TechLearn 2002 Summary

On the flight back to California on Wednesday, I pieced together my notes
and photographs from TechLearn. I learn more from an event if I play reporter,
so I invariably shape up my conference notes like this. Then I post them
to my blog. (Here's more information about blogs.)

What follows are my opinions. If you want the facts, download the trip report.

For those of us with nonlinear tastes, here's a Mind Map I created for my own assessment of major themes: TechLearn Mind Map

A visual journalist interpreted all the keynote sessions on wall-sized
murals. Check the Visual Learning Center for more information about graphic facilitation or to reach Eileen Clegg.

Reviews of the two previous TechLearns: TechLearn2000 | TechLearn2001

October 27, 2002


    More than fourteen-hundred people will participate in tonight's opening
    session of TechLearn 2002 in Disney World's Coronado Resort.

    TechLearn's theme this year is The Futures of eLearning,
    an improvement over last year's Now More Than Ever.

The Limited's Beth Thomas modeled one of the futures of eLearning, making
like a Disney interpretation of Judy Jetson:

eLearning vendors are in such a slump that they didn't stuff many goodies
in this year's famous TechLearn wheelie bag. A couple of pens, an Element
K potholder, a Thinq t-shirt, a DDI pencil case, a 4" rubber bear,
and a stack of cheesy brochures and product spec sheets On the other hand,
the variety of buttons has grown. A few from last year seem odd when taken
out of context ("Bullied as a kidl")

I'm going to head back over to the Coronado. The Learning Showcase opens
soon. I want to catch the reaction to this first in-your-face commercialism
at TechLearn, especially as the kick-off event.


on the TechLearn Community            

    TechLearn community convened in Orlando this Sunday through midday
    Wednesday for the sixth time in five years. Why do I say community
    instead of conference or show? Because Elliott Masie and his acolytes
    have created a culture replete with rituals, castes, customs,
    expectations, and entertainment.

    I asked two-dozen people, half newbies and half old-timers what
    they thought of TechLearn. Every one -- every single one! -- said
    TechLearn was the best show they’d ever attended. New people are
    attracted by Elliott’s reputation; his broad contacts are an early
    warning system for the industry. Old hands come to find out what’s
    going on, to sniff out business, and to renew friendships. This
    was my fifth consecutive TechLearn, and I felt like I was returning
    for a club meeting.

    1452.5 people from 37 countries came to Disney’s Coronado Springs
    hotel to pass the talking stick this year. (The .5 is a prenancy.)
    This year’s group was more senior in their organizations, perhaps
    a reflection of budget restrictions on travel for the junior folks.
    About a third were first-timers. A large contingent were members
    of the consortium (whose employers kick in $5,000 a year for membership.)

    How do Elliott, his wife Cathy, and his partner Stan, pull this

    • Elliott instructs the “faculty,” i.e. all presenters, in
      their three roles. First, they give their presentations – as
      free of jargon as possible. Second, they are to raise the level
      of enthusiasm. Third, if they see some forlorn soul, they are
      to introduce themselves, get this person engaged, and introduce
      him or her to others.

    • An energetic faculty member (this year Beth Thomas took on
      the role) leads orientations to get people in the mood, to create
      a safe space, to encourage camaraderie, and to have fun.

    • The agenda is chock full of breaks, social events, table
      exercises, and entertainment to encourage schmoozing. People
      have a choice of buttons to wear as conversation-starters. Seating
      is round tables, not rows of chairs.

    • The content is top-drawer. Now that eLearning is more than
      a dream or a pilot, organizations are presenting real case examples.
      It’s exciting to see the major strides many organizations are

    • Vendors are present but are kept in check. Some of us feared
      that Advanstar’s commercialism might tarnish the atmosphere.
      It turned out that the small expo hall was quite contained,
      appropriately occupying the space where the resource center
      (filled with PCs in prior years) had been. Years of practice
      running thousands of events have taught Advanstar the ropes.
      Their professionalism showed in their unobtrusiveness.

    • And of course, there’s Elliott himself, larger than life.
      (Joke!) “Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and
      me? E-L-L-I, O-T-T, M-A-S-I-E.” Get this. At the entrance to
      Disney MGM, Elliott, Cathy, and Advanstar’s Joe Flynn shook
      hands with everyone attending TechLearn.

    Another tradition: Booz Allen’s Mike Parmentier, assisted by
    his former colleagues at ADL, prepares a trip report summarizing
    the entire event. I don’t intend to reinvent the wheel. Besides,
    with as many as 25 concurrent sessions, it’s impossible for any
    one individual to take part in more a small fraction of the show.
    Download the trip report
    for the facts. The Masie Center is working away right now to post
    presentations and streaming audio; I'll note when things start
    to appear.

    Here on the Blog, I’ll add color commentary, opinions, and a
    few photographs.


    A few mementos. I'll add more after I get some sleep.

    If you can't afford the Coronado hotel (or don't feel comfortable
    sleeping in a place that's patrolled with Disney stormtroopers),
    you could stay 10 minutes away, in Kissimmee, for $35/night.

