I remember the very first Learning and Development industry conference I attended. I was excited by the opportunity to spend a few days soaking in the experience and knowledge that was being shared. I was looking forward to meeting new people in my field. I perused the program guide, had an idea of which sessions looked interesting, and was ready to get started.
Then I arrived, and in many ways, felt completely overwhelmed. Here’s a few thoughts I’ve had at some of the first conferences I’ve attended, which I’m sure will resonate with others who have attended conferences.
Wow. This place is so big!
Wait… the session is full? How did that happen? What do I do now?
I spent three days at the conference, but really didn’t feel like I connected with anyone.
There’s so much being shared here… how do I make sense of it all?
I’ve been lucky enough to attend a number of conferences in my career, and it took me a long time to understand the flow of a conference, and how to navigate it and balance the sessions, networking, and other parts of the experience to maximize the value of attending. I know a number of other people in the field whose thoughts are similar to mine. The question then becomes, how can those with more experience navigating a conference help first-time attendees or attendees with less experience?
At this year’s mLearnCon Conference and Expo we’ve got an answer: Docents.
Dictionary.com defines a docent as a person who is a knowledgeable guide, especially one who conducts visitors through a museum and delivers commentary on the exhibitions. We’ll be adapting the docent concept for this year’s mLearnCon as a way of enhancing the conference experience for first-time attendees or any attendee that wants to take advantage of the Docent Program.
Neil Lasher is leading the Docent team at mLearnCon, and I recently had the opportunity to chat with him about the program. A recording of our brief discussion is included later in this post.
What Can Attendees Expect from the Docent Program?
Those who choose to participate in any or all of the docent activities scheduled at the mLearnCon Conference and Expo will enjoy a guided experience that has been custom-built by someone who not only has an understanding of the field of mLearning, but is experienced at navigating industry conferences. There are three primary paths to the Docent program: One focused on mLearning Tools and Technologies (led by Neil Lasher), one exploring what mLearning will provide for our field (led by Stevie Rocco), and one focused on the design of mLearning (led by Brandon Carson).
Those who participate in the docent program can join in as little or as much of the guided activities as they’d like, and are free to jump from path-to-path as desired. The structure of each docent path is very similar. Here are a few highlights:
- A welcome and introduction to the Docent Program at the New Attendee Orientation.
- A dedicated AMLearning session each morning where the Docents and attendees can talk about the day’s events, and share reflections on daily learning.
- Group attendance at the general sessions, including scheduled time to debrief.
- A guided tour of the expo
- Hosted lunch tables with mLearning experts.
- Specifically selected concurrent sessions and opportunities to meet speakers afterwards.
This is a great opportunity for anyone planning to attend the mLearnCon Conference and Exposition to add a little (or a lot) of guidance that is specifically built to enhance your conference experience, and I look forward to sharing more details about the docent program as mLearnCon 2013 draws near.
If you’d like to listen to a brief conversation I had with Neil in which he describes the docent program, here’s a recording.