunny Orlando, Florida. As my regular readers know, I use my blog to chronicle my learning experiences, so I wanted to share my experience at LSCon 2014 here. Conferences and industry events can either be a big giant bore, or a great opportunity to make connections and learn new information. It’s up to you to decide which approach you want to take; I’ve taken the latter approach for both conferences I’ve attended, and they’ve both been great learning experiences for me.

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Learning Solutions is an annual event that showcases new technologies for e-learning  delivery. It was an exciting and busy week; I got to participate in the conference in more ways than one. For starters, I manned (womaned?) the Articulate booth at the expo for the full two days alongside some of my awesome Articulate co-workers. I  also had the opportunity to present a 45-minute stage session (Use Articulate Storyline to Create Engaging Scenarios for E-Learning) which was very well attended. Last but not least, I was a participant in the SolutionsFest e-learning demo exhibition where I shared an e-learning project I created featuring the Articulate Weekly E-Learning Challenge. On top of that, I got to meet so many familiar faces that I’ve been chatting with through social media for years (I’m talking to you Patti Shank, Tim Slade and Mark Sheppard!). Needless to say, it was a busy and engaging event for me!

I am writing about this conference because despite the fact that industry-type events can get a reputation for being dry or boring, I really think that these types of conferences are a great life experience for young professionals like me who have so much to see and learn. There are so many new learning experiences involved in attending an event or conference: the travel, the professional development, the socializing.

Here’s a few simple tips, based on my personal experience, that work well for making the most of your next event.

Participate In The Event

The best way to get the most out of a conference is to participate in it. For LSCon 2014 I was lucky because, since I work for Articulate  (who was a sponsor of the event) I got to attend on their behalf and I got to present on the stage on their behalf. However, in the past, I’ve also submitted my own ideas for sessions and I have been accepted and presented as an individual. One of the benefits of participating in the event is the often speakers and presenters get to attend the conference for free or at a discounted rate. Some of the big events can be quite pricey, and when you factor in travel and hotel costs, being accepted as a speaker can determine whether or not some individuals attend the conference at all.

This has been the case for me in the past. In 2012, I was encouraged by one of my mentors to attend DevLearn, and I was eager to attend my first conference and find out what it was all about. My boss at the time told me I could go to the conference, but only if I was accepted as a speaker and my Registration costs were covered. So I submitted three session ideas and one of them was selected (Training Needs Analysis: Would You Like Fries With That Training?). I was SO excited when I got the e-mail. That’s how I got to attend my first ever conference, DevLearn 2012 in Las Vegas. So if you can find any way to participate, whether it’s presenting a session, sharing a case study or example, or even co-presenting with someone else, try to do it. Presenting is also a nice way to gain exposure, gain credibility and expertise, and get practice with public speaking.

Network and Meet New People

I think a lot of people make the mistake of milling around the conference alone, or sticking with their friends or co-workers, and not taking the opportunity to make new connections. Sure you might feel a bit awkward the first few times you introduce yourself to someone brand new, but others won’t think you’re weird: this is a normal part of being at a conference! Most people attending these events, in my experience, will have their business cards at the ready and will be happy to share what they do for a living and why they are attending.

If you’re a bit shy or nervous about meeting new people, here’s a good way to help break the ice: use social media to your advantage!  It’s easy to use social media to get to know people in your industry ahead of time through channels such as Twitter, the Articulate community forums, or LinkedIn. This way, when it comes time to meet some of these connections at an event, it’s less intimidating because you already feel like you know them. When I attended DevLearn, I used Twitter and the conference hash-tag to meet up with a group of other attendees who were there solo and we all went out for dinner and drinks as a group and had a great time!

Find Out What’s New

An industry conference or event is a great learning opportunity and a chance to get some insights into what the next “big thing” in your industry will be all about. Take this as a chance to identify new trends and technologies that are relevant to you and your job, and that you should know about. Be pro-active about your learning and career development; before you attend, look over the schedule and identify the sessions that you’re interested in attending.

Here’s a tip: try going to sessions that you don’t know anything about or that will teach you something brand new, instead of sticking to what’s familiar and what you’re already comfortable with. Challenge yourself!

Those are three tips I’ve learned through personal experience for making the most of business conferences, trade shows and industry events. One last thing: I really think having a positive approach and optimistic outlook is a key part of the equation. We all know about self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe you will learn new things and make new connections, chances are, you probably will!

