Getting the Most Out of Your DevLearn Experience

There is a lot to take in at DevLearn. From the sheer number of sessions and activities to check out at the event itself to the wide variety of entertainment options throughout Vegas, it’s not uncommon for people to feel both excited and a bit overwhelmed with choice, whether they’re new to the conference or not.

To help you get ready for your own adventure, we’ve talked to the experts – our docents, conference Advisory Group, and eLearning Guild staff members. They’ve shared their tips, built from years of DevLearn experience, for getting the most out of the conference and Vegas overall!


 Tracy Parish – Docent

It helps to plan out what you want to attend. Be sure to choose a few each time slot so you have options and know what activities lie ahead for the week.

Don’t forget that you can leave a session if it doesn’t meet your needs, it won’t hurt the presenter’s feelings

Also, network, network, network – don’t be shy. You’ll meet so many new colleagues that you can share ideas and learn from.

If you’re interested in more tips from Tracy, check out her recent blog post on the topic.

Kevin Thorn – Docent

Try using the conference app to connect for first time attendees. Feedback I’ve heard in years past is that the ability to connect via the app takes the edge off of being overwhelmed on all the offerings.

If you’re a first time attendees, try taking advantage of how the Guild organizes sessions into tracks based on specific interests. There’s no way to attend all the sessions one is interested in, but focusing on one track to get started will at least put some mental “guard rails” in place to get started on the first day of the conference.  

Karen Hyder – Docent

My main message to new folks is to take advantage of networking opportunities. Don’t be shy. Introduce yourself to strangers. Talk to presenters. Join Docent activities!

Also, be sure to drink a lot more water than you normally need!

Phil Cowcill – Docent

As for something to do while in Las Vegas, I’d recommend jumping on the Monorail to explore the strip a little more. The Monorail starts at MGM Grand (across the bridge from New York-New York) and runs to the other end of the strip. It’s very affordable.

I also enjoy riding the roller coaster at the New York-New York Casino.

It’s a bit of a walk to the Stratosphere but the view is worth it and they even have an attraction where you can jump off the tower.

Megan Torrance – Advisory Group

I think the Docent concept is the best thing since sliced bread. There is no obligation, no cost, no nothing… but free awesome insider access. Really, it took me a few years to figure that out.

Morning Buzz rocks. It’s the presenters before they get coffee, before they put on polish. You’re jamming at 7:15 am and everyone in the room is both an expert and a learner. I love those sessions.

Cindy Huggett – Advisory Group

I’d suggest an obvious but overlooked one… sit next to people in sessions and introduce yourself! If you’re not sure what to talk about, ask them how conference is going for them so far. I see so many attendees who miss out on networking opportunities because they sit by themselves in sessions.

Jeff Batt – Advisory Group

There are so many, but I always get a lot out of DemoFest. It’s a chance to see what others are doing in the industry to help ignite ideas in your own company.

I love Morning Buzz sessions because it’s a chance to participate in a discussion rather than just listen to a presentation. I always come away from Morning Buzz sessions with new ideas.

Oh and of course BYOL sessions. I get more out of trying things out than just listening. So, if you’re looking for hands on experience, these sessions are a must.

Also, try to go to dinner with a group of people you don’t know. The chance to get one-on-one feedback from others doing what you do is very useful and I’ve gotten very valuable feedback and useful tips and tricks from those dinners.

Robyn Smith – eLearning Guild

It seems silly to mention this but be sure to wear your badge at all times. People want to know who you are, they feel connected to you because you’re together having this experience, and I noticed everyone I spoke with immediately looked at my badge to get my name and information. Sometimes people would start with, “Oh you work at the Guild, what do you do?” and then it starts a whole conversation. Sure people can just ask but it’s nice not having to do that. And there were a couple times I didn’t have it on and people would look for it and there was a slight change in them because they didn’t know who I was, and maybe wondering if I belonged there. I’m not sure. It seems so simple and silly but it was one of the takeaways I had from a recent conference that stuck with me.

