A few suggestions for trainer-teacher-learners attending professional conferences as large as those offered by the American Library Association and ASTD (the American Society for Training & Development): draft a schedule of meetings and events you want to attend. Keep it with you as a basic roadmap of what you hope to do. And deviate from it as often as you can.
Having informal communities of learning in place is certainly not a prerequisite for attending conferences, but it certainly helps. The wonderfully fruitful encounters, as mentioned in an earlier posting, can be as numerous as they are unplanned.
One example makes the point: Infopeople webinar presenter Kelli Ham and I, having always worked online together rather than ever meeting face-to-face before traveling to an American Library Association (ALA) conference in 2008, decided to get away from the crowd one night, so drove to a Thai restaurant just on the periphery of where the conference activities were scheduled. We walked into a nondescript pizzeria and found we were the only two people in the place. Within five minutes, three other people came in—one of them being a colleague from the ALA training group (now the ALA Learning Round Table; formerly CLENE)—and the five of us spent the rest of the evening continuing a somewhat raucous conversation on the training-teaching-learning themes we had been exploring ever since arriving at the conference a few days earlier.
It’s all about the sort of continuing collaboration which helps us nurture what already is in place: connections between those of us who are actively involved in ALA, ASTD, and other first-rate organizations. You can’t always plan the sort of community-building and community-nurturing which I’m describing here, and you certainly can’t stop it once the seeds are planted for a process of continuous learning in which everyone is a trainer-teacher-learner. Where every place is a meeting place, a classroom, and a learning lab all at the same time. Where ideas fly faster than they can be captured on paper or in blogs. And where some of them are spreading informally through viral learning—their informal transmission in the form of conversations which continue in other settings, with other interested members of our community. Which, of course, is comprised of anyone who is a trainer-teacher-learner.
N.B.: An earlier version of this article was originally posted on Infoblog.