Do you have any tips or experiences about a conference or event you’ve attended that you’d be willing to share? If so, please leave a comment! And since you’ve made it all the way to the end of this article, perhaps you should subscribe to my blog!

 


Top Posts: Post Course Evaluations and E-Learning Analysis

I love writing and one of the great things about being a community manager is that I get to develop content for Articulate blogs and websites on almost a daily basis. This means almost every day I’m writing new articles about e-learning, authoring tools and software, and everything in between! Some of the content and articles that I’ve written for the other blogs I contribute to (here and sometimes here) here have been informative and pretty popular. I thought it might be a good idea to share some of my most visited blog posts here with my subscribers.

Post-Course Evaluations: What E-Learning Designers Need to Know

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If you’ve been in the training industry for awhile you may have heard that post-course evaluations are sometimes referred to as “smile sheets”. This is because as long as the evaluations receive mostly positive ratings, or “smiley faces”, we tend to classify the training as a success. However, the post-course evaluations are almost never a true reflection of how successful the training/e-learning actually really was and what it’s impact is on the bottom line. This article looks at some of the difficult questions you need to ask to help truly measure the success of your e-learning with your post-course evaluations.

Read the full article: Post-Course Evaluations: What E-Learning Designers Need to Know

Post-Course Evaluations for E-Learning: 60+ Questions to Include

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If you have developed a post-course evaluation before you know that it can sometimes be a challenge to come up with meaningful questions for your learners. To help you out with that, I’ve put together this comprehensive list of over 60 questions that can be included in a post-course evaluation. Of course it’s important to refer to the previous article, and keep in mind that these evaluations don’t mean the training had a successful impact on the business. You can select the questions that apply to your specific project from this detailed list.

Read the full article: Post-Course Evaluations for E-Learning: 60+ Questions to Include

The Top 3 Types of E-Learning Analysis

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Here is a look at three of the most common types of analysis carried out by e-learning developers and instructional designers. These are the needs analysis, audience analysis, and task analysis. The needs analysis is done up-front to determine is the training is actually necessary or not. An audience analysis is then developed to identify the learners, their demographics and their specific needs.  Finally, a task analysis breaks down the specific tasks that the learners need to apply in order to improve their knowledge and skills on the job. Having a solid grasp on these three types of e-learning analysis will go a long way in ensuring your projects are successful!

Read the full article: The Top 3 Types of E-Learning Analysis

Needs Analysis – When Is E-Learning The Solution?

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Have you ever been asked to complete a training needs analysis to identify if an e-learning or training project is really necessary? If so, you’ll know that doing this can be a tricky endeavour, and it can be hard to differentiate between the training that is wanted and the training that is really needed. If this is a task that you’ve been faced with before, you might be interested in reading about a simple process you can follow to identify if training is really needed. It is a straightforward approach that involves comparing your employees current and expected performance, to identify if there is a performance gap that can be solved with a training solution.

Read the full article: Needs Analysis – When Is E-Learning The Solution?

I’m hoping that you can glean some meaningful insights from these articles that I’ve written. If there’s something else you’d like me to share or write about, please leave me a comment and let me know. And since you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, perhaps you should subscribe to my blog!


Graphic Design: Merry Christmas!

This weekend I decided it was time to crack open Adobe Illustrator and create some new artwork because it’s been a few months since I’ve done that. I love Christmas so I am spreading my excitement with this fun, simple graphic.

I have a lot to be grateful this holiday season, including another amazing year of learning, creating and sharing content and experiences here on my blog! I want to wish all of my subscribers and readers a wonderful Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2014!

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4 E-Learning Examples To Inspire Your Next Project

As e-learning developers, we’re always on the lookout for examples that will give us ideas and inspire our next course design. That’s what I’m hoping to share with you in this post! Now that I’m working with Articulate Storyline and Studio on a daily basis I get to develop all kinds of cool e-learning courses and interactions. I thought this would be a good time to share the links to some of my most recent e-learning examples, in hopes giving you ideas for a project you’re currently working on!

E-learning Example #1: Interactive Hover Menu

This is a cool interaction I built in Articulate Storyline. Hover over an object (such as the lamp or monitor) to view available actions. Once you’ve completed an action, different options become available on hover.

