by Bianca Woods
It’s getting close to Halloween, so you know what that means: it’s time for DevLearn! This conference, held by The eLearning Guild in Las Vegas, is one of the best events for finding out what is (and will be) happening in learning technology. Whether this is your first time going to the conference or you’re a veteran attendee, there’s always something new to learn about the ever growing DevLearn conference or Vegas itself. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Before the conference
Download the app
If you do one thing before the conference, do this. You may be used to events where the “app” is essentially a PDF of the conference catalog. This is not that kind of app. The eLearning Guild has consistently put out well thought out apps for their recent conferences with features that actually take advantage of the fact that you have a smart phone/tablet.
Last year the app had components such as a full conference schedule, maps, attendee information, exhibitor and speaker lists, in-app messaging and social media, a photo feed, and even a conference game. Personally, I loved the My Agenda feature best: a version of the agenda that only included the sessions I told the app I was planning to attend. This was much better than trying to sift through the full conference catalogue before each session to figure out where I was supposed to go.
This year’s app looks equally useful (plus, it now allows you to rate sessions directly in the app), so download it now, play with it to get used to it, and then use it to begin organizing your trip.
Get on Twitter
Be sure to follow:
#DevLearn / @DevLearn
Are you on Twitter yet? If you aren’t, then this is the conference that will convince you that you should be. The sheer volume of valuable conversations, sharing, and reflections that go on through Twitter during DevLearn is epic (more on that later). This is something you don’t want to miss out on, so get set up with Twitter, start following the official @DevLearn account, and get your feet wet before the conference.
Already on Twitter? If most of your followers are friends and family rather than L&D professionals, this might be the time to consider setting up a second, professional Twitter account. That way you aren’t annoying your friends with your constant tweeting about DevLearn (or your new DevLearn connections with Instagram photos of your brunch).
Speaking of social media and connecting with others – some of the best networking happens when you make plans in advance with other attendees. Be sure to find out who from your network is attending and at least make tentative plans to run into each other during specific times and places.
Your Trip to Vegas
Cheap airport shuttle
On a map the Las Vegas airport looks mere moments away from the Strip. In reality it actually is… but thanks to traffic it can still often cost you $25-$40 for a simple cab ride to your hotel. If you want to save some cash and you have a bit of extra time, consider taking one of the airport shuttles instead. At about $7 each way ($13 round trip), it’s a decent amount of savings.
The shuttles are located just outside of the baggage claim and the process for getting a ticket is a bit convoluted. First, look around the inside of the terminal near the exit for the different shuttle service kiosks (there are also a few kiosks just outside the terminal doors as well). Annoyingly enough, they’re spread out and in some cases sort of hidden. Select your shuttle service, pay, collect your receipt, and then head out outside to locate your pickup station (yes, each shuttle company has a different one). Tell the driver which hotel you’re going to and then settle in on the shuttle. The actual time it takes to get to your hotel will vary based on how many (and which) hotels the other passengers are going to, but it’s usually not too long a trip all things considered.
Note: if you’re going to take the shuttle back to the airport, be sure to ask your shuttle service about the process for booking your return trip.
Quick snacks at the Aria
If you want a quick bite and you’re staying at the Aria, you’re in luck. Right by the elevators to your room is the Jean Philippe Patisserie (http://www.yelp.ca/biz/jean-philippe-patisserie-las-vegas-7). It’s both full of absurdly good food (that’s not terrifyingly expensive) and has the kind of hours that anyone visiting Vegas will be thankful for: 6am-Midnight. As you might have guessed, the dessert selection is excellent. That said, it also has a decent array of sandwiches, salads, and crepes as well. The chocolate brioche is a personal favorite.
Cheap show tickets
One of the main draws of Vegas is the shows, which are spectacular but admittedly pricey. If you’re open to a bit of chance, be sure to take advantage of Tix4Tonight kiosks (http://www.tix4tonight.com). This company offers substantially discounted day-of tickets to many of the shows in town and there are three locations within a 10 minute walk from the Aria. Not every show is offered every day, but the selection is always decent.
