What’s in Your Conference Bag? – Shannon Tipton

Welcome to a TWIST Blog Series – What’s in Your Conference Bag? This series explores the various ways people prepare for and get more out of a conference. Each week we’ll feature a new Learning and Development Professional who will answer a series of questions and share his or her personal tips for maximizing a conference experience.

This week’s guest is Shannon Tipton, a Director of Workplace Leaning and one of the authors of the Learning Rebels blog.

ShannonWhat you do: Director Workplace Learning, most recently for Rentokil Initial/Ambius Division.  Currently working on finding a new work gig and in the meantime taking “Learning Rebels” to the next level!

Where you do what you do: Home sweet home.  In the Northwest ‘burbs of Chicago.

Something most people don’t know about you: Ask me anything about a Bond movie, my head is full of Bond trivia!  Secondly, if I could give all this up to be a race car driver, I’d do it!

One word that describes why you attend conferences: Learning

Besides the conference-provided materials, what types of things do you carry in your conference bag?
You mean besides my phone with the conference app loaded?

  • Notebook/Pen(s) – sometimes you need to go old school.  I usually carry a moleskin book which holds conference notes from other conferences as well.
  • iPad with Logitech keyboard cover – I find I can take notes faster and easier if I can type them.  I keep my notes on evernote.  I can share my notes with other members of my team who were not able to attend the conference.
  • Charger – always a charger! First for the phone, New Trent iCarrier 12000mAh Portable Dual USB Port External Battery Charger/Power Pack.
  • Bottle of water
  • Up-to-date business cards
  • Not in my bag but almost always in my hand – coffee.
  • Zee!  My unofficial mascot

What types of things do you do BEFORE a conference to plan and get more out of the experience?

  • Mine my network to find out who is going to be there and when.  Find out where they are staying.
  • Determine my specific conference goal – Expo.  For example: 2 years ago at the ASTD ICE expo it was about finding translators who could translate our LMS into multiple languages, the year before it was simulation developers.
  • Conference goal for the sessions – last year I wanted to learn everything I could about mobile learning, from development to best practices.  So I focused my sessions there.  But also carved out time to support friends who were presenting and attended where I could.
  • Determine if there are any networking events I want to attend, some are paid and some are free determine if you feel the event will be worth it to you.  This is where connecting with your network ahead of time helps.

What about AFTER a conference? What do you do to keep the learning going after the conference ends?
I know it sounds old school, but I connect with everyone from whom I collected a business card. The best part of the conference is adding new people to my network, so I want to find them on FB or twitter.  A lot times sessions are connected to chat groups or FB pages, I make note of those and add them to the list of things to investigate when I get home.  I keep a separate list on google docs for apps or tools that were mentioned, I spend time reviewing that list to determine what I can actually use now versus what goes into an idea file.

What apps/tools/resources help you get the most out of a conference? (It doesn’t have to be technology)

  1. My phone – the camera gets a heavy work out.  This year I’ll use pinterest to organize the photos and share.
  2. The conference guide, sticky notes and a highlighter.
  3. Evernote (how did we ever effectively collaborate before Evernote?)
  4. Google Docs.  I keep lists there to share.
  5. Twitter! I have met some of the best people through tweet-ups, find what the event official hashtag is and keep it opened.  I use hootsuite.
  6. FB group chats – the quickest way to plan a meet-up with a specific group of people.
  7. Most likely there will be an app for the event, so I make sure to download that for the latest/greatest session updates.
  8. Open Table and Yelp for those last minute group dinners (what should we do tonight?)
  9. Expensify to track my expenses.

Do you prefer to use a paper program guide for a conference or a dedicated conference app? Why?
I use both.  I can never get the hang of the app scheduler, so I use the program guide to plan my day.  I take time each night to review the plan for the next day because you may have heard of a session that is highly recommended – some of the sessions fill to capacity so this is not the event to be fashionably late.

When traveling to and from a conference, how do you pass the time?
Read. I never work.  Travel time, to me, is “me” time so I catch up on reading or blog notes etc.

Picture1What’s the most important thing you look to take away from a conference experience?
New connections and connecting with old friends.  99% of the time this is the only time you see your network face to face, I look forward to taking advantage of that time.

What topics are you most interested in right now?
Immersive Learning.  I’m always interested in how other companies are looking to conduct learning differently in their organizations.  How are they leveraging social applications, crowd sourcing, and action learning to improve the business – not just for today but for the years moving forward?  I’m always open for a conversation about how to make corporate learning a more engaging and learning centric experience.

You’ve also been a speaker at conferences – What was it that first motivated you to speak at a conference?
A couple of people in my network – notably Jane Bozarth and Trish Uhl, kicked me in the behind.  I don’t have a typical (dare I say normal) L&D point of view; there needs to be some serious mindset change within the profession or we’ll forever be made to sit in the corner; organize boring and pointless corporate universities; dress up PPT presentations and make sure smile sheets are passed out.  My network convinced me that I needed to speak up more often and more loudly than I had in the past. Speaking connects with others with the same mindset building a rebel alliance!

If you could give one piece of advice to someone attending a conference for the first time, what would it be?
Take the time to plan.  Even if it’s just surfing the conference site.  Lots of things to see, lots of sessions to attend, lots of people to meet.  It can be very intimidating if you don’t go in with a plan.  I learned that the hard way, in the middle of that large conference hall not knowing what or where to go next.

If you were to give a new attendee one task to complete that would define conference success, what would it be?
You will come back with a lot of ideas swimming in your head.  Find the one idea that you can put into action now.  Then try it.  It may be a small idea taken from a session, or something someone told you about, or a website or app to try out.  But pick one and do it! Then reach out to your network and share your experiences.  That is how we all learn and grow, when we share!

Does your employer financially support your attendance at a conference? If yes, how did you persuade your boss to approve you attending?
Yes.  I let them know that my growth in L&D is directly key to the growth of the learning culture of the business and made sure it was incorporated into the budget at the beginning of the year.  When the time came to plan the trip, I reminded them I was going and presented my goals for the conference and my plan to find ideas to help specific areas of the business.  Tying my attendance to a specific business is key.

Anything else you’d like to share?
Above all else, have fun.  Find time to investigate the area and meet new people.  Take advantage of the book store, they will have book signings and you will be able to meet people with interesting perspectives and points of view.

Interested in being a guest for a future “What’s in Your Conference Bag post? Please reach out to David Kelly for details.

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