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This interaction was actually inspired by the game “The Sims”. If you’ve ever played you know that when you hover over an item you are given multiple options for what to do with that item. For example, hover over a refrigerator and you might be given the following options: “Get a drink”, “Make dinner” or “Grab a quick snack”. I wanted to challenge myself to recreate this functionality in Storyline, which is what I did.

Almost everything in this interaction, including the monitor, lamp, cork-board and coffee mug were created using shapes directly in Storyline. You don’t need to create fancy graphics in a separate application: you can create your own great-looking graphics right inside Storyline. You can view a published example and download the .story file for this example on the E-Learning Examples section of the Articulate site.

E-Learning Example #2: Labeled Graphic Interaction

Here’s a great e-learning interaction that I developed using Engage ’13. The content that I was working with was construction safety information, which is what inspired the black and yellow color scheme, as well as the thick, chunky fonts. I like to let the topic or subject matter guide the design whenever possible.

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For this project I purchased some great photos from iStockphoto that were heavily discounted. One thing I’ve learned is to look for photos that are on sale. While an image of this quality and size will usually go for between 20-40 credits on iStockphoto, this particular photo was only 2 credits. If you look past the first page of search results and do some digging, you can often find great photos for a fraction of the cost, and end up with twice as many photos.

You can check out the published version of the e-learning interaction, as well as a more detailed post I wrote about how I built it (Engage ’13: How I Built This Labeled Graphic Interaction) on my Articulate blog.

E-Learning Example #3: Colorful Pencil Template

Here’s an example of a fun Articulate Storyline template I created with a bright color scheme. I  was inspired by these colorful crayon photos I came across on a great free stock photography site called MorgueFile. I loved the crayon photo so much I had to build a template around it. I ended up going with a light blue color scheme. I picked up the shade of blue from a blue pencil in the photo, using the color picker tool. You can easily edit the template to make it whatever color works with your project.

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Interested in using the template? You can head on over to the E-Learning Examples site to check out the published version and to download the .story file.

E-Learning Example #4: Tablet Style Template

Tablets and handheld devices are all the rage these days, so I thought it would be great to build a fun template based on that. I know I love my job based on the fact I’m always creating templates just for fun! This template was created in Articulate Storyline and the tablet, all of the app icons, and the sheets of paper in the example are built completely using shapes in Storyline.

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View a published example of the template and download it to use it in your own projects on the Download page of the Articulate site.

Remember: when it comes to sharing examples of work and demos  of your e-learning, you don’t need to share a  complete, polished course that is 100% done. Often, just seeing snippits and small examples of work is enough to inspire us for our next project.

If you enjoy reading my blog posts you might be interesting in checking out my professional blog on the Articulate website! I post weekly there (Thursday) on everything from working with Subject Matter Experts to how to do an e-learning needs analysis. As always, I love to see your comments and feedback!


Happy Long Weekend!

Here’s a fun, simple graphic I created in Adobe Illustrator to represent my love of long weekends. Happy labor day weekend everyone!

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Community Manager: Top 10 Duties

I’ve been feeling guilty lately about how long it’s been since I’ve posted to my blog, so this weekend I put aside a few hours to write something new. I haven’t posted in a few months because, as some of my social media followers may know, I recently experienced an exciting career change. As you might also know, the first few months at a new job is a supremely busy, exciting, and learning-intensive time. I’m super grateful and stoked about my new gig, which is Community Manager for the cool software company Articulate. Another thing I’m grateful for are my awesome blog subscribers, so here I am, adding some fresh content for you guys!

I like to relate my blog to my real-life learning experiences, so I thought it would be fitting to write a post about what it is that a community manager (CM) does. I’ve had to explain it to a lot of people lately because when I tell someone I’m a community manager, the typical response is “What’s that?”. It’s a relatively new job title, and it’s one that can vary greatly across organizations. The one thing that is consistent across the board is that community managers tend to wear a lot of hats! I’ve decided to compile a list of general duties that are carried out by CMs:

Act as the public face of a community or organization

The community manager is often times the “public face of the company”, so it helps to be like-able, down-to-earth and friendly person. The CM should instill trust in community members and gives them insight into the organizations’ personality. The “personal touch” provided by the community manager sets a company apart and gives community members a person they can reach out to and engage with, which makes them feel special and connected.  As the face of the company, the community manager should always maintain a professional image, and respond appropriately to both praise and criticisms.