The Aria in City Center
Note: In addition to cheap tickets, these locations also offer restaurant discounts (generally around 25-50% off your entrée). If you’re trying to decide what to have for dinner, a visit to Tix4Tonight might be worth a trip.
Vegas is terrible for walking anywhere quickly
Google Maps would have you believe that The Strip is an easy walk. This is because Google Maps doesn’t seem to be aware of the fact that the sidewalks in Vegas are a maze. Seriously: there isn’t a direct route anywhere. Walking up and down the strip involves navigating sidewalks that loop convolutedly around casinos and merely crossing the street often requires that you use a series of stairs and bridges. If you plan to walk anywhere and don’t want to be late, a good rule of thumb is to take the walking time Google Maps gives you and double it.
At the Conference
Going to a new conference can be overwhelming and even intimidating. Actually, let’s be honest, it can still feel that way even if you’ve been to that conference many times before. One way to alleviate that stress is to leave your conference schedule planning in the hands of a seasoned expert by signing up for DevLearn’s docent program.
This program is designed as a series of guided activities led by knowledgeable Guild members. Activities include a group tour of the expo, themed Morning Buzz sessions, hosted lunch tables, pre-selected concurrent sessions, and opportunities to debrief as a group.
An added bonus is that you can participate as much or as little in the docent program as you wish. Drop in for just the morning discussions or go to every single docent-led event: it’s up to you.
Remember how I told you Twitter was going to be important? This is why. A conference backchannel is essentially a real-time collection of all the social media comments and conversations about the event. The backchannel often includes summaries of conference speeches, attendee conversations and reactions, links, and even photos and video, all of which makes it a wealth of information. It’s also a fantastic way to meet new people.
So how do you tap in to the backchannel at DevLearn? Your best bet is to sign in to Twitter and do a search for the official conference hashtag: #DevLearn. To contribute to the backchannel, people simply add that bit of text somewhere in each tweet. Do a search in Twitter for the hashtag and you can see what people have been saying and sharing about the conference. Want to add to the backchannel yourself? Just remember to always include the text #DevLearn in every tweet you want to share.
Note: Can’t attend the conference in person? You can still enjoy the conference from afar via the backchannel.
Keep fed and watered
In the midst of all this excitement it’s very easy to forget your basic needs. Of course, do that during a conference and you’ll eventually be hit with a massive wave of exhaustion right in the middle of the event. Take care of yourself and remember to stop by the free refreshments tables provided by the conference. You’ll often find them in the Expo hall during the breaks between sessions. Visit them often.
Events You Shouldn’t Miss
- Event Orientation – If this will be your first DevLearn experience
- General Sessions – Not only does each include incredibly inspirational speakers but also important announcements and awards are given at these
- The Expo – A great place to discover new vendors, new technology, and new contacts to network with and if you only go once, go during the reception at 5 PM on Wednesday
- DemoFest – A great place to see cutting edge learning technologies and designs and have conversations with the creators to learn about their design methods
See you there!
After the Conference
Remember to get a paid eLearning Guild membership to save money on next year’s DevLearn
It’s probably too late for you to take advantage of this for this year (if you purchased your DevLearn 2013 registration already), but if you aren’t a paid eLearning Guild member then here’s an important tip for the future that not everyone knows.
Did you know that a paid eLearning Guild membership gets you a 20% discount on their conferences? So, basically, if you’re an Associate member and are planning to attend one of their conferences, then a $99 Member account pays for itself… plus nets you an additional $240 of savings. On top of that, you get all the benefits of Member level access for a full year. On top of that, you also get 20% off any other eLearning Guild conference you plan to attend over the next year.
So, basically, if you’re going to attend an eLearning Guild conference, take the extra few minutes it takes to sign up for a paid membership first.
Note: Guess what? You can also chain this 20% off deal with the early bird discount. Hooray for additional savings!
Do you have any of your own great DevLearn / Vegas tips? Leave them in the comments below.
Thank you Bianca Woods for this article!