How to beat the odds at DevLearn?

How to make the most out of a conference?

Have you ever been to a conference where some of the sessions were great wins, some okay impasses, while others felt like you just can’t beat the house? Odds are always against you when you go blind!

Here’s my two cents how to make the most out of DevLearn (or any conference):

  • Make a wish list! List all things you want to learn about, experience or discuss. Then put all those into three categories:

A) things I need today to do my job better
B) things I need within weeks to grow
C) things I need in six months to a year to get inspired about the future

  • Goals!!! You’ll have too many options to choose from with very limited time. Make sure you hit some sessions from each category. More importantly, set your goals for each session:

A) must be hands-on, applicable on day 1
B) must be challenging just enough to pique your interest and motivating enough to make you learn more when return to work
C) must be inspiring with a vision you take home (not necessary a checklist to work with)

  • Check out the session descriptions! Download the app!! Before you choose your sessions, check out the presenters! Connect with them on Twitter, LinkedIn, SnapChat, whatever works for you. Find their blogs! Check YouTube! Are you gelling? Are you buying what they’re selling? Most people I know are completely approachable. Go and ask questions about the session. Do your homework.Believe me, I’ve been to sessions when the topic description was great but my expectation of the delivery was not met.


  • Create a backup plan. You may have to choose Plan B. Make sure you have a runner-up for each session.


  • Connect with fellow attendants and speakers online! Find people with the same interest. Participate in chat like #lrnchat on Thursdays at 8:30 EST or #guildchat on Fridays at 2pm EST. First timers are always welcome! This was one on my bucket list for this year. Thanks, Jane Bozarth (@JaneBozarth) for encouraging!


  • During the conference, talk to people! You might learn more from reflections on sessions from attendees than the session itself. Be social. We’re all geeks. With name tags. And it REALLY doesn’t matter if you’re an attendee or a speaker. But it helps a lot IRL (in real life) if you’ve met them online before. Earlier this year (ATD TK and ATD ICE) I met people for the first time IRL, yet it was like I’ve known them for a long time.


  • Bring home an action plan! Remember #1 above? A) you must find something to implement right away. B) figure out to implement change within two weeks. C) have a vision you start digging into within 45 days.


Follow the right people! Work out loud! Share and connect!

Earlier this year, Brian Washburn has collected 18 L&D professionals you should follow. Plus Brian (@flipchartguy), that’s 19. Sharon Tipton wrote a blog on helping how to use social media to connect with people. Ajay Pangarkar has also created his top 20 list here. Plus, follow Ajay (@bizlearningdude)!

Here’s some additional people I recommend following (in no particular order)! They’ve been helping me grow in the last two years in various ways (on top of those mentioned above):

Connie Malamed (@elearningcoach)

Visual design. Interface. Layout. Creative inspirations.


Sharon Boller (@Sharon_Boller) / Karl Kapp (@kkapp)

Learning game design.


Julie Dirksen (@usablelearning)

Design for how people learn. Positive feedback loops.


Andrzej Marczewski (@DaveRage)

Gamification. Especially, user types!


Patti Shank (@pattishank)

Research says… Just ask her about the myth of millennial-digital-native-neuroscience things 🙂


Monica Cornetti (@monicacornetti)

Gamification. I had the pleasure to be a guest on her radio this summer.


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