Connect 2023: The Future of L&D is Human-Centred

The Connect conference has always been the highlight of The Learning Network’s year. A vibrant, engaging essence of our community, all packed into one exceptional day of talks, debates, and networking. This year marked the eagerly-awaited return of Connect, our first since 2019. And it felt like we’d never left.

But first, breakfast

We kicked off with a delightful networking breakfast, buzzing with speakers, members, and first-timers, all keen to discuss the latest in the L&D world. As 9:00 AM approached, we welcomed everyone and introduced our first keynote speaker, Steve Wheeler. Steve delved into the exciting, if slightly terrifying, potential of AI in our sector, sparking intriguing discussions in our first ‘hot seat’ networking session.

Debates, discussions and insights

A unique aspect of Connect is the dedicated networking time. Conversations initially centred around AI – its applications and future role in L&D – but soon branched into more varied topics. In just half an hour, I chatted with past Learning Network directors, newcomers to Connect, an instructional designer, several CEOs, and an authoring tool developer.

Following a short break, replete with tea, coffee, and delightful cakes, we dived into the day’s three main streams. The debate stream, as always, was a hotbed of discussion, covering accessibility, sustainability, AI readiness, and the role of immersive technologies in L&D. The brilliance of our panellists and the insightful audience questions brought these topics vividly to life. What’s more exciting is these debates are ongoing, continuing to spark discussions in workplaces and Slack channels industry-wide.

Although my organiser duties kept me from attending every session, feedback was universally positive. Attendees particularly valued the insights from fellow practitioners – not just sellers but those with real, on-the-ground experience.

As a sponsor through my YouTube channel, Instructional Design Tips, I had the pleasure of recording a live podcast with Helen Marshall. The session was interactive and fun, with the audience actively participating in both laughter and questioning.

A fabulous end to a fabulous day

Our closing keynote by Michelle Parry-Slater took a unique approach. Rather than a traditional monologue, Michelle focused on collaborative discussion about success and metrics. Fiona McBride closed the day with a reflection session. She encouraged us to create actions to apply our learnings, rather than let them be overshadowed by everyday concerns.

As the formal events concluded, the networking continued. First in the exhibition area and then at a nearby pub, well past the official end time.

Connect isn’t just another learning conference. It eschews big price tags and fancy gimmicks for genuine connection and idea exchange. Bringing it back after a hiatus has been incredibly rewarding, and I, along with the rest of the board, am thrilled to anticipate Connect 2024. We can’t wait to see what magic our attendees and members will bring next year.