Develop and curate content for various channels

Great communities share great content, and while some of the content may be created by the members themselves, it’s often up to the CM to create high-quality content, as well as curate and organize the content created by others. Content could include social media updates, blog posts, articles, tutorials, webinars, community discussions, podcasts, videos, marketing information, newsletters, website content, and more.

Interact with the community across multiple platforms

One of the key duties of the community manager is to spend time interacting with members, both face-to-face and online. These interactions usually consist of building and strengthening relationships, promoting the community, responding and assisting to community questions and concerns, finding and engaging new community members and keeping current community members interested and satisfied.

Monitor the internet for conversations about the community

The community manager monitors the web for comments or discussions related to their community and responds to inquiries and comments, attempting to create a positive experience and add value to the user experience. In some cases, the CM can re-direct complaints or messages to the appropriate departments for follow-up. By participating in conversations related to their community, community managers can build brand visibility and develop a positive reputation as an expert within their industry.

Respond and assist with questions and inquiries

The community manager will address and resolve any issues related to the features and functionality of the community. Furthermore, the CM is often responsible for customer support – answering questions however they come in (email, social media, telephone) and managing any online feedback forums.

Develop communications and marketing strategies

The community manager may be responsible for creating strategic marketing and communications plans to provide direction for the company’s public-facing communications. To that end, a community manager should have an understanding of what’s possible using various technology platforms and should be able to to educate and integrate these technologies to improve the business and the user experience. Additionally, a community manager works to identify the tools and activities that are most appropriate for communicating key messages to the community.

Analyze and report on social media metrics

The community manager monitors the health of the community by compiling and analyzing metrics about growth and engagement levels. CMs analyze numbers (Is the total number of community members going up? Are the number of social media followers increasing?), but they also do some more subjective analysis (Are the community discussions of high quality? Are the newcomers becoming contributors?)  The community manager analyzes these stats to identify trends and exploit opportunities, and finds ways to improve on those metrics through testing and new initiatives.

Plan and attend events on behalf of the organization

One of the roles of the community manager is to attend industry events, conferences, and networking opportunities in various cities. At these events, the community manager’s role is to represent their organization in a professional and personable fashion. The CM may also be tasked with planning meetups, workshops or user groups for members of the community, in order to strengthen interpersonal relationships and get members together.

Engage new customers and community members

One of the signs of a healthy community is to have a lot of “community champions”, in other words, a lot of highly engaged members. The community manager should identify, empower and train potential champions. The CM should reach out to these champions and thank them for their contribution, and should subtly encourage them to take other steps to contribute even more the community. In addition to working with community champions, the CM should identify and target potential new members.

Network and build strong relationships

Whether attending community events or monitoring online conversations, one of the ongoing roles of the CM is to continuously network, in order to build strong relationships that could potentially be of benefit to the community. The CM identifies and develops relationships with key organizations or individuals that fall within the company’s areas of focus and they work to cultivate relationships that impact the organizations’ missions, and develop partnerships that are meaningful and increase community awareness.

There you have it! Those are ten tasks that are commonly carried out by community managers. It’s important to remember that this list varies greatly from one company to the next, depending on the size of the organization and community. If you look at this list and think you have most of these skills or love all of these things, perhaps a job in community management should be in your future!


Quick Tip for Creating Call Center Characters in Storyline

Have you ever used Storyline and thought “I’d really love to use those built-in photographic characters for my e-learning module… but I really need someone with a headset…” If you develop e-learning for a sales organization or a call center you may have had this exact thought. I was recently working on a project when I came across this dilemma myself. I would have considered buying a character pack from a stock photo site, but it’s pretty pricey – especially if you only need a handful of poses. I wanted to work with the resources I had available. So the solution I came up with?

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How did this come about? I did a web search and found this headset graphic. I inserted the headset graphic into my Storyline file, placed it over top of the character image, resized it,  rotated it slightly… and voila! Atsumi, the Storyline character, now has a headset! It doesn’t look perfect, but I think most people wouldn’t notice that it’s not part of the photo unless they look very closely. It should be noted that this trick does not work with every character pose; the side and angled shots are not ideal for this. That being said, there are actually quite a good amount of poses it does work with.

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So there you have it – a quick and easy way to transform your existing Storyline character into a telephone sales associate or call center representative. Hope this trick can come in handy for someone else! And one more thing! Since you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, perhaps you should subscribe to my blog!


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