Bill Brandon – eLearning Guild

You have a camera on your phone. Use it to snap photos of slides during presentations (if taking notes by hand, make a note of what you photographed), take photos of business cards you collected (you’ll lose the cards), and take group pictures of people you have lunch with or sit with in sessions (get everyone’s permission first).

Make specific time to visit with specific exhibitors in the Expo. The Expo can be an education in itself, and most people in booths will help you, not pitch you, if you just ask the right questions. Consider having specific questions you want to ask them, and not just about their product.

Spend some time at the Learning Stages in the Expo, even if you just stand in the back of the crowd for a little bit and listen. I’ve picked up some amazing tips from presenters (and from the people standing next to me) that way.

Go to dinner with a group that a speaker has put together or with people you met during the day. There are plenty of great places to go in Vegas, and they aren’t all bars or casino tables.

Chris Benz – eLearning Guild

For newcomers to Vegas, I highly recommend taking the public Deuce and/or SDX bus up and down The Strip and to/from Downtown. For only $8 for 24 hours, you can hop on and hop off to visit most Vegas casinos.

Mark Britz – eLearning Guild

Don’t hesitate to engage a “blue shirt” we love to talk and share. Several of us come from the industry too! If you have a question about selecting a session that meets your needs see David, myself or Bianca. We’ll gladly help!

Dress comfortably and layers are good. Temperatures can fluctuate in the rooms during the course of the day and throughout the week, so have a sweatshirt, sweater, or light jacket handy. You’ll be moving around much so again, comfy shoes are also a must.

Do check out DemoFest, even if for a quick visit. It’s the only event like it in the industry. It features real people with real projects to share. It’s noisy, active and very casual. It is THE event within the event for the best social and informal learning experience that’s guaranteed to inspire!

Bianca Woods – eLearning Guild

Connecting with others at the event is likely one of the best things you’ll get out of your time here, and  one of the best places to do that is on Twitter (true story: I actually didn’t “get” Twitter until I used it to connect with people at DevLearn 2012). Sign in (or create an account), check out what’s being shared with the conference hashtag #DevLearn, and contribute your own thoughts and reflections to the conversations… as well as where’s good to eat, because you know people will be tweeting about that too!

Speaking of Vegas food, this is a city that’s often seen as pricy for meals, but it doesn’t have to be. Start of by visiting one of the many drug stores along the Strip early in your trip. They’ll have the Visine and ChapStick you may need to get through the smoky and dry air here, but they also carry a wide range of food, snacks, and drinks, all at much cheaper prices than your hotel. If you’re looking for inexpensive meals, walking along the Strip will help you find some unexpected favorites and fun little holes in the wall. Personally, I love heading over to New York-New York and hitting the very wallet-friendly, very tasty Shake Shack there.

If you’re someone who isn’t that excited about the more traditional Vegas experience, check out my blog post on things to do in Vegas if you’re not too keen on Vegas.

David Kelly – eLearning Guild

One of the reasons I love DevLearn is that no other event showcases the latest and greatest of learning and technology. Be sure to check out some of the newer technologies on display at the Expo, and consider trying out some of today’s cutting-edge virtual reality applications in the VR Learning Lab.

In addition, make sure you connect with people at the conference. Networking may seem obvious, but the value of it is so great that you really need to be strategic about it. As great as DevLearn can be, the real value of attending resides in what you do AFTER the conference with what you learn. The relationships you form at the conference can be the foundation that keeps the DevLearn learning going all year round.

I’m going to take a different approach to Vegas. I encourage you to enjoy all the entertainment options the city has to offer. But as you do so, I would also suggest you look at your experiences through the lens of learning and performance:

  • What resources do the employees you observe use to do their jobs?
  • What were the choices designers used in creating your experience?
  • What design ideas can you pull from what you are taking part in?

There’s plenty to learn while you’re in Vegas for DevLearn, even when you’re exploring the city.


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