Are Learning Conferences Worth It?

In planning for the next calendar  year for WPLMS, I have circled some key dates for attending the larger Learning Conferences in our industry.  Get togethers like DevLearnCon, MLearnCon, Enterprise Learning Conference & Expo, Training Conference & Expo, Learning Solutions Conference & Expo, and ASTD’s slew of conferences are great resources for the learning industry.

My goal in attending these conferences is two fold: First (and most importantly) I want to put a face to the WPLMS offering, evangelize the product, and engage in general networking within the industry.  I have been fortunate thus far in the project to meet some very intelligent people who have graciously offered pieces of advice for WPLMS, and the industry as a whole – I find great value in this. My second intention is to attend the presentations and learn a thing or two in order to stay on top of current and emerging trends.

While making a list of potential conferences to attend (all of which require some sort of travel and accommodations), I realized that going to all of these various events probably doesn’t make good business sense.  While it is impossible to put a price on the value of networking, the cost of hitting the road to attend every event adds up quickly.

Which makes me wonder – are these industry conferences even worth it?  I would still say “yes”, but perhaps all of them aren’t necessary.  As such, I’ll likely be attending only one (perhaps two) that makes the most sense for WPLMS (please feel free to make suggestions), and maybe a few smaller local conferences as applicable. Beyond that, the focus will be on building out WPLMS, focusing on support never seen before in this industry, and serving our clients.

I would be curious to know if you have attended any of the conferences I listed above – if so, feel free to share your thoughts.

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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by the world's leading organizations, such as the University of Michigan, Digital Marketer, WPEngine, and Infusionsoft. Justin has made a career as an elearning consultant where he has implemented large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies. Twitter | LinkedIn

7 Comments
  1. Sean

    Justin,

    The conferences are well worth it. I attended DevLearn for the first time last year and had a great time. i met quite a few people, got advice on projects I was working and got to interact with vendors which is always nice. To offset the cost, try speaking at the conference. Usually your conference fee is waive so that will help with the cost.

    Sean

    • Justin

      Hi Sean-
      Thanks for the comment. Perhaps I will look into speaking one day, good suggestion. For my first foray, I think I’d like to see what it’s all about – the format, the people, the vendors, the presentations… soak it all in and get to know the process.

  2. I think vendors may have very different perspectives than buyers/attendees. I might recommend reaching out to vendors that you would consider similar (size, offering, stage of business cycle). I have a few friends I can put you in touch with.

    From my perspective (buyer- haven’t been on the vendor side for some time). I think Guild conferences are the best. Just stellar offerings, and the vendor floor is large enough to have a solid set of offerings, without any vendor getting completely lost in the pile. They seem to strike the balance between being big enough to have something for everyone and small enough that you can bump into most folks you’d like to.

    I’ve only every been to ASTD’s International Conference- a BIG show. Overwhelming to some. The floor is just swamped. You can’t get around to all the stations if you’d wish to (unless you skipped all the sessions). That’s the buyer’s perspective. The vendors may see it differently- there are SO many folks at the event, it may guarantee that you get good visitors to your booth. Even as someone who isn’t a vendor and just wants to network with people who I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with on twitter or LinkedIn, sometimes getting to those folks through the sea of attendees at a show of that size proved very difficult.

    Hope to see you at a conference or two next year.

    • Justin

      Great information about the Guild conference David – I’ll certainly keep that in mind as I try to select which one(s) I go to next year. I think it is important for me to have the event be large enough where WPLMS is getting a decent amount of exposure, but small enough where networking doesn’t seem overwhelming and is more genuine. I know the Guild puts on a few conferences a year, so I’ll put in some solid research for each one.

      As I start to formulate a way forward (and decide on the conference), I’ll take you up on your offer to connect me with similar vendors. Thank you much.

  3. I usually get to one big E-learning conference per year. I am in Higher Education, so I get to ones focused on Education, however in the past I attended a corporate e-learning conference and it was really good. Corporate has a much different approach than Higher Education does to e-learning. In many ways corporate does it so much better.

    I attend for one thing. To make personal connections with people. Those who work for vendors, and those who are attendees like myself. Those connections have paid for themselves over, and over again. I have been able to reach out to get information, or a tip, to keep our efforts going or to solve a problem quickly.

    The second reason I attend is for the vendor floor area. I spend a lot of time there looking for new things and visiting with vendors. Lastly I attend presentation. I find 98% of the presentations boring, so last year, but usually find 3 – 4 that peak my interest or are going to show something I want to learn.

    • Justin

      Great feedback Kevin – I kind of had a hunch that the networking part is the most exciting/rewarding of these types of things. It’s good to know that this kind of “pays” the price of admission… (which I have noticed some to be pretty steep, not including airfare and lodging). I think by limiting the number that I attend to one or two, the costs won’t seem all that of a burden… especially if it is just one.

      I am a firm believer in surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you – I think the right conference is a fantastic opportunity to do just that. The comments on this post are getting me pretty excited!

  4. Justin, you might want to check out the Guild’s Learning Solutions conference. It’s a good program with “learning stages” as well as concurrent sessions. If you lead a concurrent session, you’re also asked if you’d like to run a Morning Buzz session where you can have a smaller, more freeform discussion – that could be valuable for getting feedback from potential users.

    Elearning DevCon is smaller and geekier with a heavy emphasis on tools and techniques – would be good to get there as learning tech columnist/reviewers like Joe Ganci and Nick Floro are there. Very collegial atmosphere without the expensive “beauty contest” emphasis on the show floor.

    For both of these, if you speak your conference fee is waived.

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