Learnapalooza – Retrospective

Six years ago, I had this idea to do a learning conference differently and to really think differently about how people learn at these events. I approached Erin Peterschick, my cofounder with some ideas. We would do something called speed learning where people only got about 15 minutes with presenters then we would ring a bell and they had to move on to another facilitator. This meant that we had to have several presenters and a big space to do it in. It was beautifully chaotic, full of laughter, and people came away with some of the best learning ever. In these last six years we have played around with the format, but always kept speed learning because it resonated with people. We have done hackathons, we have brought in career coaches, heck we have even done a digital escape room for 250 people. We also wanted to bring in industry expertise from people who may not speak at conferences normally. We searched people out who had interesting ideas and had disrupted their companies in different ways. I am particularly proud that we had that opportunity to invite so many people to play in the sandbox with us and just experiment, disrupt, and innovate.

This year marker 6 years. We were all set to do it in person in June. Erin and I worked tirelessly since January to get sponsors, to align facilitators, to get the facility, think about new ideas of how we would bring the community together, and do some hands-on work. Then COVID-19 hit, and we had to rethink how we might do this. We even thought of canceling Learnapalooza because we did not know if we could do the things that we wanted to do for our community in the virtual space. With just a couple of months to pivot Erin and I decided we would go for it. We picked a virtual platform, we had to reconfigure sessions, we had to invite new facilitators in, we had to think about interactions, agility during the day, and how to keep people engaged.

I am proud to say that we pulled it off this year in such an amazing way. We had a flipped expert panel, where they were required to answer those questions in one minute or less. We hit 30 questions in 45 minutes. Almost instantly we got people tagging us on LinkedIn and Twitter saying that this was an amazing way to do a panel discussion. We had four masterclasses where we took deep dives into content with some amazing facilitators. We continued our tradition of having speed learning with 6 to 9 concurrent sessions running at the same time. We did this in three rounds. From a back-end perspective, this is a huge feat to have concurrent sessions running, having people be able to participate in those sessions, and then bring them back for other sessions. Finally, we had an amazing keynote who talked about the future of learning development and the future of skills. We had Q&A for our keynote, this wasn’t just a keynote for inspiration, this is about how do we help the community, so proud and so inspired that Kelly Palmer took the time to answer as many questions as she could.

Oh and as if that was not enough, we had our own theme song being developed throughout the day and sung to us during our closing session, we had a coloring page that people could download and play with throughout the day, we had our graffiti while where people could put their own ideas and thoughts on there, and we had a virtual happy hour with lots of interesting fun and games.