    Dave Barry and Diane
    comparing Miami and Boston.

Cathy, Stan & Elliott

An ominous twist: Joe thanks the Supporting Sponsors before welcoming
the audience.

The Raspyni Brothers, phenomenal
jugglers and terribly funny comedians, explained that they had worked
with the Masie Center to select this year's presentations from among
hundreds of submissions. They presented their TechLearn Top Ten List
of the worst of the rejects:

Eileen Clegg interpreting
the keynote graphically.

Lance Dublin and I gave the first presentation Monday morning. This
is what the presenter sees. The left and right monitors display what's
on the big screens; the center monitor is what's on your PC. We were
more than pleased to have 15% of the participants turn out for an
8:00 am presentation -- and not fall asleep. The presentation was
based on our new book,
which we saw for the first time later that day.


October 31, 2002


    When Elliott encouraged everyone to read. Zealous participants went
    to work on it immediately.

Lance Dublin's and my book, Implementing eLearning, had just arrived
from the printer.

It sold out! More about the book here.

Am I happy about this?

Does a dog have fleas?

November 01, 2002

2002 Objects            

    Things that struck me as worthy of repeating:

    1. Blended Learning is velcroed together. You can't buy it whole. You design it. Hire a content gatherer.
    2. You must, must, must develop a learning strategy. How long should it be? Thirty pages or a dozen PowerPoint slides.
    3. Dave Barry. DisneyWorld in a hurry: Take your money and throw it over the wall. More realistic: Wait in line, then throw your money over the wall. | Watch The Exploding Whale Video.
    4. ROI is a lot more complex than generating a number. Sometimes you don't need it because it's so apparent. Who bothers with the ROI of air conditioning? Of email? Of loving your child?
  • The guy to the right? I believe he is in the Air Force. Or was.
  • Elliott's instruction to faculty: "Pretend you're at a big wedding and the two families don't know one another. When you see someone who's not engaged, introduce them to others."
  • You think you having training needs? Home Depot builds a new store every 40 hours. A new store houses 200 employees who must be able to explain 40,000 products.
  • Steve Kerr, then at GE, was the first Chief Learning Officer in the world. He was hired as Chief Education Officer. He asked Jack Welch if the company should have 2 CEOs. Welch immediately made Kerr CLO.
  • McDonald's operates 30,000 outlets in 128 countries. They train 1.5 million people a year. Elliott asked the first thing they'd tell him if he were a new employee. The answer: "Shave." The eLearning portion of Hamburger U is led by this "ethnically neutral" character.
  • Could learning have prevented the shenanigans at Enron, Andersen,, Tyco, etc.? Paul Hersey says you learn ethics in the family, not on the job. At Enron, at most ten people lied. The remainder were among the most innovative, pioneering, hard-working people in the nation.
  • Tough times teach good lessons. Acknowledge your current emotions, but be aware that you're going to be glad for those lessons later on.

  • Here's a view from the stage of several hundred people at 8:15 in the morning, attending our keynote announcing our new book.
  • Take a deep breath. Again. Again. You are what you are for an instant. Then you join a long line of Previous Me's. Be thankful for the gift of what the Previous Me's have taught you.
  • Flipcards: The most cost-effective training technology in the entire show.
  • Write a personal development plan for your career. Find a coach. Be a coach. Get a mentor. Manage your strategic relationships.

  • Registration desk at Lance's and my hotel.

  • You had to be there to understand playing the Sumo phone.
  • Should TechLearn move? First we shape our habits, then our habits shape us. Would a change of venue bring a breath of fresh air? In the comments section below, suggest where you'd like TechLearn to meet in the future. It should be in the U.S. but not in a big city.

  • Mike Parmentier presents the TechLearn sharable Trip Report. Describing Eileen Clegg's visual journalism, he said, "She captured not what we said, but what we meant."
  • M-I-C (See you real soon), K-E-Y (Why? Because we like you.), M-A-S-I-E. Not meant in a derogatory fashion. The Mouse made an immense impact on the world, too.

    Posted by Jay Cross at November 3, 2002 08:32 AM | TrackBack

    I work for a government agency and am, every couple years, given the budget to attend an elearning conference. But - major problem - it can never be in an "attractive" place, for fear that a newspaper would make it a headline. Can you see it? "State employee goes to Disney on your tax money!" Please move TechLearn elsewhere so I can come. Maybe a midwestern locale so travel isn't so expensive for many of us?

    Thanks very much for the great notes and commentary on the conference - I am learning a lot from them!

    Posted by: Mary Lynn at November 6, 2002 10:01 AM

    I appreciate

    * the distillation (I was there last year and my head felt like an overstuffed pillow)

    * your appreciation for the visual elements (enough words already)

    * Place next year? Come to Seattle!


    Posted by: Nancy White at November 9, 2002 04:47 PM

    30 Poppy Lane
    Berkeley, California 94708

    1.510.528.3105 (office & cell)

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