Speaking at the Learning Technologies conference

A note from LN Director Kim Ellis:

For some people, the thought of speaking at a conference fills them with dread! For others they seem to take to it like a duck to water. Jonathan Holmes hasn’t spoken at a public event for quite some time, so how did he feel when he was asked? How did he prepare? Would he do it again? And what advice would he give to someone wanting to dip their toe into public speaking?

The start

A few weeks ago, I spoke at the learning technologies conference. The culmination of three months of preparation, I joined in a panel discussion called ‘moving online’ on 5th May in London.

This was the first time in a few years that I had done any public speaking, and the first time ever at the Learning Technologies conference, Europe’s largest conference of its kind. So, although it was quite a personal challenge, the experience was excellent. The event was run so smoothly, and I worked with three amazing learning professionals who share a mutual passion for innovation in learning and development.

The preparation

My road to speaking at the conference was a little uneven. I’d had initial conversations with the conference team about speaking, and after sharing my L&D case studies with them I was offered a slot. But with all the restrictions in place due to the Covid pandemic the dates took a while to be confirmed. Eventually I found out it was going to take place in February on dates that unfortunately I could not attend. So, I chalked it up to experience, and looked forward to talking in the slot they kindly agreed to book me in for 2023.

But when the dates moved to May I was contacted again, things had changed, and a space had become available on the new dates. I was available, and so took the opportunity.

After a few emails back and forth, I was contacted by the chair for my session, and was invited to a series of virtual meetings to prepare for the talk. In the meetings we worked through the why, what and how of our session, agreeing that we should focus on how we had all made the transition in our organisations to embed ‘online learning’ as part of our provision. Specifically, we’d run through an overview of our learners, our methodologies, and the impact our solutions were having, and then move on to a discussion based around audience questions.

After a month or so we were ready; slides prepared, running order agreed, logistics arranged. I’d received my speakers pass, booked my train, and was ready to make my way to the Excel Centre in London.

At the conference

Since I’ve been going to the conference, I’ve always found that the most inspiring factor is the people; the passionate learning professionals who all gather in one place to network and share ideas. To be a part of that was such a pleasure – catching up with old friends, making new ones hearing about what people and teams are doing and the difference they are making.

Being able to contribute to the conference was a real pleasure; our session was received enthusiastically, with quite a few questions around strategies for capacity building, stakeholder engagement, and measuring impact. Despite the hour time – cap, the conversations continued long after.

What I've carried away

Coming out of the restrictions imposed over the last few years and being a part of the Learning Technologies conference reminded me that we are an incredible community of learning professionals. We also have an astonishing range of insights, strategies, methods, and technologies available to us!

Despite the nerves and fears of speaking on stage again, the experience reminded me of the importance and value of being pro-active in the conversations in our industry. For anyone who is thinking about speaking at a conference I’d say:

“Be brave, trust yourself, and trust the community: Be a part of the learning community and enjoy it!”