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Apr 15

The Insider’s Playbook to L&D Conferences: Tips for Effective Learning and Connection

Paula Hughes

Conferences aren’t just about soaking up the wisdom from the speakers on stage. They’re a fantastic opportunity to learn from and connect with other L&D people. After all, when else do you find so many of them in one place?

Taking one or two days out of work to go to a conference is no small commitment. The cost in lost work time, travel, not to mention your conference ticket, can add up. 

But play your cards right, and you’ll feel the value long after the vendors have packed up and the conference hall has closed its doors. 

With Learning Technologies Conference and Exhibition 2024 just around the corner, and celebrating its 25th year with its biggest event yet, we’ve pulled together some insider tips for effective learning and connection at this or any other conference event you go to this year.

Before the conference 

Some people just show up on the day and enjoy the experience. That’s ok if enjoyment is your main goal for attending. But those of us who do a bit of planning beforehand tend to get more out of it.  

Set your conference goal

What outcome would make it feel like a good use of time? Do you want to learn about a specific topic? Look for a new tech solution? Network with people in similar roles in different organizations? Or all of the above? 

Set a goal and plan your visit around it. 

Set your conference goal

What outcome would make it feel like a good use of time? Do you want to learn about a specific topic? Look for a new tech solution? Network with people in similar roles in different organizations? Or all of the above? 

Set a goal and plan your visit around it. 

Donald H Taylor’s Global Sentiment Survey shows what’s hot in workplace in L&D this year. Robin Hoyle’s annual L&D trends article also gives a good indication of what people will be talking about this year.

AI is top of the list in both, so expect to hear a lot about it at any conference or exhibition floor. You can also expect to hear about personalization, analytics, data, and measurement. The most interesting conversations are likely to be about how AI helps you achieve, or changes how you approach, these issues. 

If the conference has an exhibition floor, doing homework ahead of time will help you make the most of your time with vendors.

Colossyan’s Vendor Profiling Tool helps you organize your thinking before, during, and after conversations with vendors. It recommends:

  • Identifying 3 to 5 main challenges or problems faced by your organization.
  • Listing your fixed requirements or ‘red lines’ (e.g. compatibility with existing tech stack, accessibility, data security, budget).
  • Listing your flexible requirements (e.g. exclusive features, support model, future features roadmap).

Decide which sessions you want to see

Concurrent sessions in the conference, a free seminar program, and a huge exhibition floor of vendors, is enough to keep anyone busy for a couple of weeks. Go through the program and choose the ones you want to see most. If you’ve chosen the theme(s) you want to focus on, it’ll make your choices easier.

Some events have apps which help you do this. For example, you can build a personal event plan on the Learning Technologies Conference and Exhibition app. Add the sessions you want to go to – it’ll show you where you’ve got a clash. If you enable notifications, it’ll give you an alert on the day when it’s time to go to your session. 

Even though you’ve picked a theme, there’ll always be something else which catches your eye. At Learning Technologies Conference, most of the sessions will be technology-focused in one way or another. But there will also be some interesting sessions on human and creative skills, like Hadiya Nuriddin’s conference session on Storytelling. 

If you’re struggling to whittle down the sessions you want to go to, look for blog posts with recommendations. Like Tom’s Essential Guide to Learning Technologies 2024’s Standout Sessions. He’s grouped the sessions by theme with a bit more information on the topics and speakers than you’ll get anywhere else.

Connect with people in advance

Find out who’s going among your current connections and if any informal meet-ups are happening. It’s a great opportunity to get recommendations and arrange catch-ups. 

It’s also a great opportunity to connect with people you don’t know yet. David Kelly’s Curated Content highlights current themes and who’s posting about them. If one of the articles piques your interest, connect with the writer and see if they’ll be at the conference. 

If the event has an app, you might be able to use it to connect with people. The Learning Technologies Conference and Exhibition app lets you connect with fellow conference goers and exhibition vendors. Which is perfect for some of the busy vendors because you can book a slot and save yourself hanging around waiting to talk to them. Especially helpful if you have a tight conference schedule. 

Pack a conference bag

Bring a bag with your essentials. You’ll probably get a bag as you go in, or at an exhibition stand. But it’s always a good idea to bring your own so you’ve got what you need, where you need it. 

The seasoned conference and exhibition goer usually has: 

  • A refillable water bottle – it’ll get hot, and you’ll get thirsty. Stay hydrated and use the refill stations which are usually dotted around the venue. 
  • Snacks – there’s a lot of walking, thinking, and talking. So, you’ll need some carbs and sugar to keep your energy levels up. 
  • Something to take notes on – you can’t go to a conference and not take notes. Install a notes app on your tablet or phone. Or bring a notebook and pens (just because you’re going to Learning Technologies doesn’t mean you can’t go analog). 
  • Your mobile phone – it’s handy for connecting with people on LinkedIn there and then. You’ll also need it to access the event app or a back-up of your ticket.
  • A power bank or charger – your phone’s battery will probably need a top-up at some point, especially if you’re using it to take photos, videos, or notes. 

Ask vendors the right questions

Make the most of your conversations with vendors by asking questions which help you get the information you need. 

If you used the Vendor Profiling Tool when planning your visit, you’ll already be equipped with useful questions. Such as: 

  • I’m currently dealing with [problem]. How can your tool help me? 
  • We’re struggling to [challenge]. Is that something you can help with? 
  • Every tool we use must be [fixed requirement]. Would that be a blocker to using your tool?
  • Does your tool deliver [requirement]? 
  • Do you have anything that allows [requirement]? 
  • Is this a subscription or single purchase? 
  • Do I need any specialist hardware to use it? 
  • What other costs are associated with using it? 
  • How does (or does it) compare with other options?
  • What makes it different? 
  • What do your customers like most about it? 
  • Does this technology exist in other products? 

Not all vendors will be able to answer these questions on the day, so you’ll probably have to schedule a follow-up with them. 

After your visit to the stand, take a few minutes to note down your initial thoughts. This’ll help with comparisons and follow-up calls.


With so many L&D people in one place, there’s no better time to network. But don’t save your networking just for vendors and speakers. Chat to the people sitting next to you while you’re waiting for the session to begin. 

There’s usually a back channel on social media. Check out the conference hashtag to join the conversation – this year’s Learning Technologies Conference hashtag is #LT24UK.

Go to fringe events

There are usually a few fringe events around a conference. These are more relaxed than official conference receptions and a great way to network with people. Check in with your network to find out what’s happening before, during, and after each day.

After the conference

There’s still a lot of value to be had after the event. So, report back to your organisation about what you saw. Then agree next steps. 

Share your thoughts 

People will be talking about the conference for weeks after. So, get involved.

Tell people what it was like to be there. If you can include photos, even better! 

Don’t save all the sharing for online. Tell your colleagues who weren’t there what they missed. 

Connect with people you enjoyed hearing from

This is no time to be shy about connecting with people on LinkedIn. We all expect to pick up some new connections at conferences. 

Especially speakers at the sessions you enjoyed most. Connect with or tag them in posts. Tell them what resonated most. They’ll appreciate the feedback. 

It’s a great way to keep the conversation going with the vendors and people you met at.

Follow up with vendors

Do some follow-up research on the vendors and make appointments with those you’d like to find out more from. 

If you’ve filled out the profiles in the Vendor Profiling Tool and noted what makes each one different, you’ll be able to create a shortlist of those you want to take the next step with.

Ultimately, it’s up to you how you get the most value from attending a conference. But the experience will be all the richer if you follow some (or all) of these tips.

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