Sophia the Robot
November 16th

Learning 2022, Orlando, Florida

Learning 2022 in Orlando, Florida came quickly off the back of our attendance at DevLearn. My last 2 trips to America involved lost baggage and myself scrabbling for help from colleagues whilst visiting clothes shops for emergency provisions. Perhaps this time my travel experience would be smoother.

The last time I visited Learning 2022 approximately 10 years ago Captain “Sully” Sullenberger received a standing ovation for his heroic efforts in landing a distressed plane on the Hudson river in New York. The Learning Leaders Conference was set up by Elliott Massie who coined the phrase e-learning and is now owned and operated by Closer Still Media which host the Learning Technologies Show in London, Online Educa in Berlin, DevLearn in Las Vegas and Learning Solutions in Orlando.

Learning 2022 was back for the first time in 3 years in-person with approximately 1,000 attendees much smaller than DevLearn 2022 and indeed ATD 22 however the conference felt like going back to school with more focus on sessions and talks rather than the expo area.

Duncan Wardle, former VP Innovation and Creativity, Disney

One of the stand-out talks of the show was a keynote talk given by Duncan Wardle the former VP of Creativity and Innovation at Disney. In his talk he said when delivering a presentation you are much better off printing out the slides and putting them up on the walls around a room. You can then take the audience on a journey walking them through each slide. This gets people away from their tables which are guarded and lets people join in the conversation more freely. In another exercise, Duncan ran an experiment with participants. At first, Duncan got us to talk about an idea with one person saying “no” all the time similar to Eeyore out of Winney the Poo. Secondly, we talked through ideas again but this time using the phrase “yes and” to each idea. Not only did this make the ideas more diverse and wide-ranging but a sense of shared ownership was instilled. Sharing ideas ultimately means it’s more likely to happen and this technique is most certainly something I will try back in the office when we next have a brainstorming session.

One of the more bizarre talks was CEO of the Learning Guild David Kelly interviewing a robot called Sophia on stage. Sophia the robot was equipped with a camera and all sorts of high-tech widgets. It was particularly funny watching Sophia change her body language to mirror David’s as part of the demonstration. Sophia hardly had any technical hiccups and it is quite scary how fast robotics and artificial intelligence is now happening.

Donald H. Taylor who Chairs the Learning Technologies Conference in London gave a session on What Makes a Great Chief Learning Officer where people debated whether it’s better to come from an L&D background or from outside of the industry. Donald’s talk took us on a journey up a mountain where in the foothills the skills needed for learning and development management are quite different to the strategy skills required for a successful CLO. In the foothills of the mountain, you need your walking boots and a good walking stick. When you reach the ice cap at the top of a mountain a pick axe is needed and perhaps an oxygen cylinder instead of a rucksack. Most people concluded it was better to come from within the L&D industry. The question asked is whether the learning function should be called learning & development or learning & performance. Performance seems to resonate more with C-suite executives so but most learning professionals refer to the industry as L&D.

I myself gave a talk entitled Building Empathy into Learning Experiences which examined new ways of working and learning in this post-pandemic “Work from Anywhere’ era. People have become siloed and the distribution of people getting the work done means new approaches are needed. I explained how Sound Branch can open access to everyone for making podcasting quick and easy with no editing or scheduling needed. Sound Branch works by building podcasts from voice notes where traditional podcasts are scheduled for live recording Sound Branch playlists record podcasts with voice notes meaning no editing is needed. In addition hosts and guests have greater flexibility to their schedule as they can record the voice notes when and where they please. Instead of recording a podcast over 1-hour session, you can create the podcast over a few days giving time for reflection and preparation.

Async video is a big opportunity for remote communication and learning and we should default to screencasts not Zoom calls for certain types of learning engagements. I explain how Watch and Learn can be used for one-way communication where posting a video is more empathetic than text-based mediums. Finally, I discuss opportunities for social learning with virtual career fairs or internally in a business with virtual coffees to foster more informal conversations in the workplace.

Storm Nicole, Florida, November 2022

Shortly, after we arrived in Florida a weather warning was issued with Storm Nicole in the Bahamas and making its way inland towards the Sunshine State. Our networking event at Disney’s Epcot was made interesting by the wet and wild weather adding another dimension to the pub crawl as we kept looking for shelter whilst hopping over puddles.

Orlando airport closed for two days delaying our return to the UK. On the final day in Florida, the sun was shining and I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the cold weather back home. It was my 3rd time in Orlando this year so perhaps we will be back soon on business or pleasure. I think in-person events are more valuable now than ever with more people working from home the need for human connection is in demand. Bring on Learning 2023!

Learning Summit Podcast – Learning 2022 Review
Sean Gilligan Podcast – Learning 2022 Reflections