The worst part about conferences, professional development, or any kind of “training” is when you have to sit through the basics. That foundational knowledge that you learned years ago that someone else just never learned? Training tends to play to the lowest common denominator and it’s a snoozefest if you’re not that person.
That magical session, when everyone is on the same level and knows the terms and theories and counter-theories, is a rare treat. You can imagine the classroom where every person around you has truly valuable insights to share on a level of nuance that makes you think, “These folks get it! This is where I belong!” It’s when you stay after the session to talk to the presenter or trainer and everyone else does too because nobody wants to leave the oasis.
The conversations are too good to stop, so you and the class go to the café together. One person keeps on bringing up an obscure reference that you didn’t know much about and you’re kind of intrigued. You jot down the name- that’s a research item for later. For now, though, you get in line for a sandwich with someone who does the same job as you at an international modeling agency. You quickly learn they faced the same problems you’re facing at work, but they tried a very different strategy than you and it’s been working really well. You get his business card and vow to follow up.
After lunch, you run to another session at Learning 2016 and grab a seat while the presenter is finishing up her introduction. The person next to you leans over, “If they mention applying Kirkpatrick levels for leadership, I’m going to gouge my eyes out.” You instantly like this stranger, not so much because of their inclination towards violence as their assumption that, of course, you know why Kirkpatrick levels are a bad frame for leadership. They assume that the kinds of people at this conference are in the know.
And, of course, the presenter then makes a joke about Kirkpatrick and leadership. Everyone laughs. We all get it.
On October 23 to 26, Datto sponsored me to attend the Eliot Masie Learning 2016 conference in Orlando Florida and this was what it was like. General sessions included celebrity speakers like actor George Takei, astronaut Scott Kelly, and journalist Anderson Cooper. These general sessions also had thought leaders in learning, Broadway performers, and small group activities. Between the general sessions were hundreds of sessions on topics ranging from women in leadership to professional voice acting.
I was part of a prestigious 30 Under 30 program that received additional face time with thought leaders, spoke at two of the 1,600+ attendee general sessions, and facilitated a session (mine was When Gamification Fails). It was a magical experience as my first teaching and development conference, my first Masie conference, and the Disney setting, well, that didn’t hurt either.
Datto invested in me to attend a conference of peers that opened my mind in ways I never predicted. You never know what you don’t know, but when you know it…whoa. The kind of place that lets me have whoa-moments regularly is a great place to one’s life work. If you would like to see some of my whoa, check out the slideshow.